How to Care for Your Tummy Tuck After Surgery

Proper Healing Requires Proper Aftercare

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Tummy tucks, which are performed to remove excess skin and fat from the abdomen, as well as to tighten the underlying muscles, are becoming more popular. Nearly 130,000 tummy tucks (aka abdominoplasties) were performed in 2017, up 2 percent from 2016, according to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. It's now one of the top five cosmetic surgical procedures.

As more people go under the knife to improve the contours of their midsection, it's more important than ever to know as much as possible about how to initially care for your incision and abdomen following surgery.

What You Can Expect Immediately Post-Op

Generally, after your surgery, there will be dressings or bandages applied to your incisions. You'll also be wearing a girdle-like compression garment to reduce swelling, prevent the formation of blood clots, and support your midsection so it heals into a smooth, compact contour. This support garment, known as an abdominal binder, should be worn at all times except for when you're showering. Your surgeon will let you know when you can stop wearing it, generally after four to six weeks.

Small, thin tubes (drains) may have been temporarily placed in your incision to allow excess blood or fluid to be removed from your body. If this is the case for you, you'll be instructed on how to keep the area clean and how to take care of the drains. Generally, surgeons ask that they are emptied and the amount of drainage recorded three times a day. It's important to record the amount because this will tell your surgeon when the drains are ready to be removed, usually after three to 10 days. You may be prescribed an antibiotic as long as the drains are in place.

Showering and Bathing

Most surgeons will allow you to shower 24 hours after surgery unless you have drains. If that's the case, you may have to take sponge baths until they're removed. If you're given the ok to shower, you may remove your dressings, except for the skin tapes (also called steri-strips) that are directly over your incisions. Because the steri-strips have been applied with a skin adhesive, they're fairly water-resistant. Blot them dry after showering with a clean cloth. Don't remove your steri-strips; they'll eventually fall off on their own. Your doctor will explain how to care for your incision (usually just with soap and water), and will likely instruct you to continue covering the incision with gauze dressings for one week.

Even though showering is usually permitted 24 hours post-op, most surgeons will ask you to avoid any water that's still (not running) for two weeks after surgery. This includes bath water, swimming pools, hot tubs, lakes, and oceans.

Pain and Getting Around

Initially, your abdomen will be swollen, bruised, and feel sore, so you should expect to spend the first few days resting at home, taking medication to control the pain as needed. It may be more comfortable to position your bed so your upper body is slightly raised and your knees are at an angle during this period. Your surgeon will instruct you to walk around the house the first few days to maintain healthy circulation.

Because of the nature of the surgery, you may find it difficult to stand up straight for several weeks post-op. It's important to limit movement of the area around your incision to avoid putting strain on it and causing the wound to reopen. The tightness will gradually soften as you heal and start to use your abdominal muscles.

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Article Sources
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  • American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Guide to Tummy Tuck Surgery. https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/procedure-learning-center/body/tummy-tuck-guide/.

  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Tummy Tuck Recovery

  • Mayo Clinic. Tummy Tuck. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/tummy-tuck/about/pac-20384892.

  • Shestak KC, Fedele GM. Abdominoplasty. In Evans GRD, ed. "Operative Plastic Surgery." New York: McGraw Hill, 2000.