What Can I Do to Get Rid of Swelling After Tummy Tuck Surgery?

I had a tummy tuck combined with liposuction 30 days ago. I wear a compression garment around the clock. Is there something I can do to help the swelling go down, and to help the numbing/healing process? Such as massage therapy?

Doctor Answers 51

How to reduce swelling after abdominoplasty

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In addition to what Dr. Rand already described, which I agree with, some of my patients have had success in reducing the swelling by having lymphatic drainage massage treatments. Contact your local spas and massage therapists to see if they offer it. It is very gentle, not really "massage" and can help reduce swelling. Be patient-it takes a good 3 months for swelling to go down.

Good luck.

Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Post-Tummy Tuck Swelling

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Swelling after tummy Tuck is inevitable and takes its time to fully resolve. There is not much you can do to hasten the recovery process. Although a lot of treatments have been proposed, the scientific backing that PROVES they effectively reduce post operative swelling is rather flimsy at best. I would classify most of such treatments in the "Chicken soup" category of medical treatments (As aunt Ida would say:..."it can't hurt..."). Lymphatic massages, high protein diets, wearing around the clock garments, French roller treatments, herbal supplements, external lasers etc - you choose. Eventually, this too shall pass and all you need is time and patience.

Dr. P. Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Tummy tuck Swelling?

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Thank you for the question.

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

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.

Endermologie Can Help Reduce Swelling After Tummy Tuck

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A standard tummy tuck lifts the skin and fatty tissue off the underlying abdominal muscle from the top of the pubic bone up to the bottom of the breast bone, almost like lifting up an apron. As a result, all of the lymphatic channels are damaged and so swelling is a given. It's just a matter of how long it will last, sometimes as long as 3 to 6 months. There are certain things we do intra-operatively to minimize lymphatic disruption, and there are things we recommend to our patients post-operatively to help reduce swelling, such as compression garments or massaging techniques.  The problem is that when a patient is in an upright position, the lymphedema cannot cross the fresh incisional scar to drain into the inguinal lymph glands in the groin, so it tends to get "hung up" in the lower abdomen, producing more swelling above the scar.  At night time, while lying down, the swelling drains dependently around to the back, but the cycle resumes when the patient  wakes up/stands up the next day.  And unfortunately, chronic lymphedema (swelling) can turn into chronic fibrosis (scar tissue) resulting in a bulge or step off above the scar.

I first started offering Endermologie (aka LPG) to my abdominoplasty patients in 1996, when it was first introduced to the US. Those that had the "rolling and sucking" treatment  twice weekly for about 6 weeks had significantly less swelling and better results than those that didn't.  Because of that, I chose to incorporate the fee of 12 LPG's into my tummy tuck estimate, since in my experience, the patient would have faster resolution of swelling and ultimately have better results. Sometimes patients who have had tummy tucks elsewhere are referred to my office for treatment when they are concerned about prolonged swelling.  Delayed treatment can be effective, but I like to implement the treatments about 5 days post-op.  Patients tell me it makes them feel better, too, presumably due to less tension on the nerve endings from less swelling. It also enhances scar softening/maturing.

Jana K. Rasmussen, MD
West Palm Beach Plastic Surgeon

Numbness and Swelling post tummy tuck

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Thank you for your post. In a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty surgery, the tissue above the abdominal muscles is lifted off of the muscles from the lower scar to the ribs in a full tummy tuck and to the umbilicus in a mini tummy tuck. The superficial nerves that travel through the muscle to the skin are cut in order to do this. This is what causes the numbness afterward. The numbness usually extends in the entire area that was lifted up. On occasion, a superficial nerve to the thigh could be pulled causing numbness in this area as well. Swelling happens after surgery and also tends to be in the entire area that has been lifted up and any area that has received liposuction. Both numbness and swelling may take months to years to go away, and the last place for both to go away is the area right above the incision centrally, and sometimes right below the belly button. It may take up to 2 years to get to baseline sensation. sometimes, certain areas never feel totally normal, especially the area right above the incision centrally. If tingling or itchiness develop, that is a sign that the nerves are growing back. This is normally well tolerated, but occasionally, a nerve type pain medication is needed such as neurontin. Usually the more activity you have in the early period post op, the longer your swelling lasts.  I ask patients to reduce activity, especially bending over and twisting motions early on.
Best Wishes,
Pablo Prichard, MD

Pablo Prichard, MD
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Swelling After Tummy Tuck b

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Half the swelling is gone one month after tummy tuck.  The other half takes a year. 

Things that help:  

1.  Time. 
2.  Comfortable compression. 
3.  Decompressive Lymphatic Massage. 

Anything required? 


As long as your surgeon has determined that you do not...

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As long as your surgeon has determined that you do not have a seroma (a collection of fluid between the skin and the muscles), you are doing all you can to lessen the swelling. The performance of a tummy tuck requires dividing many of the lymph channels on the abdominal wall and these help resolve swelling. It takes a few months for them to re-establish themselves so you won't get to your final healed result until they do.

Massage can be useful, avoiding high salt foods can also help, and you might want to wear your garment for 6 weeks perhaps switching to a tighter one if yours has loosened up some.

Of course, watch what you eat, don't gain weight and exercise

Swelling After Tummy Tuck Surgery

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That is a great question. First of all Swelling is a normal part of healing from a tummy tuck and time and patience are the keys. It is very important to wear the appropriate binder correctly for the entirety of six weeks….at least that is what I recommend and strongly believe. It takes approximately six weeks for the abdominal muscles and incisions to heal and only then is it safe to slowly resume to normal activity. Wearing the binder and refraining from any strenuous activity will control and reduce swelling but ultimately you will see 90% improvement by 3 months. I hope this information has helped.

Rady Rahban, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 142 reviews

Swelling will go down in time

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Because of the way a tummy tuck is performed, the normal channels that the body uses to eliminate excess fluid are damaged, and need time to heal. Keep following the post-op instructions from your surgeon about wearing your compression garment. Mild activity like walking can also help, as can drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding high-sodium foods. Some of my patients have also reported positive experiences with lymphatic massage. Ultimately, though, the recovery process just takes patience, and your final results should be visible between 3 to 6 months after surgery.

Swelling after Tummy Tuck surgery is normal

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Usually most patients start to see most of swelling subside after the first 6 weeks post surgery. After this time the remaining swelling is a combination of your body healing from the inside out and you level of activities, it could even swell more when you eat foods high in sodium. Your body needs to heal at its own pace, try to take it easy not to over do things, your body will react to too much activity. Also try warm baths everyday or even a jacuzzi or a hot tub everyday. A warm compress several times a day can help as well. The best thing you can do is give your body time to heal the swelling is usually gone in six months post surgery, but even with swelling you should already see good results. 

Z. Paul Lorenc, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 34 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.