How long does it take to recover from a tummy tuck?
Your surgeon will let you know how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work. Your surgeon will also give you and your caregiver detailed instructions about your postoperative care after your surgery, including information about:
- Drains, if they have been placed
- Typical symptoms you will experience
- Potential signs of complications
Follow all the patient care instructions your surgeon provides. This includes information about wearing compression garments and the level of activity that is safe for you. Your surgeon will alert you to the signs of problems to watch for, such as signs of infection. It is also important to know that the amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals.
See options for short-term recovery locations in aftercare & recovery.
What can I expect immediately after my tummy tuck procedure?
- As the anesthesia wears off, you may feel dizzy, disoriented, and nauseous. These sensations should pass within a few hours, although some types of oral pain medications may cause these symptoms to recur.
- If you return home the same day, you will need someone to drive you. Depending on the extent of your procedure, you may have to spend a night or two in the hospital recovering from surgery.
- Immediately following an abdominoplasty, expect your abdomen to feel very sore or tender. You can control any pain you feel with pain medications.
- Your surgeon will cover your incision site with a dressing to keep the area clean and protected. You will also need to wear a wide elastic compression garment to reduce swelling and provide support to the skin as it tightens. You will wear this garment for several weeks.
- Depending on the extent of your tummy tuck, you may have tubes in your incision to drain away fluid. Your surgeon will ask you to empty the drains a few times a day and keep track of how much fluid comes out. Your surgeon will typically remove your drains three to fourteen days after your surgery, depending on how much fluid is coming out.
- Your surgeon should provide you with detailed instructions for managing your drains, changing your bandages, and showering during recovery. You also may need to put ointment on your incisions to reduce discomfort.
- Common side effects associated with a tummy tuck include redness, bruising, and swelling. These side effects usually subside in one to three weeks as your body adjusts to the new contours, and the incisions heal.
- The first few days after surgery, you should rest. Remember, you must not take aspirin or certain anti-inflammatory medications. To prevent coughing and bleeding, do not smoke after your procedure. Do not drink alcohol for five days after surgery or while you are taking pain medication.
- Arrange for someone to help you get around the house and help with your medication for at least the first three days after surgery.
- You should be up and walking the day after surgery, but take it slow. It is important to walk to discourage swelling and to prevent blood clots in the legs. However, avoid strenuous exercise for four to six weeks, because it can trigger unnecessary fluid retention in the treated areas.
- Call your surgeon immediately if you notice an increase in swelling, pain, redness, drainage, or bleeding in the surgical area, or if you develop fever, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting. Other red flags include shortness of breath, chest pains, and an unusual heartbeat.
What can I expect during the first few weeks of my tummy tuck recovery?
- Follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully. The first two days are the most uncomfortable, so if you have to take medications at certain times, stay on the schedule. Discomfort typically drops down to a "nagging" level by five to seven days.
- Make sure you continue to have lots of help at home. You won't feel like yourself for at least seven to ten days and you still shouldn't do any heavy lifting (such as picking up your children or baskets of laundry) for four to six weeks. If you have small children, you must put someone else totally in charge of their care for at least two weeks.
- You will likely have a follow-up with your surgeon within five days. During this visit, your surgeon can remove your drains. Swelling should subside within five weeks.
- If you have traditional sutures, you will typically have these removed within the first week or two (absorbable sutures will not have to be removed).
- Plan to take about two weeks off from work, depending on the physical demands of your job.
- Make an effort to ease back into your normal routine gradually rather than all at once.
- The recovery period is typically longest for patients undergoing a traditional abdominoplasty, rather than a mini-tummy tuck, and for those who are combining a tummy tuck with other surgical procedures.
- Wearing your compression garment as directed reduces the likelihood of loose or sagging skin after an abdominoplasty. The compression garment also helps to control swelling, resulting in a shorter recovery period.
What can I expect after the first few weeks of my tummy tuck recovery?
Recovery from a tummy tuck procedure occurs over a period of six months or more. In the first couple of days, managing pain and avoiding complications is your top priority. The first week will be the worst, and you will still feel like you are recovering for about two to three weeks. After a few weeks, regaining mobility and fitness becomes important. After several months, you can start evaluating the aesthetic outcome of your surgery. Fading and flattening of scars typically take three months to two years. It is important to remember that the time it takes to recover varies greatly among individuals.