Muscle Repair Failure or Swelling After Tummy Tuck?

I am just wondering if there is a way to differentiate between a muscle repair failure and swelling. I am almost 3 months Tummy Tuck post-op, and my upper abdomen is a little bumpy.

Doctor Answers 4

Swelling or surgery failure after Tummy Tuck

Dear LizCalgary,

Your surgeon can readily tell if the rectus muscles are together or not. He/She were there and know where the stitches are.

Having an upper abdomen that is a little bumpy in itself is NO reason to worry.

If you examined your tummy before surgery, you should be able to examine it now and feel the difference. Lying on your back with a small pillow under the curve of your back, put your dominant hand flat on your tummy with the fingers curled into the flesh along the midline just below the belly button. Feel the mid line by moving the hand slightly vertically up and down. You may feel sutures but should not be able to feel your pulse (by feeling the largest vessel in the body, the aorta). Moreover, when you lift your shoulders off the bed the feel of the mid line should not change - you should not feel loose sic pack muscles slamming against each other in the mid line. They should have been there BEFORE you lifted your shoulders.

A faster way, it to look in the mirror sideways as you bend over as if you are about to dive in a pool. Is the tummy falling out and forming a hammock as is seen with muscle laxity or is the tummy still largely flat?

I think you should see your doctor, but based on your description, I think you are OK.

Good Luck.

Memphis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 108 reviews

Muscle Repair Failure

At three months time your surgeon should be able to tell you if you have swelling there still, or is it just fat or failure of the repair.

This is pretty much done by physical exam. In very rare occasions, further studies can be done to make sure that there is not a fluid collection, which usually doesnt settle up high. But I would talk to your plastic surgeon and have him or her examine you and state your concern. They should be able to tell you if something has happened with your repair.

Good luck.

Farbod Esmailian, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 77 reviews

Muscle repair failure?

At three months you can have your surgeon inspect your stomach to see if it's swelling or something else that requires revision surgery. You can also check if you need muscle repair on your own:

lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
raise your head and shoulders up, as you would in a crunch
try to fit your fingers in between the left and right part of your ab muscles, in the middle (vertically) of your stomach

If two or more fingers fit width wise, then chances are you'll need the repair performed again.

Ronald Levine, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 24 reviews

Muscle repair failure or swelling

Your surgeon should be able to tell whether your concern is swelling or fluid collection or muscle repair failure.  By far the most likely would be a fluid collection or residual swelling.  Muscle repair failure would be very unusual.  It is possible that what you are describing could also be residual fat following the procedure.  It is not possible or safe to remove as much fat from the tissue left behind during a tummy tuck as it would be with liposuction.  I would visit your surgeon with your concerns.  He should be able to tell quite easily. 

Jeffrey E. Kyllo, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 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.