Having an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is one of the most dramatic changes that you can make for your body. A tummy tuck removes excess skin and can often be combined with liposuction or tightening of the abdominal muscles in the midline. After surgery, you may have questions regarding what you can do to help the recovery process and have the best possible outcome. In order to help you with your abdominoplasty journey, please read below for tips and tricks which many of our patients have found to be very useful.
Abdominoplasty Recovery - What to Expect Overall
The first two to three days after having a tummy tuck performed are the most challenging. You will be a bit sore, your abdomen will feel tight, and you will get tired more easily than normal. Over the course of the next week, most patients report that they feel dramatically better and better.
If you undergo a traditional abdominoplasty, which usually involves tightening of the abdominal muscles in the midline, you will also likely have two drains placed. These drains are removed when the output slows, normally approximately one week after the operation.
Post-Tummy Tuck Diet and Medications
When you return home after your tummy tuck start your diet with sips of clear liquids such as water and Gatorade. After you tolerate this well, start eating small amount of bland food and slowly advance your diet back to your regular diet. It is normal for patients to need to go slow with their diet, but it is also important to get the appropriate nutrition for your recovery.
You will be given a prescription for pain medications prior to your surgery date, and it is often helpful to have your medications filled prior to the day of surgery. This will keep you from needing to wait for your caregiver to fill the prescriptions while you are recovering. The most commonly prescribed pain medications are a combination of either oxycodone or hydrocodone with acetaminophen (Tylenol). These pain medications are normally extremely helpful with pain relief, but need to be used cautiously as they can have side effects such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, or a clouded sensorium (feeling “loopy”). To avoid these issues, do not take more than the prescribed dosage, and eat a small amount of bland food (crackers, bread, etc) just before taking the pain medication. You may also be prescribed a muscle relaxant; follow these same guidelines to avoid similar unwanted side effects with this medication.
After a tummy tuck, you want to avoid constipation because this may cause a significant amount of discomfort. Certain foods like prunes and over-the-counter medications such as Colace, Senna, and Milk of Magnesia are often recommended.
Garments and Showering
Depending on the type of abdominoplasty that you have performed (traditional vs liposuction-based), you will either have an abdominal binder or another particular compression garment. Both types of these garments decrease fluid accumulation between the skin and underlying abdominal wall, and are very important to wear as instructed. In general, you will need to wear the garments around the clock for at least the first week, and may be cleared to wear it less the following week. However, the more that you wear it, generally the better.
Unless you are instructed otherwise, you may shower on the second day after surgery. This provides time for the skin to start to heal. For the first two weeks, shower with your back to the shower head and let soapy water gently wash off your front side. Please avoid scrubbing the paper tapes which will likely be on your skin. If you have drains in place, it is okay to rinse around the drain sites. After showering, pat the paper tapes dry carefully and reapply your dressings/garments as discussed during your postoperative visits.
You will be carefully instructed how to increase your activity over the course of the first couple weeks after your tummy tuck. This will be discussed in detail during your postoperative visits. However, generally patients should take multiple short walks daily, should not lift anything heavier than 10lbs for the first two weeks, and should avoid excess tension to their abdomen until cleared to do so.