What to Expect After a Tummy Tuck

You may notice some temporary signs of discomfort after your tummy tuck such as:

  • an inability to stand fully upright for a couple of days or weeks,
  • pain and bruising for a few weeks,
  • swelling for several weeks or months, and
  • numbness, a pulling sensation, and/or tightness and pain when you cough for weeks or months.

What Does a Tummy Tuck Scar Look Like?

Our surgeons will use special care and expertise to minimize the appearance of your scar. The size of your scar depends on the type of tummy tuck you have and the amount of skin we remove. In either case, we will make the incision where many undergarments and swimsuits will cover it.

  • Mini tummy tuck scar — This procedure will have a shorter horizontal scar just above your pubic mound (skin above your pubic bone).
  • Full tummy tuck scar — This procedure will have a longer horizontal or U-shaped scar above your pubic mound. This may stretch from hip bone to hip bone. If we create a new opening for your belly button, you will have a small circular scar too.

Your tummy tuck scar will thin and fade gradually over the course of one year. However, it will always be visible. For the best results, make sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions for tummy tuck recovery.

Tummy Tuck Recovery Time

Your plastic surgeon will see for you regular follow-up visits during your tummy tuck recovery, supporting you through it all. The most important thing to remember is that you should follow your surgeon’s aftercare instructions closely.

Recovery time for a tummy tuck varies, depending on factors like:

  • the type of tummy tuck you have,
  • your age and health, and
  • following aftercare instructions.

In general, you can expect to:

  • see an improvement in your abdomen’s appearance soon after your procedure. It will progress gradually as you are able to stand taller and your swelling and scars fade.
  • return to work as early as two weeks after surgery. If your job involves lifting heavy objects daily, you will need to wait four to six weeks.
  • feel like yourself again around two months after surgery.
  • resume all activities three months after surgery.
  • see your scar fade over several months to one year.

Support You'll Need After Surgery

It is important to have friends or family that will support your social and emotional health as you heal. You will need someone at home that can help you after your tummy tuck surgery — for at least a couple of days, but ideally much longer. Some of the reasons include:

  • difficulty moving around when you return home from surgery. Walking, standing for a long time, bending, and lifting may all be a challenge.
  • bending quickly or lifting too much — even a small child — can stretch or reopen your incision and prolong bleeding and swelling.
  • not being able to drive for two weeks after surgery.

Daily Activities After Tummy Tuck

Drain Care

During your tummy tuck, we will place small drainage tubes near your incision to stop fluid from building up in that area while you heal. You will need to empty your drains several times a day. We will show you how to do this before you leave the hospital. Your drains will remain in place until we remove them in a follow-up visit around one to two weeks after surgery. 

Scar Care

You will be able to start scar massage and use scar tapes or creams to minimize the appearance of your scar at least three weeks after surgery.

What to Wear

After your tummy tuck procedure, you will have a light bandage over your incisions (cuts). You will also wear a compression garment around your abdomen to prevent fluid buildup and to support you while you heal. You should always wear your compression garment except when showering or washing it. You can stop wearing it shortly after your drains are removed around one to two weeks after surgery. 

Initially, you will want to avoid clothing that digs into your waist. You may be most comfortable wearing loose-fitting pants, such as drawstring pajama pants or dresses. 

Showering & Bathing

You can resume a daily shower two days after surgery. Do not soak in a bathtub, pool, or hot tub until your incisions heal or your surgeon says it’s okay.

Physical Activity & Exercise

  • Walking: Expect to spend plenty of time resting the first few days after your tummy tuck, with the exception of walking around the house to maintain healthy circulation. After three weeks, you should be able to walk normally, but not forcefully.
  • Bending and squatting: For six weeks after surgery, you should avoid or ease into these positions as they may be strain your incision line.
  • Lifting: For the first four to six weeks, you should not lift anything over 10 pounds.

You can gradually start increasing your physical activity six weeks after your tummy tuck. However, you should avoid any strenuous activity or motion with excessive force until three months after surgery. 

How to Sleep

For the first few days after surgery, you should sleep on your back or side and place pillows under your knees to take the pressure off of your abdominal muscles. When you get out of bed, you should turn on your side first and/or have someone support your back. You can also try to sleep in a recliner, if you have one, to maintain the proper position. 

Driving & Returning to Work

Before you drive or return to work, it’s best to get your surgeon’s approval at a follow-up visit. In general, you should not drive until you’ve been off of your prescription pain medication for at least 24 hours and can safely operate a vehicle in traffic.

You may be able to drive and return to a desk job as early as two weeks after a tummy tuck. If your work requires heavy lifting or strenuous activity, you will need to wait at least four to six weeks.

Make an Appointment with Our Plastic Surgeons

Call our office at 801-581-7719 if you would like to learn more about your options for a tummy tuck. We will be happy to schedule a consultation for you with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons who specialize in tummy tuck surgery.

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