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Swelling After Tummy Tuck: Effective Ways to Reduce It

Published by Dr. Brandon Richland, MD

Swelling is a normal side effect after a tummy tuck procedure, but it usually subsides around two to three months after the surgery. With proper post-op care, many women see a significant decrease of swelling after just a few weeks.

Key Takeaways of Swelling After Tummy Tuck

  • Swelling after a tummy tuck is normal as it is the protective response of your body to the trauma caused by the surgery.
  • Wearing a compression garment along with healthy dieting and hydration can help manage and reduce swelling.
  • Light exercise activities such as walking helps with fluid circulation and muscle tone, while restful sleep promotes healing and minimizes inflammation.
  • Following your doctor’s post-op instructions is vital to reduce swelling and more quickly enjoy the outcomes of your tummy tuck surgery.

Understanding Swelling After a Tummy Tuck Surgery

Why Our Bodies Swell After a Tummy Tuck

Swelling is a normal response to the trauma inflicted on the body during a surgical procedure. After a tummy tuck surgery, swelling occurs under excess skin, primarily around the incision sites. It persists due to the disruption of lymphatic vessels found under the skin at these locations.

Disrupted blood flow can cause temporary build up of fluids, resulting in swelling that can remain for several months until complete healing occurs. This is the body’s natural reaction because it recognizes that an injury has occurred, and responds accordingly by causing tissues to retain extra liquid as part of the repair process.

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Stages of Swelling After Tummy Tuck

Swelling after a tummy tuck occurs in three stages; immediate, maximal, and subsidence. Immediately after surgery, the body swells due to fluid accumulation caused by bleeding in the abdominal area from the surgical procedure.

During the immediate stage, swelling is usually at its peak, and pain medication or compression garments might be necessary to reduce discomfort and encourage healing. The body will then undergo a period of maximal swelling with some residual puffiness lasting for several weeks before settling down over time.

Around up to six weeks post-op, patients can expect up to 90 percent reduction of the initial inflammation. Complete resolution may take two to three months, depending on the patient’s health and vitality levels.

How Long Does the Swelling Last?

The duration of swelling can vary for each individual. Most swelling should subside over time, and approximately 80 to 90 percent should be completely average or within the first two months after surgery.

Tips to Reduce Tummy Tuck Swelling

Wear Your Compression Garment Always

Wearing a compression garment after a tummy tuck is needed for the healing and recovery process. Compression garments support the abdominal tissues, reduce swelling near the incision site, accelerate healing, and alleviate post-surgery pain and bruising, while redistributing bodily fluids more evenly. Wearing one can result in faster healing times for those who have just undergone this procedure.

Using a quality compression garment as instructed by your plastic surgeon, will optimize healing outcomes and minimize any unwanted results from lingering swelling. You must listen carefully when instructed on how long and how often you should wear it.

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Follow a Healthy Diet and Stay Hydrated

Eating healthy foods helps prevent inflammation in the body and reduce swelling due to fluid retention. This means eating plenty of fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, all of which provide vital nutrients for healing. You must avoid processed foods because they can hinder the body’s ability to properly recover after surgery.

Drinking enough water is also essential for minimizing swelling and flushing out toxins from the body. Staying adequately hydrated will allow fluids to move around easier within your lymphatic system, enabling your body to heal more efficiently reducing inflammation associated with a tummy tuck procedure.

Foods known for their anti inflammatory properties, such as carrots, blueberries, spinach, and garlic, are great for promoting tissue regeneration while decreasing unnecessary discomfort during recovery time.

Engage in Light Exercise

When recovering from a tummy tuck, your formerly bloated upper body will be sore and swollen. That doesn’t mean you have to stay still and inactive for the duration of your recovery.

Light exercise each day can also help reduce swelling after plastic surgery. Exercise helps with fluid circulation, preventing blood clots and promoting a faster healing process.

Gentle exercises like stretching and walking are excellent ways to reduce swelling as they encourage the lymphatic system throughout the body to promote proper drainage and reduce inflammation.

