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Tummy Tuck Recovery Q & A

What Are the Post-Operative Considerations After Tummy Tuck, Body Lift, or Thigh Lift Procedures?

Although these procedures are different, their post-operative course is very similar. These procedures usually take from three to five hours depending on the size of the patient, and the extent of the surgery.

  • Following surgery, patients are monitored in the Recovery Room for several hours until they are stable enough to go home, or to an aftercare facility.
  • In the Recovery Room, patients receive pain medications, antibiotics, intravenous fluids, and anit-nausea medications. Although pain medications help make your pain tolerable, they do not eliminate pain altogether. During this time, you are also kept warm with special warming blankets and your calves are being massaged by special stockings. Because mobility of your extremities is very important to keep your circulation going to avoid formation of blood clots, your nurse might assist you in taking a few steps.
  • Within the first three hours after your surgery, it is not wise to drink much liquids because of the risk of vomiting. It is best to to wet your mouth.
  • After surgery it is normal to feel tight around the tummy, thighs, and buttocks. You would be wearing an abdominal or body girdle. There might be some drainage or soiling of your girdle from your wounds, which is normal. Do not change, remove, or mainpulate your girdle until instructed to do so by your surgeon. Make sure that the girdle is not too tight and that its waist is kept riding high at the level of your breast fold.
  • Patients have several drains that attach to a bulb-like collection container. The nurse will show you and/or your family how to record their output, and to empty them periodically. Make sure that there is no tension or pulling on these drains.
    Many patients complain that the drains were one of the most uncomfortable aspects of their Tummy Tuck surgery –in part because they are visible beneath their clothing and were cumbersome.
  • In the bed, patients are positioned in a semi-sitting up position with the knees and the back bent. This reduces the tension on the tight abdomen and thighs. Once patients leave the recovery facility they are to remain in a semi-erect position when they are walking. Sitting up in a chair or a couch is absolutley fine. Make sure that you have enough cushioning and support. You may also lie on your sides, as long as you keep your body posture bent for the first 4 days after surgery.
  • Most people develop muscle spasm in their back or side muscles as a result of being in a bent position for several days. This can be helped by having your significant other massage your back muscles and apply gentle heat to these areas. You should not apply heat or cold to your surgical areas because it can potentially damage the circulation in these areas and result in complications.
  • Although it is good to stay well hydrated, do not drink too much plain water, fruit juices, or carbonated drinks, because they can make you more nauseated. Mostly, drink Gatorade, Gingerale, or tea.
  • It is good to be ambulatory and to stay sedentary. Having said this, take your time with things and expect to slowly increase your activities day by day.
    Having a support system of family, friends or a professional caregiver in the days following surgery is of the utmost importance, as the patient will need monitoring and assistance with everyday tasks, such as going to the bathroom, taking medications, and ambulating.
  • Most people can become more independent after one week and be able to drive after 10-14 days. This can vary depending on your age, general stamina, extent of your surgery, and the level of pain medications that you take. You are not allowed to driven while taking narcotics.
  • Although you will gradually feel well and independent by several weeks, it is not unusual at times to feel tired or easily get exhausted for up to several months after your surgery.
  • Most patients are allowed to take a shower by the third day after their surgery, but wait until your surgeon specifically approves this and gives you instructions with respect to caring for your incisions and drains. You should refrain from sitting in a bath, Jacuzzi, or going in a public pool or ocean for about 6 weeks after your surgery.
  • The Skin of the areas where you had surgery does become dry, and at times, itchy. Massaging with a thick lotion is very helpful. Some people like to put vitamin-E or "scar creams" over their scars. Most scientific literature has not shown a significant benefit of these "scar creams" over plain Vaseline

How painful is tummy tuck or body lift?

A standard Tummy Tuck or Abdominoplasty feels, more or less, like a C-Section. It is more painful than Liposuction, Breast Augmentation, Tubal Ligation, Rhinoplasty, Breast Biopsy, and less painful than Hysterectomy, shoulder surgery, or back surgery.

When Can I Lift My Children Again?

You should not do any heavy lifting for about eight weeks from the date of your surgery. You should be prepared to have spouses, or other loved ones, lift your children so that you don’t risk ripping your stitches. After the first week you may hold your young baby in your lap, but do not lift them up unless they weigh less than a gallon of milk.

When Can I Exercise Again?

