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Normal to Have Stomach Swelling After Tummy Tuck Surgery?

I had a tummy tuck 2 weeks ago and I want to know will my upper stomach go down.  I am very flat down by my pubic region.  I am having trouble keeping underwear and shorts on because I am so flat in the pubic area and very full above that. Is this normal swelling or am I a freak. Thanks Paula

Doctor Answers 10

Upper abdominal swelling after tummy tuck

Potential causes of upper abdominal swelling after tummy tuck include:

1. Normal postoperative swelling. Everyone is swollen following tummy tuck, but it is usually greater in the lower abdomen than the upper abdomen. Wearing a compression garment will help.

2. Residual excessive fat of the upper abdomen. If you had upper abdominal excess fat and did not undergo liposuction of this area, you may have some untreated abdominal protruberance. Liposuction will help.

3. Residual upper abdominal wall laxity. If the lower abdomen was tightened to a greater degree than the upper abdomen, some residual protruberance of the upper abdomen may occur. Converting a minitummy tuck to a full tummytuck may help. Or if there is enough residual upper abdominal wall fat, upper abdominal liposuction may camouflage the abdominal wall laxity.

4. Seroma. A fluid collection between the abdominal wall and the abdominal fat can be treated by removal with a syringe and needle under local anesthesia.

My advice: see your surgeon. If you have a seroma, get it treated. If not, wear a compression garment and wait. Residual fat or laxity should not be treated until all postoperative swelling has resolved (6 months minimum).

Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

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Swelling is common after tummy tuck surgery

At 2 weeks, post-op swelling is to be expected. The upper abdominal fullness can have many causes. Normal swelling from the upper abdomen not being placed in a compression garment.

There could be fluid, seroma, under the flap. If you did not have liposuction at the same time there could be excess fat in the upper abdominal flap. I would go back to your surgeon and discuss your concerns.

Irvin M. Wiesman, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Abdominal swelling

Upper abdominal swelling is fairly common after abdomnopalsty. Usually I have patients wear an abdominal binder or liposuction garment to provide compression. This helps with the swelling.

Steven Wallach, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Upper abdomen swelling after tummy tuck can be fluid, excess fat or bulging muscle

You need to see the doctor who performed your tummy tuck.

There may be fluid accumulated beneath the skin, however your flat lower tummy makes this unlikely.

There may be excess fat under the upper abdominal skin which is causing the bulge-if so in time this may be removed by liposuction.

The most common cause of bulging of the upper abdomen after a mini tummy tuck with a flat lower tummy is that the muscles of the upper abdomen which were not treated are lax or loose and the abdominal contents are bulging against the loose muscles.

This is particularly likely if the lower abdominal muscles were tightened during the mini tummy tiuck and the upper muscles were not tightened. Unfortunately, if this is the case, revisional surgery may be required to tighten the upper abdominal muscles.

See your surgeon soon


It is normal to have generalized swelling after surgery, especially for several weeks. However, what you are describing seems excessive. The area upper area could be full from swelling or it could be full from fluid collection. It is important that you see your surgeon so he or she can examine you to tell for sure. Even if you had drains placed after surgery, fluid may still collect after they are removed. If it is fluid, it can usually be removed in a simple office procedure. The other concerns are that the plication of your fascia was either 1) not done or 2) came apart.

The plication holds your abdominal muscles together to give your abdomen a flatter shape. Some surgeons chose not to do the plication since it may prolong recovery time. However, the plication is very important to achieve the final shape of the abdomen. Additionally, if you only had a "mini tummy tuck," then the tightness in the lower abdomen sometimes pushes out making the upper abdomen bulge out. You should talk to your surgeon to clarify these issues.

I hope this was helpful.

David Shafer, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Swelling After Tummy Tuck

Swelling normally takes a few weeks to subside. On average, most of the swelling goes away after about 3 months, and depending on the extent of surgery, this may even take up to 6 months. A full tummy tuck will involve a lengthier recovery period than a mini. During these weeks and months, you'll notice the swelling gradually lessening and can affect just some parts of your abdomen, as you are currently experiencing.

In the meantime, follow your surgeon's post-surgery care instructions and wear your compression garment as recommended. Your garment will help control swelling by encouraging your body to absorb and eliminate fluids that are causing the swelling. Here are some other tips to deal with swelling:

stay well hydrated and go to the washroom regularly
avoid salty foods and eat healthily
get plenty of rest, but also try to move around a bit at a leisurely pace to keep your circulation going when you're not lying down
once you have adequately recovered, you can consider lymphatic massage, but only with your surgeon's advice 

Upper Abdominal Swelling after Tummy Tuck

Bulging or Swelling of upper abdomen following  Tummy Tuck
There can be more than one reason but the most common explanations are as follows: 

Residual fat in upper abdomen (can be corrected by liposuction)                                          Excessive swelling or seroma

Relative Laxity of the upper abdomen. When the muscles are tightened on the lower tummy, this compresses by pushing in the abdominal contents (e.g. your intestines and other abdominal organs). The volume has to go somewhere so if the upper muscles are not also tightened to the same tension as the lower ones they will bulge. Those patients with decreased muscle tone (non athletes) are more prone to have this occur.. A simple exam by your plastic surgeon will confirm this or identify other causes.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 59 reviews

Swelling after Tummy Tuck?

Thank you for the question.

As always, it is best to be seen in person ( by your plastic surgeon) for precise diagnosis and treatment.

Abdominal wall "swelling" after tummy tuck may be related to:

1. Swelling in the soft tissues.  This may take several months to resolve and may worsen with increased activity  or at the end of the day.   Patience  is required to allow for resolution of the swelling.

2. Fluid accumulation in the space between the skin and the abdominal wall muscle.  this may consist of blood ( hematoma)  or serum (seroma).  This fluid accumulation can generally be diagnosed by physical examination ( occasionally ultrasound  may be helpful).  Treatment consists of aspiration;  several episodes of aspiration may be necessary. 

3. Separation of the abdominal wall muscle repair may lead to a swelling/bulge appearance. This may be diagnosed on physical examination  with your surgeon examining you in different bodily positions.

4. Residual adipose tissue may be confused for swelling. Again this is most easily diagnosed by physical examination.

Generally, it takes many months for swelling to resolve after tummy tuck surgery and it may take up to one year  (or greater)  a complete skin redraping  to occur.

I hope this helps.

Have your surgeon check your tummy

Some swelling after a tummy tuck is to be expected.

The most important thing is to notify your surgeon of your concerns and have him assess your abdomen. He or she will be able to tell you if the swelling is just normal post-operative swelling (and should subside on its own); if its a fluid or blood collection (in which case it may need to be removed); or if it is the result of sutures having come undone.

Your plastic surgeon will want to know of your concerns.

Pat Pazmino, MD, FACS
Board Certified, American Board of Plastic Surgery

Pat Pazmino, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Many reasons for upper abdominal swelling after tummy tuck

There are many potential causes for this.

  1. Mini tummy tucks commonly have this appearance
  2. Seroma of upper abdomen
  3. Constrictive garments which create a tourniquet effect on the upper abdomen
  4. Many other causes

in any event contact your physician to perform and examination and provide you with a definitive answer.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 54 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.