Tummy Tuck Recovery FAQ: Answers to Your Questions About Life After Abdominoplasty

If you are considering a tummy tuck, you probably have seen what dramatic improvements this classic body contouring procedure can achieve—a flatter belly, a better-defined waistline, and a slimmer, firmer torso that looks more attractive in clothing and swimsuits. You may also know that that a tummy tuck requires a few weeks of recovery.

Because a tummy tuck reshapes muscle tissue in addition to removing excess skin and fat, the body needs additional time to heal. This, combined with the fact that a tummy tuck affects the lower abdomen—an area involved in just about every movement we make—can make the recovery process a little more challenging than recovery after breast or facial surgery.

The good news is that knowing what to expect can ease anxiety about the tummy tuck recovery process and help you stay focused on healing well. Below, we’ve answered three questions to help you prepare for smooth tummy tuck recovery.

When will I feel normal after tummy tuck surgery?

Although the full answer varies depending on what you consider “normal,” there are general recovery phases that tummy tuck patients experience. Immediately after surgery, you will feel groggy from the anesthesia, and post-op pain will be noticeable. You’ll be given pain medication to manage discomfort during this initial recovery period. Discomfort typically peaks a couple of days after surgery, after which you should feel noticeably better each day.

The first 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, you will be limited to light activity, and probably will not feel up to doing much more than taking easy walks and doing light housework. You may be ready to return to a desk job within a couple of weeks, but don’t expect to pull off your regular level of productivity at first—listen to your body and rest when you need to. Lifting and straining (i.e., reaching up to the top shelf or pushing a stroller uphill) are prohibited for about one month, so while you may feel more like yourself, you will be limited in what you can do compared to your “normal” activity level.

After 4 to 6 weeks, however, most patients get the all-clear to resume exercise (gradually!) and feel more or less back to normal.

How long will swelling last after a tummy tuck and do I need drains?

Swelling is part of the body’s natural healing response—fluid collects around the surgery site to protect healing tissues. There will be an immediate improvement in abdominal contour, but swelling can be uncomfortable and will obscure your final results for a couple of months after tummy tuck surgery. Drains are usually placed to collect excess fluid and relieve pressure on your abdomen, which can significantly improve comfort during the initial healing period. Drains are typically removed after one week. After that, time and adherence to your plastic surgeon’s instructions regarding activity are your friends for complete healing and a good result. Once your results are final, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a firmer, slimmer figure for many years to come.

When will I see final results?

As stated above, residual swelling can linger; even so, your shape will immediately improve and be very close to final within 6 months after a tummy tuck. The other factor in when tummy tuck results are considered “final” is scarring. A tummy tuck produces a long, linear scar between the hip bones. This scar will appear pink for the first few months, and gradually fade thereafter. With proper scar care (not putting stress on scars and keeping the area protected from the sun) and good attention to your surgeon’s post-op instructions, this scar should fade significantly, becoming a faint line after a year or so. If this sounds like a long time, don’t fret—tummy tuck scars can be concealed beneath most types of swimwear (be sure to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen to all scar sites before heading outdoors).

Want a great recovery? Choose an experienced plastic surgeon

There’s no getting around the normal recovery period after a tummy tuck, but you can maximize the likelihood of a smooth recovery by choosing an experienced, board certified plastic surgeon to perform your procedure. Expert surgical skill and a safe operating facility are essential for ensuring a safe procedure, minimizing post-op complications and side effects, and, of course, achieving beautiful tummy tuck results!

If you are researching tummy tuck surgeons in Asheville, we encourage you to give us a call. Dr. Donald Conway is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and has 20+ years of experience performing abdominoplasty for men and women. At a personal consultation, he will explain the details of tummy tuck surgery and help you decide if it’s the right option to help you achieve your goals for a firmer, flatter belly.

Call Dr. Conway today for your personal consultation 828.210.9333