Get Plenty of Restful Sleep

Getting plenty of restful sleep is incredibly important to reduce swelling after a tummy tuck surgery. During sleep, the body naturally restores itself and recovers from any trauma. This process can help reduce inflammation and promote proper blood vessel circulation, which are essential for lowering postoperative swelling.

Lack of sleep can hinder healing, resulting in increased puffiness and discomfort due to the swollen belly tissue. Getting enough quality rest may also help you feel better emotionally and mentally during your recovery period by helping you relax more efficiently, instead of actively stressing or worrying about the pain or decline in activity level associated with recovering from a tummy tuck procedure.

Follow These Guidelines for a Successful Tummy Tuck Recovery

Take Prescribed Medication for Tummy Tuck Recovery

Taking the prescribed medications after a tummy tuck surgery is vital for successful healing. The drugs may include pain medication, anti-inflammatory agents, muscle relaxants, and antibiotics.

These medications are crucial in reducing pain and discomfort during recovery from mini tummy tuck and combating any potential infection arising from the traditional mini tummy tuck and surgical procedure. They can also reduce inflammation and swelling caused by tissue manipulation and stretching during the traditional tummy tuck surgery, resulting in efficient healing time.

Attend Scheduled Appointments

Attending scheduled postoperative appointments after a tummy tuck surgery is essential in monitoring healing and providing the best possible care. The timing of follow-up appointments varies based on individual needs but occurs 6 weeks after the procedure and every 3 to 6 months after that.

During initial visits, patients should alert their doctor about any notable symptoms such as excessive swelling or pain, bleeding from incision sites, soreness or tenderness around the lower abdomen, fever, chills, or redness near wound sites. Your doctor may order imaging studies to ensure that internal structures respond appropriately to the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions of Swelling After Tummy Tuck

1. What is Post Operative Swelling?

Post-op swelling is a normal healing response following cosmetic surgery, including tummy tuck procedures, as part of the body’s inflammatory process to repair damaged tissue. It subsides within several days after surgery but may take weeks in some cases. 

2. What to Do to Reduce The Amount of Swelling After My Tummy Tuck Procedure? 

Surgeons recommend that patients wear a compression garment or use cold compresses for a few days post surgery due to its proven efficacy in reducing inflammation and promoting better healing times with less noticeable effects on the skin and underlying tissues.

3. When to Seek Medical Attention If Symptoms Persist Even After Trying Remedies?

If signs worsen over time, such as spreading redness or increasing pain level, then seeking professional treatment immediately would be advised since these could lead to complications.

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Conclusion and Summary of Swelling After Tummy Tuck: Effective Ways to Reduce It

Swelling is a common result following a tummy tuck surgery, but it should resolve with proper care within two months. Most tummy tuck patients will experience about 80 percent resolution in swelling in that time, but minor swelling may persist over time.

To combat the swelling, follow your surgeon’s instructions such as wearing a compression garment, avoiding unhealthy food and limiting your salt intake. These can help reduce swelling and prevent excessive inflammation.

As long as you follow postoperative care instructions closely, you should find your body recovering quickly and without complications from the procedure.

Please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before making any changes to your treatments, please consult with your healthcare provider to discuss the appropriateness and safety of such changes.

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About the Author

Dr. Brandon Richland, MD is a respected Board Certified Licensed Plastic Surgeon in Orange County / Southern California specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries.

Driven by his passion for medicine, Dr. Richland obtained his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the prestigious program at Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Medicine in 2013. His exceptional skills were recognized when he received the McGraw Hill / Lange Medical Student Academic Achievement Award, and graduated top of his class with Honors. For his undergraduate degree, he attended University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and graduated with Honors in 2009.

To further enhance his surgical expertise, Dr. Richland completed his Residency in Plastic Surgery at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) from 2013 to 2019 earning the Academic Achievement Award twice during this period. A total of 14 years in dedicated schooling and medical residency.

Dr. Richland is actively involved with healthcare and medical societies, as a Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, and the California Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Contact Dr. Richland today by visiting RichlandMD.com, scheduling a cosmetic consultation, or by calling 714-241-0646 or 949-945-0025 directly.