Tummy Tuck: The Ultimate Guide to Recovery & Results

The Ultimate Guide to a Tummy Tuck

The popular website RealSelf—which is a resource for women and men considering plastic surgery—includes a feature called “Worth It” that allows patients to rate their satisfaction with procedures. Whether a treatment or surgery is “worth it” or not isn’t just about cost, especially for operations such as a tummy tuck. At our Dallas-Fort Worth practice and on RealSelf, the vast majority of patients believe the results are worth the recovery time and scar on the lower abdominal area.

Abdominoplasty—commonly called a tummy tuck—is a transformative procedure that creates a slimmer, tauter midsection for women and men with excess skin after significant weight loss. It does require a relatively long recovery time (compared to most other body contouring procedures) and it’s important to know what to expect.

A tummy tuck offers some very specific benefits, including:

  • Removing excess, loose skin (and stretch marks in some cases)
  • Tightening the remaining abdominal skin
  • Reducing abdominal fat
  • Repairing and tightening stomach muscles

The primary tradeoffs are a scar and taking time to recover. In this blog post, we’ll offer an in-depth look at the recovery process after a tummy tuck and the results you can expect. First, though, I’ll briefly describe how a tummy tuck is performed.

What Is a Tummy Tuck?

A tummy tuck is an excellent option for anyone with sagging abdominal skin who wants to regain a slimmer midsection. Women who have had multiple children often get tummy tuck surgery to restore their pre-pregnancy bodies and sometimes combine the procedure with cosmetic breast surgery as part of a mommy makeover. Men and women who undergo bariatric surgery to lose a massive amount of weight are other typical tummy tuck patients.

The procedure involves making an incision from one hip to the other, low enough that bikini bottoms can conceal the resulting scar. The surgeon also repositions the bellybutton during the procedure and often performs liposuction to remove excess fat and ensure smooth contours. After tightening abdominal muscles, if needed, and removing excess skin, the surgeon pulls the remaining skin tight and sutures the incision.

A Tummy Tuck Recovery Timeline

Not all patients recover at the same pace, of course, but this general timeline highlights some recovery milestones following tummy tuck surgery. It’s also important to closely follow post-op instructions provided by your plastic surgeon to minimize the risk of complications and ensure the recovery goes as smoothly as possible.

The Day of Surgery

Abdominoplasty is typically performed as an outpatient operation, meaning patients return home the same day as their surgeries. You’ll need someone to drive you home after spending time in the recovery room. Expect to feel tightness in the abdomen and grogginess as you emerge from the effects of the general anesthetic.

Patients wear compression garments when they leave our office (and for the next few weeks), which provides support and minimizes swelling. You’ll need someone to stay with you for the first few days following surgery. Standing slightly bent over at this stage is normal to avoid putting tension on the incisions, and you should use prescription medication to manage discomfort. You’ll also need to sleep either in a recliner or with pillows propping up your torso during the first few weeks of recovery.

Day 3 After Surgery

Even though complications following a tummy tuck are rare when the procedure is performed by an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon, the first few days after the operation are no picnic. By the 3rd post-op day, you still won’t be standing upright, and simply sitting up, laughing, and standing will be uncomfortable because they all engage the abdominal wall. Still, it’s important to take brief walks around the house during the day to prevent blood clots from forming in your legs.

Weeks 1 to 2 After Surgery

The good news is that discomfort after a tummy tuck tends to peak near the end of the first week, and most patients no longer need prescription pain medication within 5 to 7 days after their operations. Many patients are now working from home, which is a bonus for tummy tuck patients. If you do work in an office and have a non-strenuous job, plan to remain at home for at least 14 days before going back to work (physical work will require more time off.) You should still be wearing the compression garment except when showering.

Most patients still notice some swelling 2 weeks after the procedure, but bruising and abdominal tightness usually begins to dissipate at this time.

Week 3 After Surgery

At this point, patients can wear compression garments less frequently and they can resume light exercises. This may be using an elliptical machine or cycling without too much exertion. Gradually build up your endurance and avoid pushing yourself. Rest remains a vital part of the healing process and too much physical strain could set back your recovery. Don’t hesitate to contact our office to get advice about exercising.

One Month After Surgery

This is often the halfway point before you’re fully recovered. Continue with the recommended scar care to minimize the appearance of the final scar. Any lingering discomfort or bruising should be gone, but residual swelling is normal.

6 Weeks After Surgery

You can resume sleeping on your stomach if that’s comfortable for you. Most patients can return to more strenuous workouts, too. If you lift weights or run, recognize that you won’t be at your normal strength or endurance. Be patient. It will likely be another few weeks before you’re able to match your pre-surgery performance. On a positive note, you’ll be able to wear gym wear that shows off your new contours.

3 to 6 Months After Surgery

During this time, virtually all of the swelling should fade, and you’ll be able to truly appreciate the results of the procedure. Patients are typically nearly 100% healed and feel comfortable at this point. However, scars can take up to a year to fade and flatten.

Tips for a Better Recovery

As you can see, a tummy tuck isn’t something you bounce back from in a week or 2. Even though the process may test your patience, having a positive attitude and realistic expectations about the process is extremely important. Other ways to enhance the recovery process include:

Having a reliable support system: Friends and family can help with child care, chores, running errands, or lending a sympathetic ear when you feel like complaining.

Tidy up the house before surgery: No one wants to return home from surgery with dishes on the counter, clutter strewn across couches, or unmade beds. Do a thorough house cleaning before the day of your tummy tuck.

Maintain a healthy diet: Drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods. Prepare some meals before surgery so you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat. Again, get plenty of rest and don’t feel guilty about needing help.

Start With a Consultation

Now that you know what to expect after your tummy tuck, it’s time to get your journey started. You can request a consultation online to meet with Dr. Bogdan or call our office at (817) 442-1236 to schedule an appointment.