What should I expect during my tummy tuck recovery?
During your tummy tuck recovery, dressings or bandages will be applied to your incisions, and you will be wrapped in an elastic bandage or a compression garment to minimize swelling and support your abdomen as it heals following surgery.
Small, thin tubes will be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.
You will be given specific instructions that include:
How to care for the surgical site and drains
Medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential for infection
Specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health
When to follow up with your plastic surgeon
Tips on Recovery from Tummy Tuck Surgery
When you wake up after tummy tuck surgery, your abdomen may be very swollen and it may be throbbing. Don't wait for pain to be unbearable before you take your pain medication. Take your pain medication on time because that stops the pain before it gets too bad. You will actually use less pain medication if you take it on time than if you wait for the pain to become severe. And pain interferes with healing. There is absolutely no reason to be tough and suffer through the pain.
As the days go on the swelling and pain will dissipate. You may have bruising, but this will go away as well. Make a mental note of this or you may be fall into a depression. Bruising and swelling are normal and only to be expected after most surgeries.
The skin on your abdomen may be numb. This is normal. Abdominoplasty involves loosening the skin from its previous attachments and redraping it. That action, along with the incisions, means that some nerves were cut. Sensation will usually come back gradually over the course of several months. Sometimes, the first thing you will feel in areas that were numb is itchiness or tingling. There is the possibility that sensation in the skin will not come back completely.
Take your temperature regularly! An elevated temperature could mean an infection.
Take those antibiotics on time. Take the whole prescription and don't cut it short if you feel well. If you were told to take the pills for a whole week or two weeks or whatever, do it. Not taking antibiotics for the prescribed number of days can cause a drug-resistant infection.
If you are taking birth control pills, remember that some antibiotics can interfere with them, so in the event that you have sex, use another form of protection as well. However, I sincerely believe that you won't even be thinking of sexual relations or any type of major movement for at least a week or longer. Even if you felt up to having sex, don't until you get a go ahead from your surgeon! It could cause complications such as suture popping, wound opening and infection.
Sleep with your head and shoulders elevated for the first week to 14 days or however long your surgeon suggests. Use two or three good fluffy pillows to keep your head up or perhaps a wedge-shaped pillow.
You will be laying down a lot because you will be sore and will have problems standing upright for a week. Sitting may be more comfortable, but still might be a bit much for you. Sleeping may not be a problem, since some pain medications can make you sleepy. The energy that your body will use in healing can also make you feel sleepy, too. Sleeping is actually good for you while you heal.
Getting up and down from a sitting position or in and out of bed will be difficult and will hurt. One trick I learned to get out of bed was to first roll on my side close to the edge of the bed. Then I would let my legs drop over the side of the bed at the same time I pushed my upper body upright with the arm that was underneath me. This way I spared my abdominal muscles a bit of strain. Remember, everything will continue to get easier as the days pass. Full recovery after tummy tuck could be several weeks.
You will have a follow-up visit with your surgeon about 3 or 4 days after your tummy tuck surgery. He or she will check your drains, examine your incision, and generally check to see how you are doing.
Your staples will be removed 4 days after surgery.. While the incision is still open, do not smoke or use nicotine patches or gums. These interfere with healing. Better yet, quit smoking.
Wear abdominal support garment! This may be in the form of a wide binder that goes around your abdomen or a girdle-like garment that pulls on or zips up the side. Either will compress your abdomen a bit and help in healing and controlling the swelling. You will wake up after the surgery with an abdominal binder already on.
Empty your surgical drains two or three times a day(if left in on discharge). When you empty the drain, there is often liquid in the tube leading to the bulb. You can run your fingers down the tube to squeeze this liquid into the bulb each time you empty the drain. The liquid in the drain may be pink, reddish, or brownish and may have a bit of some solid material in it. It will look icky, so expect that. If you suddenly get a lot of very bright red blood or if what comes out smells very foul, call your surgeon.
You will be asked to keep track of how much fluid collects in each drain each day and your surgeon may give you a chart keep a log of that information. The drains are going to be a pain in the neck, but they are absolutely necessary to a good outcome. When you empty the drain, squeeze it before you close it again so that it has a little bit of suction or negative pressure that helps with drainage.
You will be instructed not to take a bath or use a hot tub, since sitting in standing water before your incision heals is pretty much asking for an infection! (You will be told to avoid swimming until the incision heals, too.) Remember, you may feel a bit dizzy or unsteady on your feet due to medications, so be careful in the shower. You might want to have someone assist you or just be in the bathroom with you the first time you shower.
You should not resume exercising until your surgeon says you can. Usually this is at least 3 weeks or more after your abdominoplasty surgery, depending on the extent of your surgery. You may also be able to do some exercises or sports before you are allowed to do others. Listen to your body and don't push yourself. Actually, you probably will not think of exercising for at least a few weeks.
Walk around after tummy tuck surgery! You will be encouraged to do a bit of walking every day in the first week and more as the weeks pass. Do it. Walking around helps prevent blood clot formation and eases swelling.
Pain medications (among other drugs) can cause constipation and other digestive problems and can back everything up. You may feel bloated and sometimes even have some intestinal cramps.
Drink plenty of water! This is a big help in keeping you regular and in helping with bloating and other distress. I cannot stress this enough.
Tummy Tuck Recovery Tips From Abdominoplasty Patients
Buy a six-pack of cotton panties three sizes bigger than you usually get. Nice big old granny panties, not bikinis. A tight elastic band around your sore abdomen is not comfy! If the seams bother you, wear the panties inside out. Wash them first to get out the chemicals and soften them.
If you have surgical drains, try wearing two pairs of panties and putting the drain bulbs in between. If the bulbs poke you, put a sanitary napkin or a gauze square dressing between the bulb and the inner panty. If that is uncomfortable, just pin the bulbs to your nightie or top or to the top of your pants.
If you have extra pillows, especially down ones, put some under your bottom sheet to make a nice soft nest to sleep on. You'll probably be sleeping on your back at first. It can help a lot if you put one or two pillows under your knees. That can help prevent some stretching on your new abdomen.
Take your pain medications! That is what they're for. And don't forget that it gets better every day!
If you have any more tips from your surgery that you think i should add to the above list please let me know.