Liposuction Downtime - when is Recovery is Over?

I've had my abdomen, hips, and flanks liposuctioned close to 4 months ago. My abdomen has bulging lumps (mainly below belly button) and hardness. How long will it take for my body to return to normal and the lumps and hardness to diminish? Basically when is my liposuction recovery officially over?

Doctor Answers 39

Recovery after liposuction.

Recovery after liposuction can very from patient to patient, but as a general rule most of the swelling is gone after 3-4 months.  In lower extremities, especially below the knees, it can take even longer.  Proper technique during surgery and proper post-operative care can reduce the healing time somewhat.  Most of our patients can wear a bathing suit after about a month, although the final result might not be apparent for 3-4 months.

Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

The normal final result is expected about 4-5 months after surgery

It normally takes 4-6 months for the final results of surgery, especially liposuction, to be seen. Lumpiness or bumps are not unusual within the first 2-3 months. When you break up the fat with liposuction, not all of it is removed with the canula. A significant amount of fat has to be absorbed and destroyed by the body. This creates inflammation and firmness. That is what causes the lumps. By 4 months the lumps should be resolving. If the lumps are soft, you may need some touch up surgery to smooth the areas. No decision to touch up should be made before 6 months. Often doctors will use post op massage or endodermologie to assist with the smoothing. But in reality, time is the best cure for an area that isn't smooth. If the lumps do not resolve, discuss this with your physician to help you understand your options.

David A. Dreyfuss, MD
Orland Park Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Recovery from liposuction takes months

Recovery from any surgery is different from patient to patient, there are many factors that go into play technique, number of treated areas, your health, your age etc… however for the most part an average patient with average areas treated can expect to feel well enough to return to guarded work activities five to seven days after surgery. At four to six week you should be able to return to all activities with no restrictions. Full recovery can take up to a year where you will not feel that occasional pinching, itching, or stretching sensation.

At 4 months things should be pretty settled after liposuction


At 4 months out, most liposuction patients have had their swelling subside. Areas of hardness can take longer to soften, but only rarely do we see these with lipo alone.

I would return to your surgeon and maybe look into doing something else to change things. Did you discuss other procedures as alternatives when you saw him or her before your surgery?

Best Regards.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Massage during liposuction recovery

There are a variety of explanations for what you are observing and I will discuss some of these options.

I have seen patients who were better candidates for tummy tucks but underwent liposuction instead leaving them with loose skin that appears to be lumpy. If this is the case you may be better treated with a tummy tuck.

Alternatively, any injury can result in healing which produces scar tissue for 6 weeks (proliferative phase) followed by resolution of the scar tissue (maturation phase) which can take anywhere from an additional 6 weeks (total of 12 weeks after surgery) up to 2 years! 

Sometimes this is aggravated by localized swelling which prolongs the firmness. Techniques such as manual lymphatic drainage (also known as the Vodder technique) have been excellent in reducing nodularity. Other mechanical options, such as Endermologie are uselful. Another option is the use of technology that claims to reduce Cellulite: these include the Accent device, Velasmooth, or Thermage systems.

I have also found that areas of swelling can be aggravated by certain garments cause such as a tight waistband. Think of a tight sock that causes swelling above the level of the tight portion. In this event wearing a gentle compression garment such as a Spanx is useful for the healing period.

I strongly advise that you perform massage of the areas as much as possible during the healing period to promote softness of the firm areas.

Always stay in close contact with your physician. I am confident that they would want you to be satisfied with the outcome. It is possible that a touch up or further surgery is necessary but I would discuss this with your physician.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Probably by 6-8 months

It sort of depends on how much fat was removed since patients with a big tummy often have more fluid accumulation in the tissue and it takes longer for the lymphatic system to remove it. Also if you haven't been massaging the area, I would recommend more aggressive massaging or endermologie to help the areas shrink faster.

The excess skin from a large tummy takes 6-8 months to shrink. Skin is elastic and shrinks a fair amount after lipo. The younger you are or the less stretch marks you have , then the faster and more your skin will tighten. BE PATIENT . We often will injection diluted Kenalog into the lumps to cause shrinkage by atrophy of the fat or scar tissue. It softens them nicely. You may need a touch up liposuction if those lumps are remaining fat deposits. Your surgeon can tell you usually by the 4th month if you will need a touch up liposuction.

David Hansen, MD

David Hansen, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

It usually take a full year for the body to remodel any surgical scar but the initial down time is only one week.

It is not uncommon to feel some underlying areas of hardness once the initial swelling is resolved.  The most important treatment for this is massage.  Usually these areas are slightly tender but this is sign that the body still has heal.  There is also some numbness of the skin following liposuction which will eventually resolve by one year.

Six months for liposuction recovery

We usually tell patients to wait at least six months to see their final results, although it might be longer in ceratin patients.  If the swelling still seems variable from day to day, you have likely not reached a stable endpoint.

Liposuction recovery happens in phases

Recovery from Liposuction happens in phases.

The first phase is the immediate post-surgery where you need pain control and are limited in activity. With liposuction that is generally about 1-2days. After that, you can typically drive and do your daily activities.

Next step is for the majority of your swelling and bruising to resolve. For liposuction, that is about 2-3 weeks. That is when you can start light exercise as approved by your surgeon. At 6 weeks, you can return to all activities. It will take about 6 months for the skin to shrink and for all the swelling to resolve, but that is not going to be noticeable as much as what happens in the first few weeks.

So at 4 months, you should be very close to your final results. If there are lumpy areas or areas that you are still worried about, I would suggest going back to your surgeon to discuss your options.

Surgical and non surgical options to improve liposuction results

The swelling and bruising resulting from liposuction usually take 8-12 weeks. Residual bumps following Liposuction are residual fat pockets, fat necrosis or uneven Liposuction.

A revision might be required. In many cases it could be a small revision under local anesthesia. It is hard, however, to determine this without examining you. Some non-surgical options like Velashape could be helpful in some cases as well.

Hisham Seify, MD, PhD, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 19 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.