12 Things I want Patients to Know (Part II)
Byon 23 Dec 2010
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.