What happens during recovery from a tummy tuck?

After surgery, a gentle abdominal binder is placed and the patient is encouraged to walk cautiously while recuperating. During the first week, the post-operative pain is treated with oral pain medication as well as a local anesthetic that was injected into the incision during surgery. The pain medicine can cause constipation, so sometimes a stool softener is prescribed.

Patients are taught how to empty drains and record the outputs on paper such that this can be reviewed in the office. They usually can be removed when they are putting out less than 25 ccs of liquid in a 24-hour period, typically about 10 to 14 days following the surgery. During this time, patients are also on antibiotics. We do not encourage any exercise for four weeks after the surgery but we do encourage walking in the house every day. At first, the patient will feel unable to stand completely straight. As the abdominal muscles relax, however, the patient will be able to stand upright. We encourage good hydration and nutrition during this time to encourage healing. Some patients will feel nausea. If this occurs, anti-nausea medication is prescribed.

After the first month, we encourage mild exercise. Sexual activity can usually be gently initiated.

During the ensuing months, we will monitor the patient to ensure that healing is progressing appropriately. There is sometimes a need for revision surgery to correct asymmetric areas, prominent scars and/or complications such as bleeding, infection, and wound dehiscence (wounds opening). Other adverse impacts are skin necrosis (skin death), and seroma (fluid forming under the skin that needs to be drained). We usually do not do any revisions for about six to 12 months due to the tissue needing time to heal.


How long does recovery take?

Most patients feel fully recovered at about four months, specifically in terms of ability to lift heavy objects or engage in athletic activity. A lot of patients with chronic back pain report that it is improved due to their core muscles being tightened.