Tummy Tuck Recovery

What is tummy tuck recovery generally like? If I get it done, what can I expect post-op care, checkups, pain? How long does complete recovery from a tummy tuck take?

Doctor Answers 177

Tummy tuck recovery

I think it is best to prepare for a “recovery”  of 4 weeks after tummy tuck  surgery. Descriptions of recovery times shorter than this,  in my opinion, is over-promising.
I do have another word of advice for you. Patients who are about to undergo tummy tuck surgery spend a lot of time thinking about the physical preparation for the procedure (for example weight loss issues) but do not spend a lot of time thinking about the emotional aspects.
It is not uncommon for patients who undergo the procedure to experience severe “mood swings”. These emotions may range from depression ( “why did I do this to myself”) to elation  (which may lead to over activity). I think it is helpful to be aware that these emotional swings do occur postoperatively. 
Suggestions I have for patients undergoing this procedure: 1. Make sure you have a strong support system in place who have time/patience to take care of you. 2. Be patient with the healing process, understanding that it will take several weeks to months to feel “normal” again. 3. Be prepared to distract your mind with things of interest such as books, magazines, and movies. 4. Expect less of yourself; do not go back to work too early and let others take care of you (for a change). 5. Keep in close communication with your surgeon and do not hesitate to communicate questions/concerns and the emotional swings that you may experience. 6. Keep in mind the end result!

Recovery after a tummy tuck just made easier!

This is an updated answer as there has been a break through in the technology of post op pain relief for tummy tucks.  A new medication is now being used that will provide for 3-4 days of post op pain relief, speeding up the recovery process!  It is called Exparel.

A tummy tuck which is also referred to as an abdominoplasty is a procedure to enhance the appearance of the abdomen.  It consists of 3 basic steps:

  1. Skin removal and tightening
  2. Subcuataneous fat removal
  3. Muscle tightening

The recovery is very similar to a C-Section or Hysterectomy recovery.  The first week lifting is limited to 15 lbs maximum and the patients usually walk slowly and bend over.  The second week the weight limitaion is increased to 30 pounds and more normal walking.  After the second week many patients return to work if it is more sedentary, active work jobs and heavy lifting, pulling or straining are still difficult for another 2 weeks.  Most women need help with small children for the first week.

Vigorous physical activity and contact sports are limited for 4-6 weeks.  Everyone's recovery is different, and everyone's tummy tuck is different, the recovery time will vary from individual to individual.

This is a wonderfull operation that will make the tummy flat FOREVER, WITHOUT SIT-UPS!!  But, you have to be willing to trade the appearance for the scar, which is long, but well placed, and hidden in all clothing and bathing suits.

David Finkle, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 66 reviews

Tumescent fluid speeds recovery

There are a lot of factors that effect your recovery with a tummy tuck. For most patients, the worst discomfort is the first two to three days and it gradually gets better after that.  Most normal activities and be returned to in about two weeks but six weeks for heavy lifting, abdominal exercises or strenuous activity. This is because it takes six weeks to build up enough scar tissue that you are no longer relying on the stitches in the muscle to hold things together.

Many surgeons have discovered that adding tumescent fluid (a large volume of dilute local anesthetic) to the surgery dramatically reduces pain after surgery and speeds recovery. After starting this practice, I have had several patients take only Tylenol for pain after a tummy tuck and the nurses in the recovery room ask me "Why do your patients do so much better than other surgeon's?" The only difference is that I take the time to add this fluid to keep my patients as comfortable as possible.

James McMahan, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

Recovery after a tummy tuck

Immediately after a tummy tuck you will feel tight, swollen, and not be able to stand fully upright. Your tummy will hurt but the pain can be controlled with pain pills. In my practice we offer a pain pump to my patients that slowly infuses local anesthesia in the area of the surgery (under the skin) to help reduce the pain. I have found that the pain pumps really take the edge off and make my patients' experience a lot better.

The usual progression is that you will walk hunched over a bit and have some pain in the first week. I use two drains to remove excess fluid and one is usually removed after the first week. The second drain is usually removed during or at the end of the second week. By the end of the second week, you should be walking nearly upright but still feel tight. It takes about four weeks to get back to usual activities without feeling restricted. As for work, if you have a desk job you could be able to return after one week. Generally, it is best if you can manage to take two weeks off for your recovery. At that point you will be able to return to work feeling more comfortable.

In my practice, patients are seen the day after surgery (I keep them overnight at the hospital or surgery center). The follow up visits are at one week, two weeks, one month, three months and six months. If other visits are needed patients are welcome to come as often as they like. When I have patients that travel for surgery I like them to stay for two weeks after abdominoplasty.

