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Tummy Tuck Survival Guide

Tummy tuck survival guide

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

Many patients who are considering a tummy tuck are often apprehensive about the recovery process. However, there are some steps that you can take to minimise the discomfort and speed up the recovery process, enabling you to enjoy the tummy tuck benefits. With this tummy tuck survival guide, you can prepare yourself to have as smooth a recovery as possible.

Before Surgery

The steps you take before your tummy tuck surgery can make all the difference to your recovery:

Choose the Right Cosmetic Surgeon

First and foremost, choosing the right cosmetic surgeon makes it much more likely that you will not experience any post-surgical complications and that your incisions and scars heal properly, making your recovery process easier. There are four factors that you should consider when going into a tummy tuck consultation: 

Board Certification

This is a qualification that plastic surgeons earn after undergoing specialised training and rigorous exams that ensure they have mastered the surgical skills and knowledge to perform plastic surgeries safely, ethically, and successfully. 

There are many internationally recognised plastic surgery boards, including BAAPS in the UK. As it is not a legal requirement to be board certified, it’s essential that tummy tuck patients check that their surgeon is a member of a recognised board to ensure they receive the best care.

Experience

As with any profession, a surgeon who is more experienced is more likely to produce an optimal result. Surgeons who specialise in tummy tucks will likely have performed the surgery on hundreds of men and women and will possess extensive knowledge of the procedure and the abdominal area.  

Additionally, tummy tuck specialists will be familiar with all types of tummy tucks, enabling them to create a natural-looking result that takes into account each patient’s individual anatomy.

Client Testimonials

Reading client testimonials on platforms such as RealSelf, Doctify, and Trustpilot, will provide an insight into what you can expect before and after the surgery from the surgeon and their clinical team. Choosing a tummy tuck surgeon with a record of delivering exceptional results and aftercare will help you feel a lot more confident in your decision as you recover from the surgery.

Expectations

It’s important to have realistic expectations of what a tummy tuck can achieve to avoid feeling underwhelmed by your results as you recover. To set your expectation, you should browse original before and after images of your surgeon’s tummy tuck procedures. Additionally, you should discuss your expectations during your consultation so that he can adjust them or create a bespoke treatment plan to achieve them.

Prepare for Recovery

Preparing for your tummy tuck recovery beforehand will provide you with a restful environment in which you can recover. You can prepare for your recovery by purchasing the list of items below, arranging for help around the house, and taking the necessary time off work. In short, you should do whatever you can to minimise stress during this period.

What Tummy Tuck Patients Wish They Knew

Swelling

After your tummy tuck, you will experience swelling in the affected area, which is often responsible for much of the discomfort associated with recovery. However, it will usually peak and begin to subside within the first week, although the residual swelling can be visible for up to three months. 

Along with following your surgeon’s aftercare instructions, we recommend getting lymphatic drainage massages to minimise swelling, particularly if you combined a tummy tuck with liposuction.

Clothes

It may take a while before you can fit into your skinny jeans or any type of tight clothing after your tummy tuck. While many patients can eventually fit into smaller-sized clothing once their stomach is rid of the loose skin, it can take some time until you reach this stage. The post-surgical swelling leads to inflammation, making it difficult and uncomfortable to wear figure-hugging clothes following tummy tuck for a few weeks or even months. 

Drains

In most cases, your tummy tuck surgeon will place drains beneath your skin to remove serous fluid (produced by the body to promote healing) and residual blood in the area. The small drain tubes are attached with sutures. By removing the excess fluid, they will help reduce swelling and avoid other complications. The drains are usually removed after 7-14 days, and you will be given instructions on how to empty and clean them in the meantime.  

Constipation

Constipation is another post-surgical complication that can make recovery uncomfortable, particularly as it can strain the abdominal muscles. Constipation is usually a side-effect of the anaesthesia and pain medication, which can slow down the function of the gastrointestinal tract. If unprepared, patients can experience a delay in bowel movements for up to 3-5 days after the procedure.

Tummy Tuck Shopping List

Pain Medication

Your tummy tuck surgeon will prescribe pain medication that you can purchase before surgery so that you will have it on hand on the day of the procedure, when you will first begin to experience pain and discomfort. Additionally, your surgeon may also advise you to purchase over-the-counter medication that you can switch to as your pain improves. You will be provided with instructions on pain management before the surgery to help you prepare.

Comfortable Clothes

You’ll need to make sure you have enough loose and comfortable clothing to see you through recovery. We advise wearing clothes that you can button or zip up, rather than tops or dresses that need to be pulled over your head, making it easier to dress yourself over the dressings, compression garment, and possible drains that are in the way. However, after you have healed, you may find that your previous clothes are looser around your newly contoured abdomen.

Laxatives

As mentioned, constipation is common after a tummy tuck surgery and may persist until you stop taking narcotic pain medication. Therefore, your surgeon may prescribe laxatives and/or stool softener to counteract this side effect, which you should stock up on before your procedure. Coupled with a high fibre diet, laxatives should help regulate your bowel movements.

Ice Packs

Applying ice packs to your stomach can help minimise the pain associated with swelling. Therefore, you may want to prepare a few ice packs before your procedure by placing ice in ziplock bags. However, as your skin will still feel numb when recovering, we recommend applying ice packs for no more than 20 minutes at a time, followed by at least a 10-minute break in order to avoid frostbite.

Healthy Groceries

A healthy diet is key to building up your immune system and recovering quickly. Before your surgery, you may want to stock up on healthy groceries and prepare meals that will see you through the first few days of recovery. We recommend a post-tummy tuck diet that is high in protein, fibre, and vitamins.

Day of Procedure

Anaesthesia

Tummy tucks are performed under sedation or general anaesthesia. As you wake up from the anaesthetic, you may feel dizzy, nauseous, and disoriented. It may take a day or two for the effects of the anaesthesia to completely wear off. Therefore, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure.

Duration

A tummy tuck can take between two to five hours to perform, depending on the complexity of your surgery. In most cases, it is a day-case procedure, although patients may be advised to stay in hospital for 1-2 nights. You will be provided with detailed instructions on how to prepare for your surgery.

After Procedure

Recovery Timeline

The recovery timeline varies for each patient, particularly depending on the type of tummy tuck. Typically, patients can return to office work and light activities 1-2 weeks after a mini tummy tuck and 2 weeks after a full tummy tuck. Additionally, patients can resume strenuous activities 3-4 weeks after a mini tummy tuck and 8 weeks after a full tummy tuck.

Things to Avoid

After a tummy tuck, you will need to avoid strenuous activity, although you are advised to take short walks to promote blood circulation. Additionally, you should avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, high-sodium foods, and sexual activity until you make a full recovery. Further aftercare guidelines will be provided by your surgeon.

Schedule a Consultation with CREO Clinic Today

Dr Omar Tillo is a double-board certified plastic surgeon specialising in body contouring surgeries, including all variations of tummy tuck procedures. Having performed hundreds of tummy tucks, he has mastered the surgical skills to create natural-looking results.

If you are considering a tummy tuck surgery, book a consultation with the CREO Clinic today to discuss a bespoke treatment and recovery plan in more detail.

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