Can High Altitude Increase Swelling After Tummy Tuck?

I am 8 weeks post tummy tuck. For the past week I have been on a business trip to the mountains. I have not been active. Basically sitting in meetings all day long. I have noticed that my abdomen has become quite swollen. I have been wearing compression throughout my trip with the exception of a couple of nights while I slept. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, but wondered if altitude could cause swelling to be worse. Thank you.

Doctor Answers 3

Swelling after Tummy Tuck Surgery?

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

I know of no science to suggest that  high-altitude would increase swelling after tummy tuck surgery. However, significant swelling at your stage after surgery may be related to subcutaneous tissue swelling and/or seroma. It would be best for you to be evaluated by your physician as planned.

Generally, 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.

High altitude does not increase swelling

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

I practice plastic surgery in Albuquerque, NM, at one mile above sea level.  My patients do not appear to have more swelling than when I was practicing in Pennsylvania.  There is no physiological reason that it should happen.

Lower abdominal swelling at eight nweeks post op is not uncommon.  If it is not very swollen in the morning but gets worse as the day goes on, you have little to worry about.  If you are constantly swollen, you should discuss this with your doctor.

Good luck.

Michael S. Hopkins, MD (retired)
Albuquerque Plastic Surgeon

High Altitude related Swelling

{{ voteCount >= 0 ? '+' + (voteCount + 1) : (voteCount + 1) }}

Fascinating question. Why would high altitude cause swelling around the surgery area but not cause swelling anywhere else in the body? There is no physiologic reason why this should happen. If I had to guess I would think you were too active as a more plausible explanation. 

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

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.