What is Causing Swelling After Tummy Tuck and Liposuction?

I'm 22 days post Tummy Tuck, muscle repair, and Liposuction, and having local swelling. Why am I only swollen above incision? What could have cause this? It's not seroma.

Doctor Answers 10

Localized Swelling

Swelling normally takes a few weeks to subside. On average, most of the swelling goes away after about 3 months, and depending on the extent of surgery, this may even take up to 6 months. A full tummy tuck will involve a lengthier recovery period than a mini. During these weeks and months, you'll notice the swelling gradually lessening.

In the meantime, follow your surgeon's post-surgery care instructions and wear your compression garment as recommended. Your garment will help control swelling by encouraging your body to absorb and eliminate fluids that are causing the swelling. I don't recommend using ice packs since the area may be numb and you may get frostbite because of the lack of sensation.

Here are some other tips to deal with swelling:

stay well hydrated and go to the washroom regularly
avoid salty foods and eat healthily
get plenty of rest, but also try to move around a bit at a leisurely pace to keep your circulation going when you're not lying down

Once you have adequately recovered, you can consider lymphatic massage, but only with your surgeon's advice

Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 176 reviews

Tummy Tuck: lower abdominal swelling is normal: but watch your garments

This appears completely normal and you should have an excellent final result.

The lower abdominal swelling is completely normal and due to the interruption in the venous and lymphatic circulation drainging the infraumbilical panniculus.

It is primarily a combination of inflammatory changes and lymphedema. Give it time and trust your surgeon; discuss your concerns. Notify them sooner for any redness, fevers, chills, drainage, excessive pain, etc

Occasionally this can be made worse by tight elastic garments or waste bands (similar to what happens to swollen ankles resulting from tight stockings). Make sure this is not the problem.

Manual lymphatic drainage if approved by your surgeon may be beneficial to decrease the swelling.

I hope this is helpful

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

Swelling after a TT

If your lower abdomen was flat at first and now it is swollen this is normal. As you get more active the fluid between the cells, called interstitial fluid tends to accumulate above the scar. The scar works as a dam. It takes about 3 months for the lymphatic vessels to re-form and properly drain this dependent edema. Give it a chance and it will get better. If in doubt discuss this with your plastic surgeon.

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

What causes swelling after tummy tuck and liposuction?

It may take up to 6-8 months to have all of the swelling resolve. Very commonly the last swelling to leave is located in the tissues just above the horizontal incision. Very likely this is due to the fact that the fluid causing the swelling moves downward to the lymph nodes in the groin region. The tummy tech incision very often disrupts the channels leading to the groin nodes impeding the removal of fluid. It may take several months or these channels to re-form and help carry away the fluid and help resolve the swelling.

For a simple and illustrated explanation of tummy tuck and body contouring procedures, watch my video.

John J. Edney, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 112 reviews

Swelling can take time to resolve.

Your swelling is a normal finding following abdominoplasty surgery. The wound healing process following this procedure lasts for over a year. Most of the swelling resolves in six to eight weeks, but small amounts of swelling may persist for up to a year. The procedure inevitably interrupts the abdominal lymphatic drainage and this takes time to re-establish itself.
Patients can minimize swelling with compression garments, massage and limitations on activity level. It’s important to realize that swelling is a normal part of wound healing and should resolve with time.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 194 reviews

What is Causing Swelling After Tummy Tuck and Liposuction

Swelling is normal after abdominoplasty and liposuction.  Part of the swelling is due to the disconnection of the perforators from the abdominal muscles and the incision of the lower abdomen.  Drainage that normally occurs from the abdominal wall can no longer reach the deeper drainage system directly and must travel up the abdominal wall to drain causing a delay and thus a fluid backup.

Paul Vitenas, Jr., MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 109 reviews

Swelling after Tummy Tuck

This early in the recovery process some swelling is completely normal. It should continue to improve of the next few weeks. Compression garments can certainly help minimize the swelling, but you should watch for any areas of focal constriction that can make the swelling worse.

Ankit Desai, MD
Jacksonville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Swelling after Tummy Tuck Surgery

Thank you for your question.  You are still very early during the recovery process and swelling will be present for quite some time.  It may help to wear the abdominal binder, I usually recommend that some sort of compression garment be worn for the first month or so.

Keep in close communication with your surgeon so that he/she can help you through the healing process.

I hope this helps.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,487 reviews

The fluid won't move down past Tummy Tuck incision

It's a very short time since your surgery, and your swelling is normal. The fluid will come down to your scar, but won't go farther down. Be patient. It will all resove in time, but that may take months. Some girdle compression may help.

G. Gregory Gallico III, MD
Boston Plastic Surgeon
3.2 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Swelling above the tummy tuck incision


I would recommend that you wear your abdominal binder/compression garment diligently.  The swelling above the incision as opposed to below the incision makes sense if no liposuction or undermining was performed below the incision.

All the best,

Dr Repta

Remus Repta, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 162 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.