Similarly, there are differences in the extent of muscle tightening and length and location of incisions, as well as the areas and amount of liposuction that can be safely performed with each procedure. In general, the more tissue that is removed the tighter the abdomen becomes and the better the overall result. With more extensive surgery, the incisions are longer, and the recovery is typically more difficult.
Choosing the appropriate procedure depends on your goals, your unique anatomic issues, and the specific trade-offs, risks, and recovery associated with each procedure that you are willing to accept. Dr. Slack’s role involves more than just performing the surgical procedure. It involves taking the time to listen to you and to understand your goals, as well as spending the necessary time to educate you before any incisions are made.
Recovery after a Tummy Tuck
A full tummy tuck has a significant recovery period. For the first 3-5 days, most of your time will be spent in bed or a recliner. Physical activity will be limited, but Dr. Slack encourages patients to get up and move around a little during the early post-operative period. This includes getting up and down to go to the bathroom, moving from the bed to a recliner, and as you are able, moving around the house. Early mobilization is important in preventing the formation of blood clots and in speeding up the recovery process.
Dr. Slack offers a “drainless” tummy tuck for his patients. This procedures uses specialized progressive tension sutures remove the need for drains to remain in the surgical incision during the recovery period. This is one less obstacle to getting back to your normal routine.
Due to a combination of lower abdominal tightness from the surgery and post-operative swelling, most patients will walk a little bent over for the first 7-10 days. By two weeks, almost all patients are walking upright and are driving themselves. Dr. Slack suggests planning on taking 2 weeks off from work if you have a desk job; longer (4-6 weeks) if your job requires more strenuous activity. Exercise is limited to walking the first 2-3 weeks; this is gradually increased depending on how you are doing. Dr. Slack asks his patients to avoid any heavy weight lifting and abdominal exercises for 6 weeks.
Abdominal swelling is significant after surgery. This is particularly true in the lower abdomen. Some patients can’t fit into the pants or shorts they were wearing before surgery due to swelling even though a large amount of skin and fat was removed. At about 2 weeks, the swelling will start to improve, but it takes about 6-8 weeks for the majority of the swelling to resolve. Patients usually come back at this point saying their clothes are fitting much more loosely, or they have gone down in waist or dress size. Some of the improvements from a tummy tuck will be obvious right away, but because of the swelling the final result will take some time to become apparent.
Long Term Results
Many people hesitate to pursue a tummy tuck because they have seen a lot of before and after pictures and they worry about the scarring. However, these images generally show the scar immediately after surgery. But scars take about 18 months to fully mature. The images below give you an idea of how a scar usually fades over that 18-month time frame. The scar becomes much less obvious over time.
Exercise and proper diet are still the best way to improve the appearance of your abdomen, but some problems such as loose overhanging skin, stretch marks, or rectus muscle separation will not improve with any amount of exercise. If these are issues that are of concern to you, and you are considering a tummy tuck, Dr. Slack would love the opportunity to discuss this option with you.