Tummy Tuck Recovery

What is tummy tuck recovery generally like? If I get it done, what can I expect post-op care, checkups, pain? How long does complete recovery from a tummy tuck take?

Doctor Answers (88)

Tummy tuck recovery

+41

I think it is best to prepare for a “recovery”  of 4 weeks after tummy tuck  surgery. Descriptions of recovery times shorter than this,  in my opinion, is over-promising.

I do have another word of advice for you. Patients who are about to undergo tummy tuck surgery spend a lot of time thinking about the physical preparation for the procedure (for example weight loss issues) but do not spend a lot of time thinking about the emotional aspects.
It is not uncommon for patients who undergo the procedure to experience severe “mood swings”. These emotions may range from depression ( “why did I do this to myself”) to elation  (which may lead to over activity). I think it is helpful to be aware that these emotional swings do occur postoperatively. 
Suggestions I have for patients undergoing this procedure: 1. Make sure you have a strong support system in place who have time/patience to take care of you. 2. Be patient with the healing process, understanding that it will take several weeks to months to feel “normal” again. 3. Be prepared to distract your mind with things of interest such as books, magazines, and movies. 4. Expect less of yourself; do not go back to work too early and let others take care of you (for a change). 5. Keep in close communication with your surgeon and do not hesitate to communicate questions/concerns and the emotional swings that you may experience. 6. Keep in mind the end result!


San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 681 reviews

Recovery after a tummy tuck just made easier!

+17

This is an updated answer as there has been a break through in the technology of post op pain relief for tummy tucks.  A new medication is now being used that will provide for 3-4 days of post op pain relief, speeding up the recovery process!  It is called Exparel.

A tummy tuck which is also referred to as an abdominoplasty is a procedure to enhance the appearance of the abdomen.  It consists of 3 basic steps:

  1. Skin removal and tightening
  2. Subcuataneous fat removal
  3. Muscle tightening

The recovery is very similar to a C-Section or Hysterectomy recovery.  The first week lifting is limited to 15 lbs maximum and the patients usually walk slowly and bend over.  The second week the weight limitaion is increased to 30 pounds and more normal walking.  After the second week many patients return to work if it is more sedentary, active work jobs and heavy lifting, pulling or straining are still difficult for another 2 weeks.  Most women need help with small children for the first week.

Vigorous physical activity and contact sports are limited for 4-6 weeks.  Everyone's recovery is different, and everyone's tummy tuck is different, the recovery time will vary from individual to individual.

This is a wonderfull operation that will make the tummy flat FOREVER, WITHOUT SIT-UPS!!  But, you have to be willing to trade the appearance for the scar, which is long, but well placed, and hidden in all clothing and bathing suits.

David Finkle, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 45 reviews

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Recovery after Tummy Tuck - Abdominoplasty

+17

The recovery after a tummy tuck varies among patients and the type of procedure they have. A tummy tuck involves one, some, or all of the following components:

1. Removal of skin and fat

2. Liposuction of the abdomen & Hips

3. Repair of separated muscles (diastasis recti)

Patients that do not require muscle repair have the fastest recovery, while patients undergoing all three components take longer to recovery. The recovery ranges from 2-4 weeks depending on the amount of surgery that is performed. In our Jacksonville plastic surgery practice we advise patients to refrain from any heavy lifting or exercise for at least 3 weeks from the time of surgery.

Ankit Desai, MD
Jacksonville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Tummy Tuck Recovery

+13

A tummy tuck can be outpatient surgery or may require an overnight stay.  I have my patients ambulating immediately after surgery.  However, immediately after surgery, you will be walking flexed at your waist (in the skier's position).  Each day, you will be gradually able to straighten.  It generally takes 5-10 days (on average 7 days) for my patients to walk straight.  I do instruct my patients to sleep in a recliner or sleep in their bed propped up with pillows to mimic a the recliner or lawnchair position.  By 10-14 days after surgery, you should be getting close to your baseline ( able to drive, walk straight etc).  Most patients are able to get back to a desk job in about 2 weeks.  However, no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for 5-6 weeks after your surgery.  You need to give time for all your incisions to heal.  During this 5-6 week period, most surgeons will recommend some form of compression garments to help minimize your postop swelling.  You should start seeing your final results starting week 4 after surgery.   Talk to your plastic surgeon to learn more about his/her specific postoperative care protocol.  Hope this helps.

