Tummy tucks are one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures in the United States. Whether you have experienced pregnancy, lost a significant amount of weight, or are simply bothered by loose, hanging abdominal skin, a tummy tuck can help transform your body and improve your confidence. Depending on the amount of excess fat and skin you have, there are several different types of procedures that may be appropriate, but each requires a different period of tummy tuck recovery.
Tummy Tuck Overview
The tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is a common plastic surgery procedure that helps to flatten the abdomen by tightening the abdominal muscles and removing excess fat and skin, resulting in a leaner, trimmed appearance. Tummy tucks are commonly performed on patients who have lost a significant amount of weight and want to remove excess hanging skin and fat and people who have experienced pregnancy and want to remove loose skin. There are three primary types of tummy tucks: partial abdominoplasty, complete abdominoplasty, and circumferential abdominoplasty.
A partial abdominoplasty, or mini tummy tuck, is most appropriate for patients who store the majority of their excess fat and skin below the navel and do not require extensive tissue removal. When a mini tummy tuck is performed, your surgeon may be able to use a limited incision that prevents the procedure from being more invasive than necessary. A mini tummy tuck requires the least recovery time of any of the tummy tuck procedures.
Complete abdominoplasty is performed on patients who have a moderate to a significant amount of fat and skin that need to be removed from the midsection. While the recovery from a complete abdominoplasty is longer than the recovery from a partial abdominoplasty, the scarring is minimized by placing an incision low on the abdomen at the same level as the underwear or bikini. The amount of skin and tissue that needs to be removed determines the length of the incision, which usually extends from hip bone to hip bone, allowing the surgeon to work with the skin and muscle as required.
Patients who have significant excess skin and fat on both the abdomen and the lower back may benefit from a circumferential abdominoplasty. Often best suited to patients who have lost a large amount of weight, the incision for a circumferential abdominoplasty extends around the body. This type of abdominoplasty requires the longest recovery, as it is capable of removing the most tissue.
Tummy Tuck Recovery Duration
Tummy tuck recovery is a bit different for everyone. The amount of time it takes for a patient to recover from a tummy tuck procedure typically depends on a number of factors, including the patient’s age, body weight, and overall health. Additionally, the type of tummy tuck that you have will also play an important role, as some tummy tucks are more comprehensive and require more time to heal than others.
Most tummy tuck procedures are done on an outpatient basis, but patients who are having an unusually large quantity of skin removed or who are having their tummy tuck done at the same time as another procedure may need to stay in the hospital for one or more nights.
However, most patients will go home on the same day.
Regardless of what type of tummy tuck you have, you should expect to avoid strenuous activity, including heavy lifting and any form of vigorous exercise, for at least six weeks. Patients who have a partial abdominoplasty, or mini tummy tuck, may have a comparatively short recovery and will not need to wear an abdominal binder for the full six weeks. However, patients who have a complete tummy tuck or a circumferential tummy tuck done will need to wear an abdominal binder for up to six weeks after surgery. The abdominal binder helps to minimize the buildup of fluid in your abdomen and also helps to support your abdominal muscles as you heal from the procedure.
Tummy Tuck Recovery Tips
In order to recover from tummy tuck surgery as quickly as possible, it’s critical that you follow the post-operative instructions from your surgeon. Your doctor will be able to tailor your recovery plan specifically for you and your body, but there are some recovery tips that you can follow to help you get back to normal as quickly as possible.
- Sleep on an incline. After surgery, you may feel better if you sleep with your upper body slightly raised, such as in a recliner. Sleep with your upper body slightly elevated and your knees slightly bent to minimize pressure on your abdomen, and consider sleeping with pillows underneath your knees.
- Get plenty of rest. A tummy tuck is a major surgery and it will take your body time to feel properly. Rest as often as you feel you need to in the early weeks and months of your recovery.
- To minimize scarring, consider taking vitamin A and C supplements.
- Drink lots of water to keep your swelling to a minimum.
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
- Rest completely for at least two weeks.
- Avoid driving for several weeks and do not drive while taking narcotic pain medication.
- Get up and move throughout the day to keep your blood flowing. Moving regularly will help to minimize your swelling and reduce your chances of experiencing a blood clot.
- Avoid nicotine for at least six weeks, and quit smoking prior to your surgery if possible, as smoking slows the healing process.
- Take any antibiotics and anticoagulant medications as prescribed.
- Care for your incisions as directed by your surgeon.
While tummy tuck recovery is different for each patient, you should expect to avoid strenuous activity, heavy lifting, and vigorous exercise for at least six weeks. In order to shorten your tummy tuck recovery time, it’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions, get lots of rest, drink plenty of water, and incorporate gentle movement into your day.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Applebaum
Dr. Robert Applebaum is a world renowned and highly respected Plastic Surgeon who is Board Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. In his nearly 30 years as a practicing physician, Dr. Applebaum has become known as an innovator in the field of laser technology techniques for plastic surgery procedures. He has published numerous articles and scientific papers about the use of laser technology and educates physicians worldwide on the applications of laser technology for plastic surgery. Dr. Applebaum primarily practices out of his private outpatient surgery center, Four Thirty Six Aesthetic Surgery Center, which is located in Beverly Hills.