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What Can I Do to Get Rid of Swelling After Tummy Tuck Surgery?

I had a tummy tuck combined with liposuction 30 days ago. I wear a compression garment around the clock. Is there something I can do to help the swelling go down, and to help the numbing/healing process? Such as massage therapy?

Doctor Answers 25

Managing swelling after a tummy tuck

It is normal to expect and see swelling after a tummy tuck surgery.

In my practice I include liposuction with all tummy tuck surgeries. For this reason, patients can see swelling from both the tummy tuck portion and the liposuction portion of their surgeries. Patients are given two garments after surgery. They are instructed to wear the second garment for at least three months to help with the resolution of swelling.

My patients have told me that it is particularly helpful to wear the garment at night while asleep so that when they wake up in the morning they are fully compressed. My patients also appreciate the extra support that the garments provide.

Talk to your plastic surgeon to see if he or she recommends additional garment or if other modalities such as emphatic drainage or massage treatments may help in your case.

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

Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

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As long as your surgeon has determined that you do not...

As long as your surgeon has determined that you do not have a seroma (a collection of fluid between the skin and the muscles), you are doing all you can to lessen the swelling. The performance of a tummy tuck requires dividing many of the lymph channels on the abdominal wall and these help resolve swelling. It takes a few months for them to re-establish themselves so you won't get to your final healed result until they do.

Massage can be useful, avoiding high salt foods can also help, and you might want to wear your garment for 6 weeks perhaps switching to a tighter one if yours has loosened up some.

Of course, watch what you eat, don't gain weight and exercise

Endermologie Can Help Reduce Swelling After Tummy Tuck

A standard tummy tuck lifts the skin and fatty tissue off the underlying abdominal muscle from the top of the pubic bone up to the bottom of the breast bone, almost like lifting up an apron. As a result, all of the lymphatic channels are damaged and so swelling is a given. It's just a matter of how long it will last, sometimes as long as 3 to 6 months. There are certain things we do intra-operatively to minimize lymphatic disruption, and there are things we recommend to our patients post-operatively to help reduce swelling, such as compression garments or massaging techniques.  The problem is that when a patient is in an upright position, the lymphedema cannot cross the fresh incisional scar to drain into the inguinal lymph glands in the groin, so it tends to get "hung up" in the lower abdomen, producing more swelling above the scar.  At night time, while lying down, the swelling drains dependently around to the back, but the cycle resumes when the patient  wakes up/stands up the next day.  And unfortunately, chronic lymphedema (swelling) can turn into chronic fibrosis (scar tissue) resulting in a bulge or step off above the scar.

I first started offering Endermologie (aka LPG) to my abdominoplasty patients in 1996, when it was first introduced to the US. Those that had the "rolling and sucking" treatment  twice weekly for about 6 weeks had significantly less swelling and better results than those that didn't.  Because of that, I chose to incorporate the fee of 12 LPG's into my tummy tuck estimate, since in my experience, the patient would have faster resolution of swelling and ultimately have better results. Sometimes patients who have had tummy tucks elsewhere are referred to my office for treatment when they are concerned about prolonged swelling.  Delayed treatment can be effective, but I like to implement the treatments about 5 days post-op.  Patients tell me it makes them feel better, too, presumably due to less tension on the nerve endings from less swelling. It also enhances scar softening/maturing.

Jana K. Rasmussen, MD
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon

How to reduce swelling after abdominoplasty

In addition to what Dr. Rand already described, which I agree with, some of my patients have had success in reducing the swelling by having lymphatic drainage massage treatments. Contact your local spas and massage therapists to see if they offer it. It is very gentle, not really "massage" and can help reduce swelling. Be patient-it takes a good 3 months for swelling to go down.

Good luck.

Tracy Pfeifer, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Tummy tuck Swelling?

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. The swelling occurs because of the interruption of venous and lymphatic channels that occurs during the tummy tuck operation.
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. One of the steps of a tummy tuck procedure involves reapproximation (plication)  of the rectus muscles.  These muscles have spread apart during pregnancy and/or weight gain. Bringing them together again in the midline helps to “tighten” the abdominal wall as well as to narrow the waistline.
4. Residual adipose tissue may be confused for swelling. Again this is most easily diagnosed by physical examination. Additional liposuction surgery maybe necessary to improve the results of surgery.
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.

Post-Tummy Tuck Swelling

Swelling after tummy Tuck is inevitable and takes its time to fully resolve. There is not much you can do to hasten the recovery process. Although a lot of treatments have been proposed, the scientific backing that PROVES they effectively reduce post operative swelling is rather flimsy at best. I would classify most of such treatments in the "Chicken soup" category of medical treatments (As aunt Ida would say:..."it can't hurt..."). Lymphatic massages, high protein diets, wearing around the clock garments, French roller treatments, herbal supplements, external lasers etc - you choose. Eventually, this too shall pass and all you need is time and patience.

Dr. P. Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Swelling After Tummy Tuck Surgery

The more time passes by the better your tummy tuck will begin to look. The average recovery time for the procedure is 2 to 3 months so you are getting close. Now the best ways to improve your healing process will be to wear your compression garment up to the 3 month mark post op. And you may also apply lymphatic massages up to the 3 months.

The lymphatic massages will force the liquids that are being stored in the surgical area to the closest lymphatic drain system. By doing so you will be speeding the healing process dramatically.

Swelling after Tummy Tuck surgery is normal

Usually most patients start to see most of swelling subside after the first 6 weeks post surgery. After this time the remaining swelling is a combination of your body healing from the inside out and you level of activities, it could even swell more when you eat foods high in sodium. Your body needs to heal at its own pace, try to take it easy not to over do things, your body will react to too much activity. Also try warm baths everyday or even a jacuzzi or a hot tub everyday. A warm compress several times a day can help as well. The best thing you can do is give your body time to heal the swelling is usually gone in six months post surgery, but even with swelling you should already see good results. 

Z. Paul Lorenc, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Massage helpful to some following Tummy Tuck


Therapeutic or "lymphatic massage" may be helpful following  a Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) and Liposuction to minimize swelling. Make sure your surgeon feels that you have healed sufficiently  and it is safe before doing this.  Endermologie is also very helpful after liposculpture/liposuction but again, not critical.  Although deep tissue massage following liposuction can aid in smoothing out  contour irregularities that invariably accompany this procedure it has limited effect on the final outcome and  is NOT mandatory. Some plastic surgeons recommend it to all  patients as they feel the edema resolves faster.  Ask your surgeon to show you or a significant other how to do this if cost is an issue. A low sodium diet may also be helpful early on.

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

Tummy tuck swelling

4 weeks after surgery you will have swelling and numbness. The numbness usually gets better. As for the swelling, I would continue the garment and consider lymphatic massage.

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