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Body Lift Recovery


                             Body Lift Recovery

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A body lift is a multi-surgical procedure designed to improve the over all appearance of the abdomen, legs, buttocks, chest and arms. Because a body lift is so intricate and invasive, patients should be prepared for a longer recovery period than is required for many other procedures. It is not uncommon for your surgeon to suggest a night or two at the hospital after your procedure, because of how complex the surgery is.

The actual surgery for a body lift can range from four to seven hours. Due to the amount of surgery that is needed for a patient, the procedures might be divided up into separate surgeries because of how extensive it can be. This surgery is normally performed under general anesthesia because of the length of the procedure.




You will be likely be dressed in a compression garment or strapped in elastic bandages to help the skin conform to the new body contours and reduce swelling. 

Drains with thin flexible tubes may be placed in your incision to help with any fluid accumulation so a seroma will not occur.

The abdominal area will be in some discomfort after the procedure. While resting, place one to two pillows behind your knees in order to keep these bent which will help reduce the tension in the abdominal muscles. 




The first two weeks after your body lift are the most difficult part of the recovery. The doctor will leave in drain tubes, sutures will still be in place and there is likely to be significant pain in these locations. You will either have a pain pump or prescribed oral narcotic pain medication. To make sure you do not experience any break through pain episodes, the medication should be taken as prescribed.

Walking after your surgery is a must to keep blood circulating and to prevent blood clots. Short walks help the body return to normal and help with dissipating swelling and increasing your range of motion.

Standing upright after surgery will be difficult for a few days and bearing all of your weight on the lower body can be very stressful. Trying to stand up straight when you can will help alleviate any back pain you might get from being hunched over. 

Within a few days you will be able to shower with some assistance.




If your plastic surgeon has felt that it is best for you to have drains then when you wake up you will see some tiny thin tubing placed in your incisions to drain any excess fluid. Drains give the excess fluid build up from the surgery a place to escape, so that healing is not compromised.  The more extensive work that is done in the surgery the more likely you are probably going to have a drain. 


                            Jackson-Pratt Surgical Drain

                                                Image of a Jackson-Pratt Drain


These drains are left in place from a few days to a couple of weeks depending on the amount of fluid that is being collected.  You will be given simple instructions on how to empty these drains by your plastic surgeon. Your doctor will ask you to monitor how much fluid you are draining from the surgical site and to keep a record of this so that he can keep track of your drainage. The drains are removed anywhere from your first post op appointment to a couple of weeks after your surgery. The drain tube is pulled out gently and usually there is no pain associated with this at all.




If you have elected to have a pain pump for the first 48-72 hours, then you will also see the tiny thin tubing or catheter that is attached to the actual device delivering the medication directly to the surgical site.  The pain medication is delivered through the tiny thin tubing/catheter to the actual procedure site and keeps the area numb. Pain pumps are portable and can be worn anywhere; however cannot get wet.

The two most common pain pumps that are used are either On-Q Pain Pump or Stryker Pain Pump. Having the option of a pain pump runs approximately $300 extra over and above your surgery costs. The patients who do elect to have this option of the pain pump, rave about how much easier recovery is.


                                                On-Q Pain Pump

                                            Copyright 2010 - Used with permission

                                                  How an On-Q Pain Pump Works



Awakening from anesthesia seems to affect everyone differently. You might experience some blurred vision and your emotions might be on overload ranging from being highly emotional to laughing and giggling. 

During the surgery, your plastic surgeon uses epinephrine to help control some of the bleeding.  This is a vasoconstrictor, which once introduced into your system tends constricts the blood vessels. Once you awaken from the procedure you might experience some shivering and feeling very cold. This is all normal and will pass as you start to come around after awakening.  The anesthesia can also make you feel very sick to your stomach, but most of the time the anesthesiologist will give you an anti-enemic in your IV to stop the nausea.





