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Tummy Tuck Recovery Timeline

Before undergoing tummy tuck surgery, it is important to understand what to expect after treatment, including the timeline for recovery. Though each abdominoplasty procedure is unique and each patient’s recovery experience will vary, understanding the general recovery timeline can help you avoid complications after surgery. For your personalized recovery timeline, schedule a consultation with Santa Barbara-based plastic surgeon Douglas Mackenzie. In the meantime, you can familiarize yourself with the tummy tuck recovery timeline with this overview.

Recovery Begins Before Surgery

There are steps you can take to help prepare for tummy tuck recovery even before you undergo the procedure. Prepare for recovery by having ice packs and loose fitting clothing ready so they will be waiting for you after surgery. Also, since the tummy tuck procedure is major surgery, be sure to have a friend or family member stay with you for the first few days to help you around the house. If you are a smoker, you will definitely want to stop smoking prior to surgery and throughout the recovery. Smoking decreases oxygen in the bloodstream, which, in turn, decreases the body’s ability to heal. The earlier you are able to quit smoking the better; in general, you will want to stop a minimum of two weeks before the procedure.

Recovery Week One

For most patients, the first week of recovery is the most difficult. During the first week following surgery, bruising, pain, and swelling should be expected. Your movement will be limited, which is why having a friend or family member around is highly recommended. Strenuous activities, lifting, and driving will need to be avoided. You will also need to avoid smoking and alcohol, which both interfere with the healing process. Stick to a low sodium diet to help reduce swelling.

Other things to be aware of during the first week are drains and bandages.  A drain is usually used to remove excess fluid from the incision area and is generally removed after seven days. Bandages will need to be changed regularly and incisions will need to be cared for. Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions on how often to change bandages as well as how to care for incisions and drains. A compression garment placed after surgery should be worn to provide support and hold tissues in place during the healing process.

Recovery Week Two

During the second week of recovery, pain and discomfort should begin to decrease and bruising should begin to fade. However, there will likely still be some swelling. Any drains will typically be removed by the second week, though bandages and the incision will still require care. Smoking and alcohol should be avoided and a low sodium diet should still be followed. Continue to avoid strenuous activity but you may begin to take light walks to encourage blood circulation and decrease the risk of developing blood clots in the legs (which can result from extended bed rest). Patients should continue to wear compression garments to help support the tissues and shape the abdomen. Some patients may be ready to return to work after 10 to 14 days but should only do so upon physician approval.

Recovery Weeks Three to Six

By the third to fourth week, swelling, pain, and bruising should be greatly reduced or gone. It’s important to note that any swelling and pain that worsens during the recovery could be a sign of infection or other complication and should be brought to your doctor’s attention immediately. Though most patients feel close to fully recovered by the fourth week, strenuous activity should still be avoided until about the sixth week. At this point you can begin smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and resume your usual diet. Though you can go back to your old habits, be mindful of how these may affect your new waistline and overall health.

Schedule a Consultation

To discuss your personal recovery timeline, schedule a consultation with Dr. Mackenzie today!

Douglas J. Mackenzie, MD

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