Posted on 05 May 2016
After the fifth day following your surgery, the muscle layer is beginning to knit against the skin layer, but things are not quite set. But now we want the patient to start moving around. We recommend getting up and walking around the room at least 3 times a day. The purpose is to get your muscles moving again, expand your lungs more, and prevent blood clots in the calves.
But remember, don’t over do it because you could still cause the muscle layer to slide against the skin layer and separate, causing a hematoma or seroma. That is why we recommend that you keep wearing the compression garment at all times (24/7) during the second week.
At this point, it is also still important to keep the skin layer relaxed, so keep the head of the bed elevated and your knees bent while resting in bed. When walking, stay a little bent over. Do not try to stand up straight yet, as this will pull on the wound.
During this second week post op, you may still need help getting the compression garment on and off, so it is a good idea to have family and friends nearby. When you go into the shower, use cool water. Don’t take a warm shower at first because when you remove the garment, the blood vessels relax, and the warm water makes them relax even more. If they get relaxed enough, blood can flow away from your veins to your lower body and you may faint. So be sure to use cool (not cold) water.
As far as pain medications, we usually recommend at this time to start tapering the dose. There are several reasons. First, pain can be a feedback mechanism for your body to tell you if you are doing too much. And second, sometimes patients feel too good with pain medications and tend to do too much. Finally, pain pills can make you very constipated, and straining at stool can harm the muscle repair.
Let the recovery phase begin. Start by going around the house, but refrain from doing much outside activity. You are now beginning to get a feel for your activity level and how much you can tolerate. Let your body guide you. If you can stand completely straight, it’s great, but don’t push it!
At week three, you are no longer required to wear the compression garment 24/7, but you must still wear it at least half of the time. You can take the garment off at night, but if you don’t feel totally comfortable, keep it on. Most patients do keep it on the whole month, stating it makes them feel more secure. This is your body telling you things are still a little tight or there is still swelling. Listen to your body and don’t push it.
You can now go out the house, but it is still not time to go shopping at the mall or go on prolonged trips! Many patients do go back to work, provided that there are no physical demands.
Start trying to stretch, gently. Don’t try to lift anything over 5 pounds. You should still not wear any tight garments other than the compression garment.
Even though you are in pretty good shape, it is till not a good idea to drive. During the fourth week post op, sudden turns or slamming on the brakes can still damage your muscle repair.
At this point you may feel a hardness along your wound. Don’t panic, it’s called a healing ridge, and it’s the collagen your body lays down to knit the wound together. It will disappear over the next few weeks. You are still swollen here and there and some areas are numb. This will all get better.
During week 5, you can now start to resume normal activities! We should see you sometime during this week for the one month follow up appointment. You may still have some swelling, but your new body profile should be obvious. Start enjoying it!
In summary, if you’re considering a Tummy Tuck you should plan for 3 weeks off of work, with no driving during that initial recovery period. Every body is unique and it’s my hope that this detailed explanation of the first five weeks following abdominoplasty helps you be prepared for your own tummy tuck recovery time. Contact Dr. Neaman to schedule your tummy tuck consultation and learn if you’re a candidate.
Dr. Keith Neaman
Dr. Neaman is a board-certified plastic surgeon that specializes in surgical body contouring. He prides himself on being on the cutting edge of plastic surgery. He takes an informative approach to each consultation, and through open dialogue and communication, he helps his patients decide on a treatment plan that meets their needs.