I hope this info helps!

Adam Rubinstein, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Tummy Tuck Recovery

The recovery for each individual is different. I generally tell my patients to take 1-2 weeks off from work depending on how physical your job is. The first week is limited to activities of daily living. Week 2 you may start to drive, shop, work with limited activity. Week 3-4 you may begin walking for exercise. At about 4-6 weeks you may resume regular activity and increase your workouts according to how you feel. At 6 weeks your body's tissues are well healed and should tolerate aerobic exercise.

Anthony Dardano, DO
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Recovery after Tummy Tuck - Abdominoplasty

The recovery after a tummy tuck varies among patients and the type of procedure they have. A tummy tuck involves one, some, or all of the following components:

1. Removal of skin and fat

2. Liposuction of the abdomen & Hips

3. Repair of separated muscles (diastasis recti)

Patients that do not require muscle repair have the fastest recovery, while patients undergoing all three components take longer to recovery. The recovery ranges from 2-4 weeks depending on the amount of surgery that is performed. In our Jacksonville plastic surgery practice we advise patients to refrain from any heavy lifting or exercise for at least 3 weeks from the time of surgery.

Ankit Desai, MD
Jacksonville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Tummy tuck recovery

A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is one of the more painful and longer recoveries when it comes to cosmetic surgery.  I generally tell patients to plan on being not themselves for about 6 weeks.  During that time frame they wear a compression garment over the abdomen, avoid lifting object over 10#s and plan to not be able to stand up straight for several weeks.  There are generally 2-4 drains which stay in for 1-3 weeks.  No aggressive physical activities can be performed for a least 4 weeks including weight training, running, sports, yoga etc.  All my patients are able to walk out of the surgery center and get up to go to the bathroom with minimal assistance.  They get a pain pump to help control the pain for the first several days.  In general they are on narcotic pain medications for 2-3 weeks.  Follow up is pretty much weekly for the first month.  While recovery is rough almost all patients are thrilled with the results as you can see from the reviews of the procedure and high approval rating.    

Recovering from a tummy tuck

After a full tummy tuck, expect some discomfort that should be controlled by oral pain medicine. Expect to walk bent over for 1-2 weeks because of the skin that is removed to make a flat contour to your abdomen. Visit after are usually at 1, 2, and 6 weeks after followed by 3, 6, and 12 months. You will most likely have drains placed to remove any excess fluid that build up, but these are removed 1-2 weeks later in the office. I usually recommend 2 weeks off of work and 6 weeks of exercise. Good luck!

Tummy tuck recovery

Recovery from a tummy tuck generally takes 6-8 weeks. Immediately after surgery, I advise my patients to sleep on a recliner or with their head up on several pillows. I also recommend walking regularly and with a slightly flexed posture for the first few days. The purpose is to prevent blood clots and to avoid tension on the incision, respectively. My patients are placed on an oral narcotic and an antibiotic to prevent infection. Pain is present, especially in the first few days, but improves with time. The drains are removed after the first 7-10 days depending on how much fluid is coming out through the drains. I use an abdominal binder the first week and then switch to a compression garment for six weeks to aid with swelling. My patients are encouraged to have lymphatic massages after surgery, especially to areas of liposuction. I then see the patient every 1-2 weeks until the 6-8 week period when pictures are taken. After that, the patient is seen every 6-8 weeks. 

Moises Salama, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 1,618 reviews

How will I recover from my tummy tuck?

Tummy tuck recovery can certainly vary from patient to patient.  It can also vary depending upon which type of tummy tuck you have.  Whether mini or full tummy tuck muscle tightening, or tightening of the abdominal wall is generally the part of the procedure that causes the most discomfort.  The average patient in my practice with a full muscle tightening tummy tuck will usually take off about two weeks from work.  Recall though, that this is an average some patients may take less and some might take more.

For patients who wish a quicker recovery they may consider tightening the skin but not the muscles.  A skin tightening only tummy tuck does not flatten the abdominal wall as much  but the recovery is much easier.

Age and medical condition surely play a factor as well.  Healthy and younger people tend to bounce back quicker.

In all cases because the anatomy of the abdomen is dramatically changed aches, pains, zings, plulling and pushing,  funny feelings are normal for at least six months to a year as the abdominal tissues heal and stretch.  Some patients will have permanent numbness of the lower abdomen that can be permanent.

Your surgeon should lay out for you his or her expectations for pre and post operative care as well as regular checkups.  Each plastic surgeon will have a slightly different regimen.  I think it is also very important than in the early recovery that you have someone at home with you who can be of help.

Good luck with your procedure.

Adam Tattelbaum, MD
Washington DC Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 85 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.