Abdominoplasty Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Our most common abdominoplasty questions and answers
The following questions about abdominoplasty / tummy tuck are from real patients like you! Dr. Michael L. Thornton is a fellowship-trained, dual board certified Cosmetic Surgeon and Diplomate of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. He has performed hundreds of abdominoplasty / tummy tuck procedures including traditional abdominoplasty, liposuction with abdominoplasty, mini tummy tuck, abdominoplasty with umbilical float, and abdominoplasty revision. Dr. Thornton attends yearly national cosmetic surgery meetings and participates in advanced abdominoplasty courses to offer you the latest techniques available.
1) How long will my abdominoplasty / tummy tuck swelling last?
Swelling may last up to 3 – 4 months and your final result may not be evident until a full 6 months. Swelling is very individualized and is different between patients. Some patients may only have noticeable swelling for 4 -6 weeks. Unfortunately, you can not predetermine the level of swelling you will have. However, your swelling persist longer if you undergo liposuction at the same time. This is because there is more surgical exposure and trauma. You may also notice that stretch marks will remain swollen but will eventually subside with time. Wearing snug body garments following surgery will aid in reducing your swelling and it is encouraged to wear these garments for 2 – 3 months until the venous supply and lymphatic drainage return to normal in your lower abdomen.
2) How soon should I expect to see results after my abdominoplasty / tummy tuck?
Immediately following surgery, you will see an obvious improvement in the appearance of your skin quality and muscular tone. Your incision will have brown paper tape (Micropore tape) to cover the fresh incision and you will have at least two drains. However, you should expect to see functional and visible results in about 2 – 3 months.
3) How long should I have someone help me at home after abdominoplasty / tummy tuck surgery?
It is suggested that you have someone (spouse, boyfriend, parent, friend, neighbor, etc) stay with you for the first 2 – 3 nights. This person needs to be an adult and able-bodied who can assist you to the bathroom, help you bathe, manage your drains, and assist you with pain meds. It is also suggest that for the first several nights you limit or eliminate contact with small toddlers and pets.
4) What kind of pain medication will be prescribed after abdominoplasty / tummy tuck surgery?
Unless you have an allergy, you will always be prescribed hydrocodone (Norco) plus acetaminophen (Tylenol) combination. To be exact, you will receive Norco 7.5 / 325 mg and can take one or two every 6 hours for pain. You will be prescribed #30 and this quantity will be enough for the first two weeks. This formulation of hydrocodone (7.5mg) plus acetaminophen (325mg) is safe and effective. However, if you are allergic or sensitive to hydrocodone, then an alternative pain medication will be prescribed. It is also recommended to take ibuprofen (Advil) 600 mg every eight hours as a scheduled dose, as NSAIDS work directly at the site of soft tissue inflammation.
5) How soon can I put scar cream on my abdominoplasty / tummy tuck scar?
Your incision will be tapped for the first 2 – 3 months with brown Micropore tape. We have found this method of incision taping is both inexpensive and effective and makes a significant difference in protecting your incision while minimizing your scarring. After the first 3 months you may use whatever scar cream you desire on your scars including scar creams, silicone sheeting, and Vitamin E oil.
6) When can I shower after abdominoplasty / tummy tuck?
You may take your first shower within 24 – 48 hours after your abdominoplasty. It’s important to take precautions because you may feel woozy or light-headed due to effects of taking narcotic pain medication. So, it is suggested you have someone assist you during your first shower so you don’t accidentally collapse or fall. Your incision is water-protected because of the application of both tissue glue and tape.
7) When will the drains be removed after abdominoplasty / tummy tuck?
Your drains will be removed within the first 4 – 5 days following surgery. Sometimes drain removal will be staggered by removing one side first then removing the other side after a few more days…but it is important to remember the drains will only be removed when the output is minimal. It is understandable the drains are inconvenient and may tug on your skin, but they play an important role to lessen the chance of fluid accumulation following your abdominoplasty (especially if I perform liposuction). Some cosmetic plastic surgeons may not place drains but the majority of us do.
8) Will I be given anything for pain when I wake up from surgery?
Your abdominoplasty surgery will be performed in an AAAHC certified surgery center using board-certified anesthesiologists and certified nurse anesthesia providers (CRNA). Immediately following your surgery, the anesthesia team and the post-anesthesia care nurses will give you IV pain medicine and muscle relaxant medications to make you comfortable. I also will locally inject long-acting pain medication (Marcaine) directly into your abdomen muscle repair during the surgery. This locally injected pain medication will last several hours. Remember, following surgery you will have an ample supply of Norco and Valium at your home to use during your recovery.
9) When should I start wearing the compression garment and how long do I wear a garment after abdominoplasty / tummy tuck surgery?
Following your tummy tuck, we will provide you with a white abdominal binder with velcro and you will wear this garment for the first week. As soon as your drains have been removed and we determine your skin is healthy, you will be allowed to start wearing a full compression garment. You will typically wear a compression garment for 2 – 3 months (refer to Question #1) but some patients may choose to wear a compression garment for longer.
10) When can I drive after abdominoplasty / tummy tuck?
This is an individual decision and every patient is different. However, you may safely begin driving a car when you are no longer taking narcotic pain medication or muscle relaxant medication AND when you can comfortable enter and exit your automobile.
Dr. Michael L. Thornton is a fellowship-trained, double board certified Cosmetic Surgeon and Diplomate of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery specializing in facial cosmetic surgery, cosmetic breast surgery, body contouring surgery and liposuction, post-bariatric after weight loss surgery, and non-surgical aesthetic skin rejuvenation.