Is this swelling normal after a Tummy Tuck or do I need fluid drained? (photos)

Just recently had drains removed. My stomach now has a bulging look. My stomach did not look flat at all after surgery but is significantly bigger no w at 2 weeks post op.

Doctor Answers 5

Seroma after abdominoplasty

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It is definitely possible that fluid has accumulated. This is very common especially if the drains are removed early. It can be easily diagnosed and treated by your surgeon. You may need to have it aspirated multiple times and should visit your PS every 2-3 days for examination until resolved.

New York Plastic Surgeon

Possible seroma after an abdominoplasty

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You may have a seroma.  This may feel like a water bag when you turn sharply from side to side.  It is time to see your plastic surgeon for a recheck.  A seroma  can develop even if drains are used and taken out at the appropriate time.  

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Fluid accumulation after a tummy tuck may need drainage

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Thank you for your question and photographs. It is not uncommon for fluid to accumulate between the skin/fat layer and the muscle after the drains have been removed.  A small amount of fluid will generally absorb on its own while larger amounts usually should be aspirated with a needle and syringe.  Although it is hard to tell from a photograph alone, however, I agree that you look like you have quite a bit of swelling and it is most likely from a seroma at two weeks out. Of course, it is best to see your surgeon for an evaluation.

James McMahan, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 40 reviews

Seroma after a Tummy Tuck #abdominoplasty

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Hi and thanks for your question. Both your symptoms and the impression from your photograph are consistent with a likely seroma. this should be easly dealt with by your PS. good luck. 

Sultan Hassan, MD, FRCS(Plast)
London Plastic Surgeon

Is this swelling normal after a Tummy Tuck or do I need fluid drained?

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As always, it is best to be seen in person ( by your plastic surgeon) for precise diagnosis and treatment.

Generally speaking, abdominal wall "swelling" 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. This may be diagnosed on physical examination  with your surgeon examining you in different bodily positions. 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.

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.

I hope this helps.

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.