Tummy Tuck After Surgery
Article by Shlomo Widder, MD
Washington DC Plastic Surgeon
Tummy tuck surgery (“abdominoplasty”) is a leading cosmetic surgery procedure that is designed to recontour the abdominal region. Both men and women can benefit from this procedure, as it will remove excess, hanging skin that surrounds the midsection and tighten the stretched muscles. But what happens after the surgery is complete? Dr. Widder may have provided you a beautiful new look, based on your aesthetic needs, lifestyle, and condition; but how you heal is predominantly based on your actions. In order to avoid any complications, you must be responsible and carefully follow Dr. Widder’s post-operative instructions.
There are various details you must take note of so that your results can emerge beautifully without any problems. During a pre-op appointment with Dr. Widder you will receive the necessary information regarding recovery, but here is some information that will give you some insight to tummy tuck surgery and what you may anticipate:
"My tummy tuck patients do not need to deal with having surgical drains removed."
Because Dr. Widder uses internal sutures, or “quilting sutures,” between the skin and the muscles during the tummy tuck procedure, drains are not necessary. The quilting sutures, which last about two months, are used to help attach the soft tissue to the abdominal wall, thereby minimizing any cavity space and complications from fluid accumulation. Drains are designed to remove the excess fluid/blood from the surgery when internal sutures are not used, and by doing so help the soft tissue attach to the abdominal wall. Aside from the discomfort of the drain, it is usually kept in for one week; however, fluid can still build up after its removal. Dr. Widder’s abdominoplasty patients wear a binder after surgery, which is an abdominal garment that provides the necessary stomach compression and support. The binder is usually worn for at least three weeks following surgery.
"Patients must be strict as to what they take in and consume after surgery."
Post-op patients should avoid non-prescribed pills of any nature, especially Advil® and aspirin; taking these after surgery could cause bleeding complications. (Any pain medication prescribed by Dr. Widder is safe.) He instructs patients to avoid any type of caffeine for about two weeks after surgery, including coffee and tea, because it contributes to dehydration and raises the blood pressure. Be sure to follow the diet sheet provided by Dr. Widder during your consultation, as it is possible for your results to be negatively affected if you are not following the recommendation. In addition, you should not smoke for at least two weeks before and after surgery.
According to Dr. Widder, patients tend to lose a lot of weight after tummy tuck surgery, simply due to the pressure resulting from tightening of the stomach muscles. However, losing weight after abdominoplasty is a bonus of the procedure; it is not intended to be a weight loss surgery. Dr Widder recommends the book ‘Sugar Busters’ to his patients in order to improve their eating habits and help with additional weight loss due to low glycemic index food intake that is explained in the book.
"Do not sleep on your stomach after surgery."
Dr. Widder advises against sleeping on your stomach for a few weeks. Pressure on your midsection right after surgery could hinder proper healing. Because the first week is the most crucial in regards to how you lay, Dr. Widder suggests the “W” position, which entails having your back elevated and knees bent; this position is effective because it takes pressure off the skin flap. After the first week, patients may lie flat, but should still avoid sleeping on their stomach for at least four weeks.
"You can return to work in five or six days."
Abdominoplasty is a major procedure that requires your attentiveness. Therefore, you should not rush back to activities before it is best. Being up and about around the house is important because it will help to reduce the chance of developing blood clots. Most people are predominantly concerned with work and when they can return to their schedule. According to Dr. Widder, you can return to work (considering it is an office or an environment that lets you take it easy) in five to six days. As for exercising, even though you should feel back to normal after about two weeks, you must avoid weight lifting and activities of a high intensity for six weeks.
A benefit of tummy tuck surgery that many people are unaware of is that their sex life may improve. Dr. Widder will lift the pubic skin up, allowing for more exposure of the genitals. Mechanically, the patient may feel more satisfaction; and emotionally, his/her confidence may soar.
"If you experience any complications, contact my office right away."
For the first two to three days, Dr. Widder will instruct the patient to use an “incentive spirometer.” This is a small, portable breathing device that helps to measure the patient’s breathing after surgery, and keep the lungs expanded. If complications develop, whether it is breathing or bleeding, it is important to contact the office of Dr. Widder.