After Undergoing a Tummy Tuck, Here are the Top 9 Tips for Your Recovery
Certainly a part of anyone’s fantasy body makeover over the age of 30 probably involves a tummy tuck. Cut out our seemingly impossible-to-eliminate belly fat and do it now! But as miraculous as the results may be, it is still surgery and there’s some careful prep and post-surgery considerations for the best possible recovery (and results!)
Proper diet before (and after)
As much as we may think we’re going to be instantly skinny post-surgery, we still have to pay attention to what we’re putting in our body, before and after. “I recommend a normal diet beforehand. There should not be any significant attempts to lose weight immediately before surgery,” says board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Antonio Gayoso. “We also advise our patients to be off of medications and over-the-counter supplements that are blood thinners,” he notes.
With all surgeries, there are risks. But we can lessen those risks by prepping right. “Before surgery we ask patients to bathe with a chlorhexidine solution in order to decrease bacterial counts and therefore decrease the chance of infection,” explains Dr. Gayoso.
It's a good idea for patients to start an over-the-counter stool softener before surgery in anticipation of some constipation after surgery, which is usually related to their pain medications. “We do give our patients their prescriptions well ahead of surgery so that they can have them filled and ready at home,” notes Dr. Gayoso.
Down and out
“More often than not, patients can return to work after just one week, but in some cases additional time may be required. I advise my patients that they may not feel like returning to work after one week, but they will be able to. Two weeks is a nicer amount of time and three weeks would be a luxury,” explains Dr. Gayoso. “A lot does depend on what type of work they do and what type of transportation they require to get to work.” (i.e. do they have a ride, or do they have a physical job?)
Expect to need help getting up from a reclined or lying down position, every time you need to go to the bathroom for the first few days, and also help getting up and down from the commode. “Patients will need to shuffle at first and will not be able to walk quickly or easily for a few days. Mobility is significantly decreased. Despite this, we ask patients to pump their legs and walk as many times during the day as possible to prevent any blood clot formation,” says Dr. Gayoso.
“Activities are restricted to ones that will not require straining of their abdominal musculature,” explains Dr. Gayoso. “This includes exercise such as calisthenics or weightlifting and no running or Boot Camp-style exercise. They may walk as much as they feel comfortable with and they may climb stairs. I ask them to refrain from strenuous activities for a total of three months so as to preserve the internal corset-like effect of the operation.” What must be avoided in the recovery process is an inadvertent release of the muscle tightening sutures, which will result in a bulge in the abdomen. This could end up requiring a secondary surgery for correction.
Pain can be an ongoing issue because of the tightening of the abdominal musculature that occurs and also because these operations are commonly accompanied by some liposuction of the waistline on the sides and in the back. “Patients will typically have pain in the front and in the back of their torso, which makes it difficult to get comfortable. This pain and tenderness will last at least a couple of weeks, although in the second and third week it is significantly more manageable,” explains Dr. Gayoso. “I tell my patients that that as long as they have tenderness and some pain they're probably going to reduce in size further. The full resolution of swelling and tightness from an abdominoplasty will take a few months.”
Anyone who has just undergone a tummy tuck should definitely avoid mixing alcohol, recreational drugs, and strong prescription pain medication. “After you are off of the strong pain medications, then it might be acceptable to have a moderate amount of alcohol,” notes Dr. Gayoso.
Manage your expectations
“I think expectation management is a great tool for helping patients recover from an abdominoplasty. I do not try to sell this procedure as simple or easy. It is an operation that has great power to produce dramatic changes that patients absolutely love. I show my patients before and after pictures of an abdominoplasty so they can see the changes that it produces; but I also explain that it will cost them weeks of difficult recovery, and a few months of restrictions on activity. Knowing this in advance automatically primes them for a smoother recovery,” notes Dr. Gayoso.
These tummy tuck recovery tips are an important reminder to consider the risks, recovery and rewards before any procedure. Tummy tucks can change your life in a major way, but are you ready to make the major life changes necessary in order to achieve the best results? Be sure to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon.