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Abdominoplasty or Tummy Tuck Recovery


Recovering from a tummy tuck is individual as any surgical procedure will be. Some patients heal faster and have minimal pain than others. Everyone has their own pain threshold so comparing recoveries can sometimes seem like you are comparing apple to oranges. In general, the normal amount of time you should be off of work with a tummy tuck is at least two or three weeks. Sometimes it is longer if the patient has had complications.



                                               Copyright 2010 ASAPS - Used with permission




So if your recovery ends up being around the four week mark, know that this is still very normal. It is going to take some time to see your final tummy tuck results, as you will have some swelling for a significant amount of time. Or course, patients who are in good physical health are always going to bounce back sooner. Depending on the type of tummy tuck procedure you ended up getting, you could require a hospital stay for a night or two.




  • Compression / Surgical Garment

More than likely you will have to wear some sort of compression garment after the surgery, which resembles a girdle. This garment should be tight fitting and helps in the reduction of swelling by preventing fluid build up, as well as provide comfort and support as you heal. Wearing of this garment can be for a few weeks or can extend longer depending on how fast you heal. It is possible you will not be able to stand up fully after surgery, but it is important to being walking for short periods of time after your procedure to facilitate blood flow.





  • Sutures - Staples or Surgical Glue for Incision Closure

Your incisions might be closed with staples, sutures or surgical glue or a combination of glue and sutures. The fact that this is major surgery you will experience pain, bruising, and swelling which will eventually subside in a few weeks. 

If you have had a muscle repair along with the abdominoplasty, permanent sutures are normally used.  A tummy tuck procedure utilizes both absorbable sutures for the suture line and non-absorbable sutures for the midline abdominal muscle tightening.





  • The Importance of Moving Around After Surgery

Getting up and moving will help you heal faster, so try to set little goals each day with walking. This form of exercise is the best medicine as well as other non-aerobic exercises. Walking can help reduce swelling, prevent blood clots, and strengthen your immune system. More than likely your plastic surgeon will give you post operative instructions with not doing anything too strenuous for at least six weeks after surgery. You don’t want to do too much, as this could possibly compromise your incision with reopening your wound.





  • Swell Hell

With abdominoplasty surgery the inner lymphatic system has been compromised by the incision. When lymphatic tissues or lymph nodes become damaged, destroyed or removed – this causes a reaction where the lymph cannot drain normally from the affected surgical area. The lymph accumulates and gives what we experience in abdominoplasty surgery as “Swell Hell”.

Lymph originates in blood plasma and is part of the circulatory system running through the entire body. It is responsible for collecting and removing waste products left behind in the tissue. As our lymph system continues to circulate between the cells it collects waste products that were left behind including dead blood cells, pathogens and cancer cells. The clear fluid becomes protein rich as it absorbs dissolved protein from between the cells.

Swelling from the abdominoplasty procedure varies of course with the size or the extent of your procedure. Your overall general health contributes to this as well. The use of drains in abdominoplasty makes it less uncomfortable for the patient as well as helping with the healing with discard of the fluid that has accumulated.




  • The Benefits of Drains

Most plastic surgeons have seen the benefits of using drains with tummy tucks, so the likelihood that you might have these is high. They are annoying; however serve a very important purpose. The purpose of tummy tuck drains is to decrease the risk of a seroma formation (fluid collecting between the muscle layer and the skin flap).

The use of drains in a tummy tuck procedure provides a place for this fluid to escape from the body, which will reduce the chances of any risks or complications from occurring. Depending on how much your incisions are draining each day will tell the plastic surgeon how long the drains should remain. Normally most patients get the drains removed within one week – but could be as long as three weeks.

The drains that are used for abdominoplasty have thin silicone tubing that are inserted into your abdominal area either through a specially made incision or through the actual tummy tuck incision. The thin tubing connects to “bulbs” that provide suction for excess fluid that accumulates during your recovery time.

