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12 Things I want Patients to Know (Part II)

  • drelizabethlee
  • Berkeley, Lafayette, California
  • 3 years ago

This is a continuation from 12 Things I want Patients to Know Before Tummy Tuck Surgery

Tips 7 - 12 are: 

7. The first three days after tummy tuck are the worst.

I do most of my tummy tucks as out patient surgery. The patients come in for the operation and go home to their own beds the same day. There are many reasons for this approach, not the least of which is that the hospital is not a great place for an otherwise healthy patient. Most patients come in to see me in the office the day after surgery and ask me how I could have let them do this to themselves. By the next morning, they start to feel better each day. By day three, there is light at the end of the tunnel and they are starting to be happy they have had the surgery.

8. Pain medication does not take the pain away, it makes it better.

I typically prescribe some narcotic containing compound like vicodin and Ibuprofen, to be taken in staggered doses around the clock. The majority of patients are off narcotic and only on Ibuprofen by several days post op, not because I won’t renew the narcotic prescription, but because Ibuprofen is enough to bring the pain down to a comfortable level.

9. You will have surgical drains for seven to ten days.

These require a bit of care, emptying them regularly and measuring the drainage. It is not hard to do and the nurses in the recovery room will teach you and your caregiver. All the “significant others” involved in the care of my patients have done this with no problem. I remove the drains in the office when the 24 hour total drainage is low enough. This is usually around day five for the first and two days later for the second. Taking them out is easy and fast, so don’t worry. The biggest problem for most patients is that they cannot get these drains wet, so will not be able to shower or take a bath until both are out. Hair washing in the sink is ok as are sponge baths, but the drain sites must stay dry.

10. You will probably not be able to drive for ten days to two weeks.

This varies from patient to patient, but an absolute requirement is that you be off all narcotic so you are driving sober. The second requirement is more of a judgment call on the part of the patient. The seatbelt lies right across the surgical site. You must feel well enough that this will not be a distraction from driving. An instant worrying about your belly may cause hesitation before slamming on the breaks. This half a second delay can be the difference between having or avoiding and accident. Most women drive by ten days, some sooner, some later.

11. You will need some time off from your exercise routine and heavy lifting.

There is no cookbook to follow for when you will be able to get back to exercising. Most patients are not even ready to think about it for at least a month. Postoperative patients usually know when they are ready to start working out again. My advice is always that you start with 1/10th of what you usually do, then stop and take an inventory. If the activity has caused discomfort that does not resolve within 10 minutes of rest, you probably over did it. If you feel fine, double the exercise the next day and take inventory again. Build up slowly and don’t push. You will probably not be doing any abdominal workouts for two months.

12. Choose the right surgeon for you.

This relates back to my introductory paragraph, and is not the least significant of recommendations just because it is the last. Your eventual outcome is a team effort. You must feel comfortable with your surgeon. You will need to see a lot of him or her during your recovery. Postoperative visits are usually frequent in the first two weeks and less as time goes on. Questions and concerns will arise, and you should feel able to get in touch with your surgeon’s office and have these issues addressed. In my opinion, no question is too silly or stupid. It actually is better for me to see a patient and find that what they were concerned about is not a problem than to see them and discover that there really is a complication. Pay attention to how you feel speaking with your surgeon before surgery.
Communication will probably not get easier after the procedure when you don’t feel well and are anxious that something may not be healing normally.

Tummy tucks should be done by surgeons certified by The Anerican Board of Plastic Surgery. While other surgeons may have expertise in surgery of the face, only those Boarded by the American Board of Plastic Surgery have received proper training in surgery of the body and the face.

RealSelf Moderator Note: The plastic surgeons you see on RealSelf are indeed board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery

Best wishes to you in your tummy tuck decision...keep researching!  For more resources on RealSelf, you may want to see the Doctor Q&A related to Tummy Tuck Recovery; there are a great variety of medical opinions that may be helpful.  