                                   Showering after a surgical procedure

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If you have drains and or a pain pump inserted after the body lift procedure, you will not be able to take a full shower until these are out.  Make sure you ask your own surgeon what he would like you to do regarding showering with drains. More than likely your own plastic surgeon will give you a list of what he wants you to do during the recovery process. Every surgeon is different with their list of post operative instructions.  Each physicians usually recommend a sponge bath for the first week, so that the incision is given a chance to heal without compromising the surgical area by getting it wet. 

If your physician has allowed you to take a sponge bath, more than likely he will not want you to get your incisions submerged under water, mainly because bath water can have bacteria in it.  Using a public pool, Jacuzzi, or going into the ocean will normally not be allowed for at least 6-8 weeks post op, as swimming before then can open the patient up for infection, since the water is not free of bacteria.

After showering, you should try to keep the steri-strips paper tapes as dry as possible. The steri-strips are intended to stay on for several weeks to keep tension off of the incision so you will have a thin small scar - and getting them wet might loosen them so they come off sooner than they should.

Shampooing your hair might prove to be a little bit difficult immediately after this procedure, because you cannot raise your hands over your head right away. Either have a friend or significant other help you do this or make an appointment to go to your salon for a wash and blow dry.  This will certainly make you feel 100% better.

After showering, make sure you keep all lotions, creams, etc. away from the actual surgical incision. Your skin will be dry, so just be careful around the actual incision. The chance of bacteria being introduced into the surgical area is great with products like this.




Depending on what procedures you had done, will predicate on what you will wear home after your surgery. 

Most patients however will wake up wearing some sort of type of compression garment that was either purchased before surgery or supplied by your plastic surgeon. With a body lift procedure, the compression garment will help re-contour the skin and tissue to the new shape.  It will also help keep the edema and swelling in check so that a seroma will not form.  Post-Operative care does involve the use of wearing the proper compression garments. 




It is extremely important for patients to make sure they take their antibiotics on time and that they finish off the entire prescription. By stopping the antibiotic before you are finished, you run the risk of a possible resistant infection occurring.

Keeping up with the pain medication as written will help your body overcome any break through pain episodes.  Instead of waiting until you experience pain, taking pain medication at certain regular times will help keep the pain under control. It is harder to control pain once it has started. One of the most common side effects of the medication is gastrointestinal upset.  This means you could have either an upset stomach or diarrhea.



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Side Effects of Narcotic Pain Medication

Constipation is a very common side effect of narcotic pain medications, so you may want to take a stool softener (such as Colace) around the time of surgery and after will help tremendously. Eating a lot of high fiber foods and drinking plenty of water will help get everything going again. The sooner you are off the narcotics and sleeping tablets the better.  Make sure you are not drinking alcohol at the same time you are taking narcotics. And also because narcotics can make you drowsy make sure you are not driving while still taking them.

Most plastic surgeons will prescribe an anti-enemic medication to help prevent nausea, which can be brought on by taking the antibiotics and the pain medication on an empty stomach. Make sure you take all medication with some food in your stomach, preferably something that is bland like toast, crackers, etc.




It’s important to make sure you watch your temperature after you have had surgery, as any elevation in this could mean you have a possible infection happening. Notify your surgeon of any elevation of temperature immediately.


                                  Taking your temperature

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If your surgeon has told you that you are allowed to use an ice pack to help with the swelling and bruising there are a few options available. Patients have used bags of "Frozen Peas" or other vegetables and chopped fruit to help relieve some of the swelling and discomfort - which has worked out great, as the frozen vegetables have a tendency to mold itself to the surgical area. Cold therapy helps reduce swelling and bruising resulting from any type of injury. Cold therapy has also been shown to be greatly effective in reducing swelling by slowing the flow of blood and other fluids to the injured area.


There are also newer ice packs that you can buy at your local pharmacy, which resemble frozen peas.  They are called Peas Therapy packs - just like a bag of frozen peas, reusable "Peas" conform and sooth wherever cold therapy is needed.  Made of an innovative soft gel pea shape, provides long lasting cold relief and mold to your contours for a comfortable fit.  The outer casing stays flexible when cold.  "Peas ice packs" provides therapy for pain, discomfort, swelling and bruising.


