American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

What you need to know about your tummy tuck recovery

tummy tuck recovery

A tummy tuck is a common plastic surgery procedure that has remained popular for years. In fact, the most recent statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show that this was one of the top five cosmetic procedures performed for men and women last year.

Despite the popularity of this surgery, many people often don't know what to expect during their recovery. Understanding the recovery process and timeline can help make the tummy tuck an easier journey for many patients.

Recovery times vary

There is no single answer for how long it will take to recover from a tummy tuck. Like any surgical procedure, there is a general time frame, but individual recoveries are based on a variety of factors, including the following:

  • Age
  • General health
  • Type of tummy tuck
  • Post-surgery care

After the procedure is complete, your surgeon will discuss a more specific timeline for your recovery, but generally speaking, most patients begin feeling more normal around the eight-week mark.

Why the type of tuck matters

There are several types of tummy tucks that can be performed. You can get a full or more involved "extended tummy tuck," or you can get a "mini" tuck, which only focuses on a small area in the lower abdomen.

The more extensive your abdominal contouring is, the longer it may take to recover fully. This is especially true if you opt for an extended tummy tuck because these can involve the flanks, lower back and lower chest.

What to expect during tummy tuck recovery

The most important thing to remember during this process is that you should follow your surgeon's instructions closely. Don't hesitate to contact the doctor's office if you have questions or concerns.

Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon for your tummy tuck is always recommended because he or she has met stringent training and safety requirements that other surgeons have not. Your board-certified plastic surgeon can offer recovery advice and assistance throughout the healing process.

1. Immediately after surgery

Directly following a tummy tuck, your abdomen will be covered with surgical dressing. In many cases, there will be thin, small tubes placed around your incision in order to drain any fluid that builds up around it. This is common and shouldn't cause you any additional discomfort.

You will need to rest at an angle for the first few days of recovery and will be given instructions to move about to help prevent any blood clots.

2. When you're home

It's important to line up help for at least the first day or two that you're home following surgery. You will be prescribed pain medications and have somewhat limited mobility, so you will not be able to drive yourself home.

Once home, you will likely have difficulty with bending, lifting or standing for prolonged periods of time, so having someone to help around the house during the initial period after tummy tuck surgery can make recovery significantly easier.

3. Daily maintenance

Your doctor will teach you how to properly care for your incision and drainage tubes for the duration of your recovery.

Most patients are given antibiotics and anticoagulants to take for a certain length of time, and some are given topical creams to apply around the incision site.

You will have an abdominal support garment or wrap that will help with swelling and discomfort during recovery, so it's important to wear it for the recommended amount of time each day.

Smoking and drinking alcohol can seriously inhibit your recovery, so they should be avoided for at least three months post-surgery.

4. Resuming normal life

If you have young children, you will want to enlist help to assist with childcare, as squatting or picking up children (or heavy objects for that matter) for the first few weeks is strongly advised against. However, driving, cooking or shopping is often manageable after a week or two.

Most people opt to take up to a month off work for recovery. If you have a physically demanding job, it's especially important to take plenty of time off so that you don't jeopardize your recovery. You will also want to avoid exercise during this time for the same reasons.

5. Long-term effects

Some people experience numbness or a pulling sensation for weeks or months after a tummy tuck, but this is typically normal and often fades with time. It can take up to three months for the swelling and bruising to go down completely, and it may take longer than that for your scar to fade.

Recovery is a process

Working closely with your plastic surgeon and surgery team to understand and prepare for post-surgery life can help make your recovery seamless. A tummy tuck can be a wonderful way to achieve the aesthetic goals you have for yourself, just remember to be kind to your body, and focus on doing everything you can to recover fully from the procedure.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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