--- Dr. Elizabeth Lee, Berkeley, CA

Comments (26)

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This is so great, thanks for taking the time to do this list! :)
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I see that you are only a few days after surgery. I hope you use the list. Healing takes some time and is less scary if you know what to expect. Best wishes!
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wow! very helpful! thank you
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You are most welcome. Caring for yourself properly after surgery is the most important thing you can do!
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thank you Ms Gotham! Patients ts recover so much more easily when we'll prepared.
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I'm PO Week 7 and this information for anyone considering a TT is perfect!
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Thanks Dr. Lee. My TT is 6/19, and this gives me a realistic idea of how to set my expectations.
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Great! I am happy to be of assistance. I have found that the best recovery is one that is well planned. Good luck with your surgery.
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Look at belly buttons in the Victoria's Secret catalog. Most of them are not round. Make sure you discuss belly button shape with your surgeon before surgery if you have a particular shape preference
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I notice a lot of women who have tummy tucks, have a look to the naval of being pulled! It does not look circular, it looks elongated. Will the navel return to it's original state, or is that one of the effects???
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Thanks for the info.. The more the better :-)
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Thank you Dr. Lee for this great checklist! It really helped me get some things clear in my head. I have a tummy tuck with muscle repair and liposuction of my flanks schedule in January. I have a two year old and dogs. Are there any other suggestions that you might have for women like me? My husband will be home for the first two weeks of my surgery and then my mother, who is a RN, is going to take over helping as much as possible. Will this be enough? My surgeon, and I have a lot of confidence in her, says that I shouldn't expect it to be any worse that my wild c-section. Do any of your patients say that to you? Thank you again!
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I am taking 3 weeks off of work. I am a receptionist and work full time. Will I be ready to work 8 hour days? I sit most of the time. Just worried - thanks!
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No, you won't even feel anything. My hubby did mine all the time, but you don't notice unless you bump the hole the tube comes out.

To empty the drain, you just open the clip and dump it in the toilet, after noting the amount of fluid. Sometimes, you squeeze the line to prevent blood clotting.
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Hi everybody,
On May 10, 2011 I would have a tummy tuck, I been waiting for this date since I have my second child 4 yrs ago. I know the worst part is the recovery, but I so ready to remove this ugly belly lol, the only thing that really scared me is the drain part I would like to know if it will hurt when I'm emptying the drain?
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Thank you Dr.Lee for info
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Thank you very much for that info, Dr. Lee. I don't make a habit of lying out in the sun anyway, so I will be very careful to keep it covered.
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I am glad you have found the article of use. In general, we like patients to protect new scars from the sun for up to 1 year. During this time immature scars can suffer sunburn and darken permanently.
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Hi, Wondering about stairs, ....no bathroom on bedroom or living room areas. This concerns me about having TT. I will have to do stairs, will I be able to do? How long should I have someone with me to care for me?
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I'm 4 weeks post-op, and have just read this post yet again. I find it helpful to come back to occasionally, to remind me not to expect to much.

I really have done nothing yet, but did go back to work last week, for 3 part days. This week, I'll work all 3 days, but I only work 6 hours those days, and it's only a 5 minute drive to work.

I have seen somewhere, recommendations about avoiding the sunshine, or using sunscreen, etc., after this surgery.

Can you enlighten me about that, and the reasons behind it?

Thanks again for a very informative article, Dr. Lee!
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I am 12 days post op. And though I didnt read this before, it still helps reading it now. Thank you !
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I am glad you are finding this document helpful. I think one of the most common problems patients encounter is an unrealistic expectation of the time it takes to recover. In my experience surgery is more difficult to recover from than childbirth. Make sure you have help and be patient. Good luck.
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I agree 100% that a full TT w/lipo and muscle repair is way more difficult than a c section surgery. I have had 2 c sections (1 was an emergency and still less painful) and my TT recovery was way worse than either c section. My surgeon told me it would be worse and he was correct. I think it may depend on the type of TT a person has though. Mine was pretty extensive. I also had fat gafting in both of my breast's.
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i am having a tt on march 4th and i am SCARED!!! 33 years old dont smoke,drink or do drugs 2 pregnancies by c section dr says a tt is less harsh then having a baby and the results arent as depressing lol really helpful info thanks a million!
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Thank you for writing this. I wish I had read it prior to my TT, but I am 14 days PO, still good to read. After 2 weeks of very doing little, I realize again that the world doesn't revolve around me : )
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