                                                         CVS Pharmacy Peas Cold Therapy - Ice Packs


These ice packs are easily made at home and cost very little.  This mixture provides a slushy consistency inside a Ziploc baggy.

Original Recipe:

  • 1/3 Cup 70% Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol)

  • 2/3 Cup of water

  • Pour into a Ziploc Baggy

  • Freeze and when you take them out they will be able to conform to any body part

If you want the ice packs not to thaw as quickly substitute this recipe:

  • 1/4 Cup 70% Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol)

  • 3/4 Cup of water

  • Pour into a Ziploc Baggy

  • Freeze

You can also increase this recipe and use in larger Ziploc bags for body procedures.




Recovery from any surgery on any location of the body will have nerve regeneration occurring during the recovery process. With any surgery, the nerves regenerating will feel like a burning, tingling, and or shooting pain sensation that happens periodically during the recovery time.  This is a good sign that the nerves are trying to reconnect again, so that you will have feeling back inside the lower body area. It these pains are accompanied by swelling or redness, infection, and or bleeding; then you should notify your surgeon immediately is of utmost importance.




Keeping the incisions and the sutures complete dry is of utmost importance during the first week post operatively. Most plastic surgeons do apply Steri-Strips on top of your incision line and sutures to help keep the tension off of the actual incision, so it will heal with a thin scar. You will have internal sutures as well as permanent sutures on the outside of the incision. 

The internal sutures are dissolvable sutures which will be reabsorbed into the body within 60-90 days. 

The external sutures which are blue/black in color will be removed by the surgeon usually between seven to fourteen days depending on how well you heal. Tissue Glue is another option that is being used more and more as a way of closing the incisions instead of suture material.

Each plastic surgeon will give you specific care instructions for your incisions in writing at your pre operative appointment or before you are sent home after surgery. It is important that you understand everything that is written down so you will not have any unforeseen problems as you are healing. It is extremely important not to get any creams or lotions into the incision itself, as these products could cause inflammation which could lead to an infection.




Sutures (mostly the dissolvable ones) will work themselves to the surface of the incision. This happens quite commonly, and actually when a stitch does pop out, it can come to the surface with an inflamed red spot.  Usually you can feel something like ‘fishing line’ around this area.  It is best to call the Plastic Surgeon when any suture makes it way to the surface for removal. You really do not want to attempt to do this yourself, as this is way that infections can start, and you have to make sure you are removing a suture that is not something that is permanent. Dissolvable sutures are usually clear color (like fishing line), and permanent sutures are dark blue in color.

There are various types of suture material that is used in closing an incision. Some patients do have problems with sutures, and some sutures are more likely to cause this than others.  Braided sutures (such as Vicryl) can cause this and, for that reason, many surgeons have switched to monofilament (unbraided) sutures, such as Monocryl or PDS. Vicryl is an excellent and strong suture material, but it has been associated with "spitting

It is very important that if you see any discharge around this area, if the area feels inflamed or is hot to the touch. Please call your Plastic Surgeon immediately, as this could mean that you have an infection started, and you will need to start on antibiotics immediately.




Scars can take some time to fade completely. A lot has to do with the type of skin a patient might have. The most important thing to remember is to protect these scars from the ultra-violet rays of the sun or a tanning bed.  Even through a bathing suit, sunlight can reach the skin and cause some damage. Wearing a sunscreen with a skin protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 at all times will help minimize any sun damage. The skin will have reduced sensitivity after the surgery, so you have to make sure you are not getting overly exposed.

