Tummy tuck is a body contouring procedure that may achieve tightening of the abdominal wall and soft tissues. It removes redundant skin of the abdomen and strengthens the abdominal muscles. One of the most common questions from patients considering this type of surgery relates to recovery. “How long is healing after tummy tuck?” This question is best addressed by focusing on different aspects of recovery:
Incision healing after tummy tuck
Resorbable (dissolving) stitches are used to close the abdominal incisions. These stitches gradually resorb over a few months post-operatively. Early wound healing occurs over the first couple of weeks, which effectively closes the incisions. Incisions during early wound healing demonstrate low tensile strength. The incisions gain strength as scar maturation occurs over one year of healing after tummy tuck.
Weaning pain medication
Patient generally require narcotic pain medication for a few days post-operatively. Patients typically report discomfort at the muscle repair site. Several measures are taken to reduce discomfort along the muscle plication. Following surgery, local anesthetic is infiltrated within the rectus sheath to reduce discomfort upon awakening. This local freezing lasts approximately 6-8 hours. Oral pain medication is then taken as needed and weaned as soon as possible to lower risk of associated complications. Patients may also experience less discomfort when slightly flexing the waist when mobilizing over the first 24-48 hours following surgery. Once prescription pain medication has been discontinued, patients may resume driving as able.
Discontinuing the abdominal compression garment
The abdominal compression garment provides support to the muscle repair during early healing and reduces swelling and fluid accumulation. It should be worn full-time as healing takes place. It may be discontinued at 6 weeks post-operatively. The garment may be concealed under clothing as patients return to work and other day-to-day activities.
As the muscle repair heals and incisions gain strength, it is important to refrain from exercise and heavy lifting over 5 lbs. Exercise may be resumed at 6 weeks post-operatively, which will be confirmed by Dr. Power during routine follow up at that time point. Patients often inquire whether exercise may be resumed sooner if core abdominal work-outs are avoided. Unfortunately not. Any form of exercise that elevates heart rate and blood pressure may increase risk of bleeding, further swelling, and healing complications. By 6 weeks post-operatively, one’s activity level may be gradually advanced to exercise as tolerated.
Returning to work
Healing after tummy tuck requires recovery time before returning to work. Patients may generally return to office-based work within 1-2 weeks of surgery. This may depend on physical requirements of the job. If work responsibilities are more strenuous, modifications may be required upon return to work to lower risk of complications, particularly over the first 6 weeks.
Please contact us if considering tummy tuck surgery in the Toronto area. Dr. Power will make personalized recommendations following plastic surgery consultation.