You will need to empty out your drains at least two to three times a day, depending on how much drainage is coming from the incision site. You will need to keep track of how much drainage you are getting each day, as the surgeon will want to know exactly how much fluid is being accumulated. The fluid that is in the drain should be pink, reddish or brownish.  If you notice that the fluid draining from the incision has a greenish tint or is draining too steadily, then please notify your plastic surgeon immediately. This could be signs of an infection. Tummy tuck drains are definitely an inconvenience however the job they perform is well worth it.   Read our Wound Color Chart to make sure the discharge is normal.

To remove the drains the surgeon will pull the thin tubing out. Some patients have remarked that there is no pain associated with this, and others have complained that it did feel like a strange sensation when it was being removed. Regardless, these devices do serve a very important purpose with your abdominoplasty recovery, and most patients accept this as part of the procedure.



Every plastic surgeon will have their own timeline in which they feel it is safe for you to shower after your surgical procedure. Some surgeons allow you to shower as soon as two or three days after surgery, and others make you wait until you have suture removal, which can be a couple of weeks. If you are told no showering until your sutures are removed, then more than likely sponge baths will suffice.

If you are released to shower, you might be told to do this with your support garments on, so it is important to have at least two garments available for you, while one is usually drying. Feeling dizzy and lightheaded after this surgery is not uncommon, so make sure you have another adult in the house with you during your first shower. Before your abdominoplasty surgery, you might want to consider going to the medical supply store, and get a little stool to use so that you can site down in the shower if you are feeling lightheaded. Make sure you pin your drains up on your garment if you are showering so that they do not get in the way.

It is very important you do everything your surgeon tells you to do on the post operative instructions. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please always contact your surgeon first before doing something you are unsure of. The post operative instructions will include how to bandage your incision, and how often you should change the bandages. Normally with abdominoplasty, the outer edges of the incision will always heal first and the center area will heal last.




Your new navel that you get after your abdominoplasty will have a tendency to take on many shapes and sizes.

After your abdominoplasty the naval can appear:

  • square

  • triangular

  • oblong

  • healing into a tiny slit


Of course, everyone heals differently - put here is an example of the progression of healing time with belly button scars from abdominoplasty.


       Copyright 2010 -


Ultimately we all want that nice round navel to heal perfectly, so in order to help this along – there is the “marble trick” or the “ear-plug trick”.

As everything with your surgery concerns, both pre-operative and post operative, you need to run this by your own surgeon to see if he agrees with this. You do need to wait until the incision around the navel is completely healed and closed. The marble trick will stretch the navel somewhat, so you might experience some pain when doing this initially, however it has worked for many tummy tuck patients.

If you decide on the marble trick – you will need to start off by locating some standard size glass marbles, either at a toy store or a variety store. If you feel the standard size marble is going to be too big, then you can also use smaller size marbles as well.

Sterilizing the marbles is a must, so either boil the marbles in hot water or wash them thoroughly with antibacterial soap such as Dial Soap.

Substituting the marble for a soft “ear-plug” has proven to be beneficial with keeping the navel open so that it will heal in a round shape. Earplugs do have an advantage over marbles; first, they are much softer and not so cumbersome to work with. The earplug conforms to the shape of the navel with being able to be squished to the desired size you need. Once the size is shaped, then place it in your navel with a piece of tape/or a bandage over the earplug to ensure it will stay in place.

The incision around the navel must be completely healed before doing this.

You can either tape the marble to hold it in place or have your binder help hold the marble in place. Some patients have to start out slow with short intervals with time with this until they feel comfortable with the marble inside the navel. Once you work your way up to that point, then it can be worn 24/7.

Massaging the scar tissue around the navel four times a day will definitely help the scar tissue to stretch. This might be a little bit painful at first, but it does get better each time you do it.

Whether you use an earplug or a marble, there are ways of shaping your new navel. Just make sure you sterilize whatever you are using first and that your incisions are completely closed around the navel.







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