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What to Expect after Tummy Tuck Surgery - Timeline for Recovery

By Sheryl Pilcher on February 24, 2014

San Antonio Tummy Tuck RecoveryThe tummy tuck procedure is major surgery, and as such, patients undergoing this treatment should be informed about what to expect during recovery. Each patient is different, making each recovery unique to the individual. However, the following is a general timeline of what to expect during abdominoplasty recovery. To discuss your personalized timeline, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with San Antonio plastic surgeon Sheryl Pilcher.

Help Your Recovery Before Surgery

You can help prepare for tummy tuck recovery even before your surgery. If you are a smoker, stop smoking a minimum of two weeks before surgery and do not resume until you're fully recovered. Smoking inhibits the body's ability to heal by decreasing oxygen in the bloodstream. By quitting smoking well before your surgery, your body will be better prepared to heal itself and you'll be better prepared to resist the cigarettes during your recovery. You can also help prepare for recovery by preparing ice packs in advance, gathering an assortment of loose fitting clothing, and arranging for a friend or family member to stay with your for the first few days following surgery.

The First Week after Surgery

The first week following tummy tuck surgery is generally the most difficult. Pain, swelling, and bruising are to be expected during this time. Both alcohol and smoking need to be avoided and a low sodium diet should be followed to help reduce swelling. Driving, exercise, lifting, and all strenuous activities must be avoided to reduce the risk of complications. During the first week of recovery, many patients will require the use of a drain to help remove excess fluid away from the incision. Drains are removed anywhere from three to seven days after surgery. Bandages will be used to protect the incisions and must be changed regularly. You will be instructed on caring for your incisions, drains (if needed), and how often to replace your bandages prior to surgery. A compression garment should also be worn to help support the body during healing.

The Second Week of Recovery

During the second week of recovery, pain and bruising should begin to lessen, though swelling may still be present. Patients will need to continue to avoid drinking alcohol and smoking and also continue to maintain a low sodium diet. A compression garment should continue to be worn, as it will help shape the abdomen and support the tissues. Some patients may be ready to return to work after 10 to 14 days and may do so provided physician approval and that their job does not require strenuous activity. During the second week of recovery, you should begin to take light walks to prevent blood clots from developing in the legs and to help the blood circulate.

The Third to Fourth Weeks of Recovery

Many patients feel close to normal by the fourth week of recovery, however, strenuous activities should still be avoided until approved by your physician, generally around the six-week mark. By the third and fourth weeks, swelling and pain should be gone or nearly so. The compression garment should still be worn at this point but may stop once fully recovered. You may return to your usual diet, keeping in mind that a healthy diet will help you maintain your new body. Alcohol drinking (in moderation) and smoking can resume, though if you've gone this long without smoking, why even start?

Tips to Help Your Recovery

You can help reduce the risk of complications and help improve your recovery time by:

  • Following all surgeon instructions
  • Taking pain medications as directed
  • Keeping hydrated
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Using ice packs to reduce pain and swelling
  • Wearing a compression garment
  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking
  • Avoiding foods high in sodium
  • Avoiding strenuous activity until approved by your physician

If you have further questions or would like to a personalized timeline, schedule a consultation today! 

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San Antonio Office

255 E Sonterra Blvd
Ste 201
San Antonio, TX 78258

Open Today 8:30am - 5:00pm

More Info Directions (210) 654-9900