Scars begin to fade within four to six weeks; topical steroid cream or silicone gel can promote healing and reduce the chance of developing raised, red or irregular scars. While most patients heal well, scarring varies from patient to patient and is not totally predictable. One of the best scar treatments is Silicone Sheeting, as it helps with flattening and fading the scars. Silicone Sheeting has the added benefit of adding pressure to the scars while healing, so that the scars do not become hypertrophic

The scars are going to look worse right after surgery of course. They might appear red and raised after the sutures are removed.  Traditionally scar therapy normally starts after about 6 – 8 weeks post operatively. This is to ensure that the incision is completely closed. Each plastic surgeon will have their own time-table for when it is safe for you to start using topical scar creams or Silicone Sheeting, make sure you ask your own surgeon before starting.

Retin A (Tretinoin) is a topical form of Vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself. 

Applying this to your breast augmentation scar or surgical scar after it has been completely healed and closed will help fade out the scar.  Appling paper tape over the Retin A also helps with the healing of scars. Retin A is a prescription topical cream that has to be prescribed by your physician.

If you have scars that are becoming increasingly red and raised, make sure you notify your plastic surgeon, so he may start some other treatments on you. This could be the beginning of hyper-trophic scarring or keloids.




It is not uncommon for your menstrual cycle to be altered for a month or two after you undergo surgery.  The stress of the surgery and anesthesia plays havoc on your system. Your period will return to normal within a couple of months.




With a body lift procedure it is very common to have some swelling, bruising and soreness in their breasts for several days after the procedure. Depending on any unforeseen complications, bruising can last up to several weeks. Wearing the supportive compression garment that your plastic surgeon has recommended will help tremendously. 

Swelling has a tendency to migrate downward from the abdominal area to the thighs, so you might see your stomach area being very bloated looking. This is from the combination of the saline you received during the surgery and the actual swelling from the procedure, especially if you had liposuction done at the same time. Treatment for excessive swelling includes increasing your daily fluid intake, a low sodium diet and mild exercise - such as walking.  Drinking enough water does help with swelling tremendously.  You should not take any diuretics, not unless this was approved by your surgeon.

Bruising usually occurs with this surgery to some extent. If a patient has a large painful bruise that seems to be growing, then it is very important that you contact your plastic surgeon as soon as possible, as this could be a hematoma forming. Most normal bruising should subside within a couple of weeks.  




After you are discharged from the surgery center after your procedure, you will be sent home with instructions and important phone numbers to call if there is any unforeseen problem or complication that should arise. These are important numbers to have close by, as they will be how to contact your surgeon and or the on-call surgeon. If you experience anything that hasn’t been covered in what to expect after surgery, call the surgeon immediately. This is why they have given you the phone numbers in the first place. 

Any elevated temperature or excessive bleeding from the incision needs to be communicated immediately to the surgeon. You need to remember that the instruction sheet that your plastic surgeon has given you should always be adhered to. If the instructions you are given are different that what you see on this website, do not waiver from what your plastic surgeon has told you.  Always follow your own plastic surgeon’s instructions!




It is perfectly normal for a patient to experience mood swings, and feel like crying off and on, especially during the first couple of weeks. This is to be expected as it is a normal reaction to the aftermath of major surgery, as medication and post-surgical traumatic stress syndrome can occur.  It is important during this time not to be highly critical of your new surgical procedure, as what you are seeing in the beginning right after surgery is swelling, distortion, and bruising.

What you do need to remember with getting a body lift procedure is one of the most complicated surgeries performed.  You are going to see a lot of changes in the days ahead following surgery.  It is hard in the beginning when all you see someone who is  bruised and swollen. Make sure you go over your expectations of this surgery with your surgeon, so he can be on the same page as you are.  The effects of the anesthesia and the pain medication can contribute to some of the post operative let down, but try to remember that these feelings will pass with each new day.

Some women feel depressed or regretful about having undergone elective surgery. Sometimes they do not know how to handle the attention of questions that this procedure might bring.  It is good to talk about your feelings and to know that the women on the forum here have experienced all the emotional highs and lows you might be going through, and they will help you in anyway they can along with your own plastic surgeon and his staff.  If you do feel that all of this is too much, then it would be best to seek outside help so you can resolve some of these emotions.  Most of the women who do undergo this procedure are extremely happy they did and would do it again in a heartbeat.








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