You may start some light walking as early as 10-14 days after surgery. As you feel more comfortable you can increase your activities, but you cannot lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for the first two months. Heavy lifting can cause your internal stitches to rip apart, resulting in a hernia that will require corrective surgery. Jogging is usually acceptable after three to four weeks, as long as you are wearing your girdle. You can do arm and leg weight training in three to four weeks as long as you don’t feel that you are straining your abdominal and back muscles.

When can I go back to work?

This depends on the normal level of activity that is expected of you at work. There is a difference in timing for those who have desk jobs, versus those who are required to stand, walk, bend, push, and pull constantly throughout their workday. Most people return to non-strenuous jobs within 10-14 days after a tummy tuck. If your job is very strenuous, you might have to take more time off, but usually no more than four to six weeks. For those who are having Body Lift and Thigh Lift procedures, it usually it takes longer to go back to work depending on their age, stamina, extent of surgery and job requirements.

"I returned to work about one week after my Tummy Tuck. I was thrilled with the results, but I found myself sometimes questioning if I had done the right thing – it’s such a dramatic change. I was feeling a lot of ups and downs. I would have to excuse myself and find a place to be alone for a while. That passed, and now I’m very happy that I had the surgery. I’m very proud to show people considering the surgery my Before and After photos."
Lydia – age 53

When Can I Resume Sexual Relations?

It depends on what you are planning to do! More or less, follow the same restrictions as for exercising. You cannot strain your abdominal, thighs, and back muscles greatly for the first six to eight weeks. Having said this, it is very helpful for your body, soul and psyche to have intimate relationship early on. This will also be beneficial for your significant other. They are most likely as scared as you are; and are afraid to do anything that might hurt you. Don’t be afraid. Proceed as is comfortable for both of you.

What Kind of Emotions I Might Anticipate Following My Tummy Tuck?

Before surgery most patients are very happy, excited, and looking forward to undergoing their body transformation. Afterwards, they often have mixed feelings. Some of this is caused by the period of disability. Sometimes, people have not yet adjusted to their new body and look. Depending on the person as well as their surroundings, people respond differently to this change. Although most people feel cheerful and are happy with their new body, few do feel regret or have a difficult time psychologically adjusting to it. This can affect their social or marital relations. If you are having these very normal feelings, be sure and discuss them with your family doctor or plastic surgeon

Questions & Answers: Tummy Tuck
What is a Tummy Tuck?
Tummy Tuck Candidates
Tummy Tuck Q & A
Tummy Tuck Surgery
Risks & Complications
Surgeon Qualifications
Preparation for Tummy Tuck
Recovery Q & A
Patient Satisfaction
Tummy Tucks Before And After Photos
what to look for in tummy tuck pictures after surgery?

Post-operative Instructions from the Office of Dr. Sean Younai:

Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty; Body Lift, Thigh Lift

  1. You must make arrangements for a responsible adult friend or family member to take you home after surgery. You are not allowed to drive yourself home or take a taxi. After surgery, this caregiver is required to stay with you and to monitor and assist you for at least the first 24 hours after surgery. If you don’t have such a person please let us know in advance so that we can help you make arrangements to stay at an after-care facility or hospital. Some procedures require that you stay in an aftercare facility after surgery. Discuss this in advance with your plastic surgeon.
  2. Rest as needed the day of and the days after surgery. You do not have to stay in bed. Gentle walking at home will help your circulation.
  3. Make sure that you drink an adequate amount of fluids so that you do not get dehydrated. You should also monitor your level of hydration by making sure that you are urinating "light-color" urine at least every four to six hours.
  4. There are no dietary restrictions; however, you should refrain from eating greasy or acidic foods so that you would not get nauseated.
  5. If you are diabetic make sure to monitor your blood sugar level with a finger-stick or other usual means, three times per day, for the first 2 days.
  6. For the first 24 hours after surgery you might have some blood-tinged drainage from surgical sites. This is expected.
  7. After surgery you will be placed in a garment, which will be covering the affected areas. Do not remove the garment until the first post-operative visit. Keep the garment straight and make sure that they are not too tight.
  8. After your first visit with doctor, leave garment on 24 hours a day for three weeks, removing it only to shower. Avoid hot showers, but warm water is acceptable. You can replace your garment at this time, as needed. During the second three weeks of your recovery you should keep the girdle on only half of the day/night.
  9. Start gentle fingertip massage with thick lotion to the skin of the operated areas for 10min., three times daily, for three to six weeks.
  10. Refrain from extraneous activities or exercising for the first two weeks. Although you can do gentle walking during this period.
  11. After four to six weeks you can resume your exercise routine if you feel comfortable and strong enough.

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