I have a bulge in my upper abdomen after having a tummy tuck done. What could it be? (Photo)

I have a bulge in my upper abdomen after having a tummy tuck done... what could it be?

Doctor Answers 9

Bulge in upper abdomen after tummy tuck

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Your picture shows a mildly bulging area in your upper abdomen.  Without examining you, having seen you before your surgery, or knowing more of your history, it is not possible to be specific, however the following  are some possible reasons: 

-a pre-existing bulging abdomen

-a failed diastases repair (" muscle repair") due to increased pressure from the inside.  For example due to vigorous coughing, vomiting, or sneezing.  

-a seroma (fluid collection)

-a hematoma (big blood clot)

-excess fat

-excess skin

-a hernia

 A little more on the first 2 mentioned: 

Having a small bulge in that area may indicate having had a bulging abdomen to begin with, meaning prior to surgery. This is a reflection of fat inside the  abdominal cavity (around your organs) that makes the abdomen pouch outward.  Regardless of how good a "muscle repair" is, a bulging abdomen before will bulge afterward, just a little less so.  Although the abdomen may appear very flat in the first few weeks after surgery, in a bulging abdomen, the tissues relax over a short time and then the innards will still bulge outward.  Sutures cannot  be relied upon to "hold things in" in the face of constant pressure from the inside due to fat.   Only good dietary habits can decrease internal fat composition, while good posture and use of core muscles help as well. 

My advice to you is to go back to your plastic surgeon and discuss it. There may or may not be something to do  depending on what the issue is.

Palo Alto Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Fullness at top of abdomen after a tummy tuck

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This could be seroma, fat, or a dehiscence of the diastasis  repair.  These are all treated differently, so I would recommend seeing your surgeon.

Upper abdomen bulge after tummy tuck. What could it be?

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Thank you for sharing your question and photograph.  WIthout knowing the timing since your procedure there is a number of possibilities - surgical swelling, discrete fluid collection, hernia, failed muscle repair, residual adipose tissue, etc.  I would recommend seeing your surgeon for an in-person examination for the appropriate diagnosis and treatment recommendation.  Best wishes.

Nelson Castillo, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 80 reviews


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Thank you for the question but an examination is really needed to access the problem.  So see your surgeon

Dr Corbin

Frederic H. Corbin, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 65 reviews


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Upper abdominal fullness after tummy tuck surgery is due to either residual surgical swelling, "gather effect" of subcutaneous tissue, inadequate tightening of abdominal fascia above the belly button, or a fluid collection.

Your surgeon can help you determine which of these is responsible.  The important next step is make the proper diagnosis so the plan moving forward is appropriate.

Hope this helps.

Dr. Ali Mosharrafa

Ali Mosharrafa, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Tummy tuck swelling

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Swelling after tummy tuck takes several months to subside. Getting a great tummy tuck result has a lot to do with balance between the upper and lower abdomen. It is important when performing a tummy tuck to make sure the upper abdomen muscles are tightened as much as those in the lower abdomen, to make sure the subcutaneous fat reduction is balanced, and to make sure early compression to limit fluid collections is balanced. As with many operations in plastic surgery, revision surgery may be needed to bring you closer to the most optimal aesthetic outcome possible. In most cases, you can expect surgery to improve things like loose skin. Getting the most optimal aesthetic outcome is sometimes not possible even with the best technical management from the surgeon. If it has been more than a year after surgery, it might be an option for you to have some fat reduction treatment for your upper abdomen. If you had surgery recently, concentrate your compression in your upper abdomen and see your surgeon to evaluate you for fluid collections or separation of your muscle repair. I hope this helps!

Angela Keen, MD
Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Bulge After Tummy Tuck

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This is a very hard one to say. It could be many things Sometimes even with tightening muscles there is a limit to how flat one can make the abdomen. So it could just be you. It also could be the suturing in that are is not as tight as it could be. It could be swelling or a fluid collection. It could also be that the surgeon was able to really tighten the lower abdomen better so there is a discrepancy with how they look. Not sure how long ago you had your tummy tuck but if it is early you should give things about three months. 

Richard J. Brown, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 54 reviews

Tummy Tuck/Abdominoplasty/Liposuction/Vaser High Definition Procedures/Tummy Tuck Revision

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I appreciate your question.

Since there has been a change in your post op course, please contact your surgeon so he/she can examine you and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan at this time.

The best way to assess and give true advice would be an in-person exam.

Please see a board-certified plastic surgeon that specializes in aesthetic and restorative plastic surgery.

Best of luck!

Dr. Schwartz

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon



Bulge in my upper abdomen after having a tummy tuck done.

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Congratulations on having undergone the tummy tuck procedure. As you likely know, your plastic surgeon will be your best resource for precise diagnosis...

Generally speaking, an abdominal wall "bulge" 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. 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. Separation of the abdominal wall plication is very unusual.


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.


Best wishes.

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.