How Long Does Tummy Tuck Surgery Swelling Last?

I had a tummy tuck about 3 weeks ago.  How long should I expect the swelling to last?

Doctor Answers 285

Swelling after a tummy tuck

Thank you for your question. 

It is very common to get swollen in the lower abdomen after tummy tuck.  There are a number of factors involved.  In the early phase the abdomen may seem bloated because many of the narcotics used for pain can slow down the GI tract and cause bloating or  constipation.  This will generally resolve itself within a few weeks.

In the second phase, the tissues above the lower abdominal scar become swollen because the scar tissue stops fluid from migrating downwards.  The peak of the scar  tissue is about 12 weeks after surgery.  This can also be the peak of the puffiness.  As the scar tissue matures over 6 to 12 months the fluid in the lower abdomen can travel more normally  and the swelling diminishes. While most patients will see a dramatic decrease in swelling about 12 weeks after surgery, the swelling can even improve out to a year. 

Lastly, the final healing process of the tummy tuck is the abdominal wall stretching again as it decides how tight it can remain after muscle tightening.  Even after tightening, the abdominal wall will relax somewhat and find a new equilibrium. As one might expect slender people tend to stay flatter than people to carry more weight inside the abdomen.

I hope this helps to answer your question.




Washington DC Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 105 reviews

Swelling takes quite a while to resolve after any surgery

Quick answer: The majority of swelling resolves within 2 months, a small amount takes up to a year.

A tummy tuck is a major procedure that requires "lifting up" your stomach skin (dividing lymphatic drainage vessels from under the skin surface), pulling it down to reset the tension of the skin, and then an excision to remove the excess. Basically, the skin from the scar up to your ribcage is in a new environment. It can only drain fluid "up" and to the sides. Until new lymphatic connections occur across the scar line and down to the stomach muscles, all this swelling fluid has to run against gravity to get out of the skin. This is one of the reasons that we suggest patients wear compression garments for a period of time after surgery - these garments assist with the "uphill" removal of fluid, and you may feel more comfortable wearing them until those new connections occur.

A simple way to judge how you are doing is to look at the indentations that elastic clothing create on your trunk. One the front, you will see more of a lasting impression than on your back / flank region (even though there is even pressure all the way around your body) (I'm assuming you did not have flank liposuction or anything back there.) This is a way you can monitor the swelling, and you can expect it to go away over several months. After a few months, most of what patients consider "noticeable" swelling has resolved.

Michael A. Bogdan, MD, FACS
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Abdominal swelling after a tummy tuck"

We usually use the time of about 3 months to judge results with our patients.  Still at that time there can be some degree of swelling that comes and goes, but that is  small amount.

At 3 weeks you will be reaching a point where swelling gets worse as the day goes on and is better in the morning.  Sometimes the lower abdomen feels pretty firm late in the day.

Of course everything varies with what your surgeon did.  We do a lot of liposuction with our tummy tucks which may prolong healing a bit.

Byron D. Poindexter, MD
Reston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

How long does swelling last after a tummy tuck?

This is one of the most popular questions after an abdominoplasty.

After a tummy tuck, you can look forward to a newer, more shapely you. Abdominoplasties are wonderful at removing fat, tightening the underlying muscles, and removing excess skin.

Tummy tucks vary depending on the technique the surgeon used, whether or not they used liposuction, etc.

When I perform a tummy tuck, liposuction is essential to give the patient the figure they want. Because of this, my patients have to wait for the swelling to subside from the elevation of the flap & from the liposuction itself.

I tell my patients that they will immediately notice a difference in their abdominal area, but that it will take 2 to 3 months for most of the swelling to subside and to get their final result.

Sometimes, some swelling persists over the suture line - this will also go down as your body continues to heal across the scar.

Hope that this helped!

Pat Pazmino, MD, FACS
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 108 reviews

There are 2 causes of swelling after a tummy tuck. One...

There are 2 causes of swelling after a tummy tuck. One is just the natural edema in the skin as a result of dividing the lymphatic channels to the skin as it is lifted off the muscles to accomplish the result. This goes away after 3-4 months.

The other cause of swelling a person might have at 3 weeks postoperatively is called a "seroma" and is a collection of fluid between the skin and the muscles. This can feel like a waterbed and have a fluid wave across the lower abdomen. If present, it may require drainage of the fluid by your doctor.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Swelling After Tummy Tuck

Most of the swelling is usually significantly diminished in about 2 months, though you will continue to see improvements for 6-12 months, even as long as 18 months.
The area right above the stitch line in the lower center part of the tummy will stay swollen longer, and will seem puffy long after the rest of your tummy is looking great. Expect the area above the stitch line to very slowly improve over 12 -18 months.
Massage therapy using lymphatic drainage techniques can be very helpful in reducing swelling and encouraging better blood flow.

Paul C. Zwiebel, MD
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 41 reviews


The swelling after a tummy tuck will last at least a good 3 months.   The degree of swelling will vary depending on:

  1. the extent of the surgery
  2. the inclusion of liposuction
  3. the amount of physical activity you engage in post surgery
  4. your diet (salt content for example)
  5. and how often you wore your abdominal girdle / pressure garment.

There will be visible improvements during these 3 months. The swelling will also persist beyond this time frame but will be much less evident and will eventually dissipate.

Carlos Cordoba, MD
Montreal Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Abdominoplasty swelling

Swelling after abdominoplasty can be one of several things. Post-operatively things like ruptured suture plications can create bulges in the mid-line. These areas of swelling will not demonstrate a "fluid wave" (essentially being able to tap on one area of the swelling and seeing that tap transmitted through the swollen area... think bowl of jello). This swelling may be permanent and require surgical revision as it represents a bulge of muscle that is no long pulled as tightly as the rest of the muscle.

Swelling that has a fluid wave may be a seroma (serous fluid collection) or a hematoma (a collection of blood). These collections can be drained with a needle or left to absorb on their own. Serous collections typically resolve more quickly than hematomas.

General swelling in the soft tissue is common in any type of surgery and is caused by the interruption of the lymphatics and inflammation which brings fluid into the surgical area. This swelling is typically more diffuse and may take up to six months to fully resolve.

I hope this helps.

Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Postoperative swelling after tummy tuck

You are only 3 weeks after surgery. Don't worry, your swelling will get much better. I recommend my patients wear a binder or some form of compressive garment six weeks after surgery. The postoperative swelling takes about 6-8 weeks to resolve. This also depends on your compliance with compressive and activity level. Compressive therapy is very important.   Please follow your plastic surgeon's recommendations for activity limitations - usually no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for 5-6 weeks.  It may take up to 3 months for your swelling to completely subside.  Remember, healing is a process that takes time from any surgery.

Best wishes,

Dr. Basu
Houston, TX

C. Bob Basu, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 211 reviews

Swelling after Tummy Tuck

Tummy tuck surgery can leave you with swelling for months.  I usually tell my patients that the majority of the swelling will subside within 1 month but can take up to 5 months to completely go away before you can really appreciate your "final results."  It is very normal to experience what you are describing and this should completely resolve.  Just make sure you are still seeing your plastic surgeon regularly to evaluate and make sure you don't have any fluid collections, or seromas (medical term), that can be contributing to your swelling.

Erez Sternberg, MD
Jacksonville Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 32 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.