Recovering from a tummy tuck

Tummy Tucks / Surgical Tips / Post Pregnancy Surgery

24 Nov 2021

tummy tuck recovery

Have you been thinking about having a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) but your research says the recovery is a little more complex than other surgeries?

In this article, I’ll explain why tummy tuck recovery is more challenging and what you can do to help make the process a little easier, both before and after surgery.


What happens during a tummy tuck procedure?

To truly understand a tummy tuck you need to see it as much more than a “removal of a bit of skin from the tummy”!

A full tummy tuck surgical operation is designed to reshape the entire span of the abdomen. Loose skin, fat, scars and stretch marks are removed and the abdominal muscles are tightened to flatten, contour and reduce any bulges.

To ensure the reshaping my patients expect, I extensively use liposuction over the entire abdomen before redraping of the skin. I also use liposuction around the sides and flanks to ensure a smooth transition from front to back and reshaped waist.

My patients finish the procedure in a “V” type shape – with legs bent upwards. Over the coming days and weeks they gradually straighten, but the firmness to start ensures a “wow” flatness to the tummy that is a hallmark of my technique.


Why some patients recover faster than others

1. Choice of surgeon

I perform tummy tucks with a lot of attention to tightening and reshaping with the added use of liposuction techniques on top of the expected muscle repair and skin removal.  Other surgeons may focus mainly on the removal of skin, which isn’t as extensive, so their patients will have faster recovery. 

This is why it may not be surprising when my patients don’t feel so great afterwards due to this extra time and care taken to transform the abdomen. Patients may feel the post liposuction pain, inability to fully straighten their back, as well as the drains used to help with accumulated fluid. Not a lot of fun, but I believe the results speak for themselves.


2. Extent of surgery

A smaller patient requiring less reshaping and removal of tissue generally recovers faster. So women who are mass-weight loss who have 7+ kgs removed, will generally find recovery longer than a smaller women who has less than 1kg removed.

The more you follow our instructions, the better and faster you will recover. Things like gentle movement from the day following surgery, eating healthy (and high fibre) foods, abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes, and keeping your garment on are a must!


Preparation for recovery

Here are a couple of tips when it comes to preparing for a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) procedure.


1. Physiotherapy

We highly recommend seeing a physio before and after surgery. Some of our patients have visited Tom Russell from Next-Gen Physio. Tom has worked extensively with many of my past patients. You will receive a detailed treatment plan to get you active while you are in the recovery phase and help you bounce back faster.


2. Getting a support person and the house ready

You should also start thinking of a support person to help put your needs first and lift your spirits. Stock up on books, magazines, pillows, Netflix and frozen meals. Your recovery is the best time to binge watch your favourite TV shows and movies – take this chance while you can!


3. Read your Plastic Surgery Planner

Have a second read of the Plastic Surgery Planner. Your planner will prepare and give you easy instructions to follow to ensure a smoother recovery and minimise healing time.


What to expect after surgery

Following surgery, for the next three weeks or so weeks your movement will be limited as you gradually straighten and regain range of movement.


- Drains

We know that patients don’t love them, but drains allow excess fluid to drain away from your body, rather than pool under your skin which can lead to healing issues and other complications. Expect your drains to be in place for 3-4 days after surgery. The timeframe for removal may also be longer depending on the scope of the operation.


- Recliner position

While recovering and sleeping, make sure to have some extra pillows as you will need at least one to elevate your legs and another behind your back. Avoid lying on your stomach and sides for a minimum of 6 weeks. Resting in a recliner will to ease the strain on the wounds and prevent you from rolling around.

- Showering

The less water you get on your dressings, the faster you will recover and the better your scars will be! Wet dressings lead to delayed healing and possible infection. Avoid showing completely until drains are removed and then if possible until at least your first dressing change at 2-3 weeks. Washing just with a cloth and visiting a hair dresser for a wash and blow dry will help you through this period. It is a challenge, but your future self will thank you! 


- Returning back to work

Unlike breast procedures, as a minimum you will be required to have 2-3 weeks off. You should wait at least 6 weeks before attempting more intense duties and discuss with our Nurse what activities are appropriate depending on your progress.


Costs, Medicare and health fund information

To find out more information on costs, Medicare rebate, hospital arrangements and a 3D animation video, visit our tummy tuck page or how much does a tummy tuck cost?


Is it harder to recover when you add breast surgery as well?

A combined procedure (adding an augmentation, reduction or lift) to a tummy tuck generally doesn’t require additional time off work or recovery period. In fact most women say the breasts were easier compared with the tummy, but generally after the first couple of tough weeks, they are are feeling much improved!


How long does it take to see me for a consultation?

It does generally take 8-12 weeks to see me for a consultation. It then takes another 8-12 weeks to secure a date for surgery, and a little longer in the second half of the year when everyone seems to want surgery and to recover in time for Christmas!

Read more about Dr Moncrieff's consultation periods.

More information or to book a consultation

Need more information about surgery? To contact our team to make an appointment for a consultation, please call 4920 7700 or send us a message via the form below.

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board certified plastic surgeon

Blog Author:

Dr Nicholas Moncrieff, Specialist Plastic Surgeon

About Dr Moncrieff

Dr Moncrieff focuses exclusively on breast reductions, breast lifts, breast augmentation, tummy tucks (abdominoplasty) and body lifts.

He is one of only a handful of Plastic Surgeons across Australia with this sole breast and body focus.

Dr Moncrieff has performed thousands of surgical procedures over more than three decades in medicine. Over 20,000 of these procedures have been in Newcastle.

More information about Dr Moncrieff is available here.

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