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Swelling After Tummy Tuck: What to Expect

Medically reviewed by Mr. Omar Tillo MD, MS, EBOPRAS, FRCS (Plast)

An abdominoplasty, commonly referred to as a tummy tuck, removes excess skin and fat from the stomach area. The final results of a tummy tuck, as well as the recovery time, are dependent on you following aftercare instructions. In this article, we will discuss swelling you may experience as you recuperate as well as tips and tricks you can utilise to make your recovery as smooth as possible. 

Swelling Normal After a Tummy Tuck?

Swelling, as well as bruising and pain, are common, normal side effects of a tummy tuck. In the abdominal area, blood and lymphatic vessels act as a drainage system for fluids. During a tummy tuck, these vessels are cut, and, as such, drainage from the area is slowed. This causes a temporary build-up of fluid in the area (swelling). The severity of side effects such as swelling are dependent on a variety of factors and therefore vary from one patient to another.

Tummy Tuck Swelling Timeline

Below, we have described the typical recovery process following a tummy tuck procedure. However, it is important to note that some variation is normal between patients.

After Procedure

Immediately after your tummy tuck, you will spend some time in recovery as you wake up from the anaesthetic. The incision sites will be dressed, and you will also be required to wear a compression garment to support the region and manage swelling, usually for the first six weeks after surgery. Pain medication will be provided to manage any discomfort you may be feeling.

Day One

On the first day after surgery, side effects such as swelling, soreness, and bruising in the surgical area are normal. You should continue to take any pain relief provided by your doctor to manage discomfort. Your drains will remain in place for the first few days. You will be shown how to manage and empty these before leaving the hospital.

Week One

Within the first week, side effects, including swelling, should gradually reduce. You may wish to sleep on an incline with your upper body elevated and knees bent temporarily to aid this process. It is also recommended that you reduce your salt intake during this period to further minimise swelling. After a week, you will be scheduled to have a follow-up appointment with your surgeon to assess your recovery.

Month One

Within the first month, many patients still experience swelling even after other side effects such as pain and bruising disappear. You must continue to wear a compression garment throughout the first month, which will help to control inflammation and produce better results. Patients usually feel able to resume most daily activities, including work, around 1-2 weeks following surgery. Patients are then able to resume light exercise after 3-4 weeks.

Six Months

You will be scheduled for two follow-up appointments at 6 weeks and 6 months after your tummy tuck. Swelling should continue to reduce over the first few months, but it can take 6-12 months for swelling to fully subside. After this, a flatter and better-defined abdomen will become fully visible.

Tips to Reduce Swelling

Your surgeon will provide you with the necessary information and personalised recovery plan prior to your tummy tuck. In this section, we will discuss some tips that can help to minimise swelling and improve your recovery.

Stay Hydrated 

It is important that you drink enough water to stay hydrated after surgery. It is generally recommended that 2 ½ to 3 litres a day is sufficient. This helps to flush out excess fluid and toxins. In addition, it reduces the risk of post-surgery complications such as blood clots by thinning the blood.

Elevate Your Legs

While you are recovering from your tummy tuck, you should try to keep your legs elevated above your heart where possible. This is so the blood can drain from the veins, which reduces the chance of blood clots. In addition, this helps to minimise swelling in the legs caused by poor circulation. You can achieve this by stacking pillows underneath your knees while lying down.

Avoid Smoking

As mentioned above, healthy blood flow is important for patients undergoing a tummy tuck. Nicotine constricts blood vessels which reduces the ability of blood to flow freely through the body. This slows down the healing process and increases inflammation and the risk of post-surgical complications like blood clots. Therefore, you should not smoke four weeks prior to and after your tummy tuck. 

Keep Incisions Clean

Your surgeon will tell you how to tend to your wounds and keep the incision sites clean before your tummy tuck. This reduces the risk of infection, which can cause swelling and slow down the recovery process.

Wear Compression Garments

Compression garments will need to be worn in the weeks after surgery to ensure proper, efficient healing and preserve the contouring effects of the tummy tuck. These target swelling by limiting the amount of fluid in the abdominal region. They also have the added benefit of reducing the chance of a wound reopening which can lead to infection and further inflammation.

Is a Tummy Tuck Worth It?

A tummy tuck is a popular cosmetic procedure that many patients consider worthwhile. Some patients seek to enhance the contours of their abdomen, while others are looking to improve their physical health. Abdominoplasty surgery may also be beneficial for those suffering from related health issues such as back pain. 

Schedule a Consultation with CREO Clinic Today

If you are thinking about enhancing the shape and contours of your abdomen, a tummy tuck may be a suitable procedure for you. Here at the CREO Clinic, our double-board certified cosmetic surgeon Dr Omar Tillo has both extensive training and experience in carrying out all types of tummy tucks. Contact us today to book a consultation and find out how a tummy tuck could be tailored to your needs.

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