Swelling Has Increased After Stopping Compression and Resuming Exercise. What to Do?

6 weeks PO from Full Tummy Tuck with waist lipo. Was advised to stop wearing compression at 6 wks PO and allowed to start running for exercise. Within 24 hours I was very swollen with tight skin. I put my compression garment back on and have not run since. Swelling has not completely subsided 3 days later. Any ideas what is happening?

Doctor Answers 28

Temporary Lymphedema From Exercise Is Common After Tummy Tuck and Liposuction

You are experiencing postoperative lymphedema of the abdomen and waistline, a very common development after a tummy tuck and liposuction. This is a temporary phenomenon that is caused by impeded lymphatic outflow from the operative sites caused by the lower abdominal incision and the trauma of the liposuction. It was not apparent until you started exercising which pumps extra lymphatic fluid into the area which now has some trouble getting out. It can be alarming to most patients as it is unexpected. In most cases, the swelling will go down by the next day as one is horizontal at night which helps the lymphatic drainage. This mild swelling will be cyclical for a month or two as you are more active and exercise. It is a self-solving problem and is not a cause of long-term concern.

How long should the patient where a compression garment after a tummy tuck

Patients who received an abdominoplasty should expect a recovery process that may last anywhere from 2 to 8 months. Factors that may affect how quickly you heal include whether or not liposuction was performed at the same time as your tummy Tuck, the technique that was used for your surgery, and how quickly your body will recover and reestablish arterial, venous, and lymphatic drainage.
In our practice, we always provide the patient with two garments after their surgery. The first garment is the traditional tummy tuck binder that we recommend the patient's use for two weeks after their surgery. After this period, we have the patient use a compression garment that we have designed and that we have made here in Miami. This garment allows for complete and even compression of all the areas that have been treated. We recommend that our patients use this for at least four months after their surgery. Patients tell us that they appreciate the support that the government gives the comfort garment provides by helping minimize their swelling.
At this stage, your best bet is to let your board-certified plastic surgeon know of your concerns so that they may determine if you need to continue wearing the garment or if another process is occurring.

Pat Pazmino, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 71 reviews

Tummy Tuck and Compression Garment or Binder

Wearing a compression garment or abdominal binder will help in the early healing after a tummy tuck. It helps compress the tummy and reduces the initial swelling. It also helps the swelling go down over time. In my practice I like to have my patients wear their garment for 2-3 weeks after surgery. Once the last drain is out I recommend that they use the garment for another day or two. Many patients like the feeling and support of wearing the garment and choose to wear it longer. As long as it is fitting well and not chaffing your skin there is nothing wrong with wearing your garment for an extended period of time.

Whether you wear it for 2 weeks or 10 weeks, once you take it off and resume normal activity you may find that your tummy gets a little swollen again. This rebound swelling is normal. After taking a long time off from activity you will increase a little inflammation once you begin moving around again. The swelling will resolve fairly quickly on its own. In fact, the more active you are the faster you will return to normal. Of course, you shouldn't over-do it. But as long as you're comfortable with your activities you can expect things to get back  to normal quickly.

I hope this info helps!

Adam Rubinstein, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

6 weeks after a tummy tuck

6 weeks is our magic number for healing, it just sounds like you need more time.  Keep the garment on, switch over to something more comfortable that still applies pressure but you can wear clothing comfortably over it such as spanks or spandex.  Limit your fluid and salt intake, that can contribute to edema.  Normally you'd be over this by now, but your body is requesting a little bit more time.  Progressively get back to things and you'll train it to complete normalcy.  Good luck!

Ricardo A. Meade, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 85 reviews

Swelling after Tummy Tuck and Exercise?

Thank you for the question. 

It would be best for you to be evaluated by your plastic surgeon to rule out the presence of a fluid accumulation (seroma).

Generally speaking,  tummy tuck surgery involves the interruption of arterial inflow as well as venous/lymphatic outflow. As patients' activity level increases  the abdominal wall flap may have a hard time eliminating fluids from the area. It may take several months to a year for the situation to improve  whereby patients no longer have the increased swelling with increased activity.

I have seen some significant tissue swelling that may be alarming but has always resolved with time.

I hope this helps.

Abdominal swelling after tummy tuck 6 weeks ago; no compression and restarting exercise.

This may be only swelling within the tissues (lymphedema) like a saturated sponge, but you should have your surgeon check to see if you have a seroma, which is a collection of fluid in a cavity beneath your skin that did not "stick down" and heal completely, or sheared with your increase in activity and reopened a pseudobursa that has collected blood or lymphatic (serous) fluid.

If the latter is the case, your surgeon may want to aspirate the fluid with a syringe and needle (don't worry, it will be placed through an area that has not recovered sensation yet!) one or more times, or even reinsert a drain for a few days until this area re-adheres and heals.

Though exercise at 6 weeks should in most cases be absolutely fine (I allow my patients to do this), the combination of tummy tuck AND liposuction may make this a slightly more likely possibility.

Schedule a recheck with your doctor as soon as possible if this swelling persists! Good luck!

Richard H. Tholen, MD, FACS
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 207 reviews

Swelling After Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

Swelling is normal after liposuction and/or abdominoplasty. Nevertheless, you should be in close communication with your surgeon throughout your recovery. Often, a physical examination is necessary to determine that everything is alright after a tummy tuck.

Swelling after tummy tuck

It is normal for the abdominal tissues to swelling variably after surgery especially after being up a long time or after exercise. The tissues are still reactive and inflamed and will tend toward edema since the lymphatic and blood flow is still not normal. Assuming you don't have a seroma or hematoma, I would advise wearing a light compression garment while you run or certainly right after you exercise to counteract the reactive edema.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Tummy tuck

Swelling above the scar from an abdominoplasty at this time is very common, especially following a long day's work, or exercising.  Continue compression garments until the swelling gradually resolves.

Shahin Javaheri, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Abdominal Swelling due to Increased Activity

Hi there-

Most likely, your increased activity has caused swelling due to the still limited drainage in the tissues of the areas operated on. This should completely resolve with time, but I would recommend you do wear your compression garment.

I would also recommend you see your surgeon to be sure that there is not also another problem that might need to be dealt with.

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.