C. Bob Basu, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 113 reviews

Recovery after a tummy tuck

+13

Immediately after a tummy tuck you will feel tight, swollen, and not be able to stand fully upright. Your tummy will hurt but the pain can be controlled with pain pills. In my practice we offer a pain pump to my patients that slowly infuses local anesthesia in the area of the surgery (under the skin) to help reduce the pain. I have found that the pain pumps really take the edge off and make my patients' experience a lot better.

The usual progression is that you will walk hunched over a bit and have some pain in the first week. I use two drains to remove excess fluid and one is usually removed after the first week. The second drain is usually removed during or at the end of the second week. By the end of the second week, you should be walking nearly upright but still feel tight. It takes about four weeks to get back to usual activities without feeling restricted. As for work, if you have a desk job you could be able to return after one week. Generally, it is best if you can manage to take two weeks off for your recovery. At that point you will be able to return to work feeling more comfortable.

In my practice, patients are seen the day after surgery (I keep them overnight at the hospital or surgery center). The follow up visits are at one week, two weeks, one month, three months and six months. If other visits are needed patients are welcome to come as often as they like. When I have patients that travel for surgery I like them to stay for two weeks after abdominoplasty.

I hope this info helps!

Adam Rubinstein, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Recover after a tummy tuck

+12
Tummy tucks require much less recovery time than most people think. Most people resume work and somewhat regular activity after 10-14 days. By 4-6 weeks, most are back to full activity. Furthermore, many women who have previously undergone C-sections claim that the tummy tuck recovery was much easier.

Gary D. Breslow, MD
Paramus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Recovering from a tummy tuck

+10

After a full tummy tuck, expect some discomfort that should be controlled by oral pain medicine. Expect to walk bent over for 1-2 weeks because of the skin that is removed to make a flat contour to your abdomen. Visit after are usually at 1, 2, and 6 weeks after followed by 3, 6, and 12 months. You will most likely have drains placed to remove any excess fluid that build up, but these are removed 1-2 weeks later in the office. I usually recommend 2 weeks off of work and 6 weeks of exercise. Good luck!

Jeffrey E. Schreiber, MD, FACS
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Recovery from a full tummy tuck

+9

For full tummy tucks, patients in our practice receive an On-Q pain pump which delivers local anesthetic into the surgical area. All patients spend a night (and sometimes more) at a licensed Aftercare facility. These two factors have made recovery from a tummy tuck much more civilized. Most patients require little or no narcotic pain shots, although they are available. They describe being sore when they are too active for about a week.

All sutures are self-dissolving.

Patients generally drive after 1 week, walk 5 miles on a flat surface after 2 weeks, and run after 4 weeks. For full workouts or yoga, we recommend gradually resuming heavy exercise after 6 weeks.

For follow up care, we see patients typically at Day 1, Day 3-4 and Day 7. If they live in the area, we typically see them back at 6 weeks and 6 months. Patients are welcome to come in more often, and usually do.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 90 reviews

Tumescent fluid speeds recovery

+8

There are a lot of factors that effect your recovery with a tummy tuck. For most patients, the worst discomfort is the first two to three days and it gradually gets better after that.  Most normal activities and be returned to in about two weeks but six weeks for heavy lifting, abdominal exercises or strenuous activity. This is because it takes six weeks to build up enough scar tissue that you are no longer relying on the stitches in the muscle to hold things together.

Many surgeons have discovered that adding tumescent fluid (a large volume of dilute local anesthetic) to the surgery dramatically reduces pain after surgery and speeds recovery. After starting this practice, I have had several patients take only Tylenol for pain after a tummy tuck and the nurses in the recovery room ask me "Why do your patients do so much better than other surgeon's?" The only difference is that I take the time to add this fluid to keep my patients as comfortable as possible.

James McMahan, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.