Bulging 2.5 Months After Tummy Tuck, Could this be More than Swelling or Water Retention? (photo)

I had a full tummy tuck on 09/02/11 + lipo of the flanks. I'm now 2.5 mo post-op.I'm concerned about a bulge going from 1in under the belly button to 2-3 inches before breasts.It feels like a pad of gel.Gets harder in afternoon.It's ugly. Surgeon said he ignores what this is, could be swelling, torn stitches or water retention.Says have to wait 2 more months.I can't understand he cannot identify.He look mystified. If torn stitches,wouldn't be all, no? Doesn't feel like water or swelling.Help!Tx

Doctor Answers 5

Tummy tuck Swelling?

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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.

Bulge of abdomen after tummy tuck

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See your plastic surgeon and inquire whether he can refer you for a sonogram to rule out seroma or hematoma. What you are describing should not be attributed to late afternoon water retention.

Bulge after tummy tuck

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Your photos show a localized bulge which may represent a seroma or fluid collection. Your surgeon could try to aspirate the area to see if it might resolve the issue.

Best of luck,


Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Bulge after Abdominoplasty

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This might represent an small fluid collection called a seroma.  An ultrasound can help to determine if this is a seroma.  This test is not very expensive and is painless.  If present, the seroma may require aspiration with a needle to drain it.  This may need to be done more than once to resolve the seroma.  See your plastic surgeon to discuss this.

Bulge after tummy tuck

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You should definitely see your PS to discuss this bulge.  It may be as simple as post operative swelling but can also be a seroma  (fluid collection) or hematoma (post operative bleeding) which hold be investigated.


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.