A tummy tuck, otherwise known as an Abdominoplasty, is an extensive cosmetic surgery aimed to remove excess skin and fat from the belly and in the process tightening the abdominal muscles. This will improve the contours around the recipient’s waistline, leaving them with a flatter, more toned stomach. It’s a popular cosmetic procedure due to its ability to transform the recipient’s shape and give back their confidence.

Recovery is often a concern for many patients who undertake the cosmetic surgery. While the process is not going to be pain-free and you are not going to be able to resume your daily activities the day after, we can give you plenty of tips for a faster recovery post tummy tuck surgery.

What is involved in a tummy tuck procedure?

Tummy Tuck Procedure

A tummy tuck procedure involves the removal of excess skin and fat from the abdomen whilst tightening the abdominal muscles. Depending on the patient, the cosmetic surgery generally takes between two to five hours for a complete Abdominoplasty.

While under general anaesthetic, the surgeon creates an incision extending from each hip, just above the pubic area. The scar from this incision will most likely remain hidden underneath bikinis or underwear. A second incision will be made to free the navel from surrounding tissue. Patients undergoing a partial Abdominoplasty will have a much shorter incision and the navel will not be moved.

Once the incisions have been made, the skin is separated from the abdominal wall all the way up to the patient’s ribs. This large skin flap reveals the vertical muscles which are tightened by pulling them closer together and securing them in place with stitches. The result is a narrowed waistline and firmer abdominal walls.

The skin flap is then stretched down and any excess skin is removed before the incision is stitched together. A new hole is cut for a naval and again, stitched in place. Dressings will be applied to the area and temporary tubes may be inserted into the incision to drain excess fluid away from the surgical site.

How to prepare for your tummy tuck surgery

Preparing for your tummy tuck surgery is just as important as your recovery for optimal healing and results. Your chosen cosmetic practitioner will discuss pre-operative instructions prior to your procedure, however, the following should be noted.

  • Smoking
    Patients will be required to quit smoking at least two weeks before surgery and will be advised not to resume smoking until two weeks after the tummy tuck procedure. Smoking not only makes the chances of complications occurring more likely, but it also slows healing time.
  • Dieting
    Drastic dieting is not advised prior to the procedure. A healthy, well-balanced diet will adequately prepare the patient for the cosmetic surgery and improve healing.
  • Medication
    Patients should disclose to their surgeon prior to the operation of any medication or supplements they take. This should include prescription drugs and herbal medications. Patients may be advised to stop some medications prior to the surgery to avoid any complications and give recipients the opportunity for a faster recovery post tummy tuck.

What is recovery from a tummy tuck really like?

Depending on the extent of the Abdominoplasty, patients may be required to stay in a hospital for two to three days.

For the first few days after the tummy tuck procedure, the patient’s abdomen will most likely be swollen and slightly bruised. This will dissipate over the initial weeks following the surgery. Patients will experience some pain and discomfort which can be controlled by medication.

Tummy tuck recipients may also experience some numbness around the stomach region. This is due to some of the little nerves being cut as the surgeon gets to the abdominal muscles. This diminished sensation often returns over the course of a few months.

Patients who have had drains inserted into the incision sites will need to be empty them daily post-surgery. These will likely be removed about one week to ten days after the tummy tuck procedure.

Since some of the excess skin has been removed from the abdomen, the body needs time to adjust making it difficult to stand up straight during the first week of recovery. Patients won’t be bedridden but may find it more comfortable sitting or lying down initially. It is advised patients should walk around a lot post tummy tuck to prevent blood clots from forming and ease swelling.

Tips to speed up the recovery from tummy tuck

  1. Look after yourself prior to the surgery
    Your lifestyle often affects your ability to recover faster from cosmetic surgery procedures. Those patients in good physical condition and with strong abdominal muscles experience a quicker recovery. Adopting a healthy diet prior to your surgery can also speed up your body’s ability to heal. 
  1. Take your medication
    This is not the time to be tough and suffer through the pain as a result of the tummy tuck procedure. It is important to take your medication before the pain becomes unbearable. Patients often find they will use less medication if they take it on time, rather than waiting until the pain becomes severe. Healing is also often faster as pain interferes with the body’s healing process.It is also important to take the antibiotics prescribed to you post tummy tuck procedure and on time. This not only aids in a faster recovery but also reduces the possibility of infection.
  1. Get adequate rest
    Patients are often keen to get out and resume their day to day activities, not to mention show off their new shape. It is important though you allow the time for your body to reset and take it slowly initially. Sleep actually helps your body to heal, so get plenty of it.
  1. Wear your abdominal support garment
    While abdominal support garments are not that attractive, they do play a crucial role in your healing process and the end result of the tummy tuck. Compress garments act to control the swelling and provide your abdomen with support. They also help with the healing of the abdominal scars. 
  1. Keep hydrated
    Drinking plenty of water during your recovery from the tummy tuck procedure will help with any bloating and keep your regular. Pain medications can cause constipation as well as make you feel bloated and sometimes cause intestinal cramps. Staying well hydrated will ensure your digestive tract is in working order and help flush out any residual medications.
  1. Exercise
    Exercising post tummy tuck is advised to help you heal better. It is important you speak with your surgeon regarding when the best time to resume your exercise regime is. Those who have never worked out before as also advised to commence exercising. This helps reduce swelling, lowers the risk of developing a blood clot and aids to tone muscles. 

Recovery from a tummy tuck procedure will ultimately depend on the person. The speed of recovery is also affected by the activities and the diet of the recipient post-surgery. Patients are advised to follow the surgeon’s post-operative instructions and attend any scheduled follow-ups with the cosmetic surgery clinic.

Patients need to expect the initial tummy tuck recovery phase to take a few weeks before your abdomen will begin to feel more comfortable. So don’t expect to be up and getting back to your routine immediately after your surgery. A faster recovery is going to ultimately depend on how well you look after yourself following the tummy tuck procedure.

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