Tummy Tuck Preparation & Recovery

Tummy Tuck Preparation & Recovery


Preparing for Tummy Tuck Surgery

Follow these helpful pre-surgery tips provided by DocShop to help decrease the risk of abdominoplasty complications. Taking care to properly prepare for surgery is the best way to ensure that you achieve the full benefits from your tummy tuck cosmetic surgery and have a smooth tummy tuck recovery.

Your preparations before tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) surgery will help to optimize your tummy tuck results and minimize your recovery time. There are several matters to consider:

  • Your diet
  • Your exercise level
  • Whether you’re a smoker
  • Any medical problems
  • Any use of medications or nutritional supplements
  • Arrangements for a companion/caretaker after your surgery

A Well-Balanced Diet

Maintaining a well-balanced diet is central to preparing for any type of surgery. Providing your body with the proper nutrients helps to strengthen your immune system, which will result in a faster recovery. Taking a multivitamin may be helpful in some cases, but be sure to discuss this with your doctor first. Some vitamins that are normally good for the body may increase the likelihood of deep scarring or produce an otherwise inhibited healing process. It is important that you avoid vitamin E intake for about two weeks prior to undergoing surgery, as vitamin E can interfere with blood clotting. Under normal circumstances this helps decrease an individual’s likelihood of contracting heart disease, but in the context of surgery it can lead to hemorrhaging. Wheat germ, nuts, and some vegetable oils contain the largest amounts of vitamin E.

Candidates for abdominoplasty should be as close to their ideal weight as possible before the tummy tuck is performed. Obese patients are generally poor candidates for abdominoplasty as they are at higher risk for suffering complications during the post-surgical healing process. Eat a well-balanced diet and safeguard your health by losing the weight prior to getting a tummy tuck.

Stop Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of surgical complications, whatever the surgery. Smoking decreases the amount of oxygen that is circulated to your skin cells by constricting your skin’s blood vessels. Less oxygenated skin cells have a slower healing response. If you smoke, your surgeon will probably recommend that you stop smoking at least two weeks before your tummy tuck is scheduled. Even then, smokers are at increased risk compared to non-smokers. Nicotine patches or gum should not be used to take the place of cigarettes or cigars as they also are associated with increased complications.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is helpful in preparing for abdominoplasty surgery. By exercising, you increase your metabolic rate and build muscle mass, which helps you to avoid gaining weight during the sedentary tummy tuck recovery time. A strong heart promotes a faster immune response, thus speeding up your abdominoplasty recovery, so be sure to include plenty of aerobic exercise in your fitness regime.

One risk faced by tummy tuck patients is the formation of blood clots in the legs. Your doctor will usually recommend that you take gentle walks during your recovery process to decrease the likelihood of experiencing this complication. However, having strong, well-toned leg muscles prior to surgery will help your body combat the formation of blood clots during the initial day or two after surgery, when you are unable to move or will be moving with difficulty.

Another reason to exercise before undergoing tummy tuck surgery is that the best abdominoplasty candidates are within 15 percent of their ideal weight. Abdominoplasty can lead to dramatic improvements in the appearance of people with small, but stubborn, fat deposits and loose, sagging skin around the abdomen. It is not, however, necessarily the best choice for seriously overweight patients. Patients who are obese are significantly more likely to suffer complications after tummy tuck surgery. Losing a lot of weight after an abdominoplasty can also undermine tummy tuck results, leading to the need for further surgery to reshape the abdominal skin. Those whose weight prevents them from being good candidates for abdominoplasty may wish to consider the possibility of liposuction instead.

Other Medical Problems

It’s a good idea to discuss your plan to undergo tummy tuck surgery with your personal physician or family doctor if you haven’t already. Any medical problems that you have should be taken into careful account by your family physician and your cosmetic surgeon before abdominoplasty surgery. Your cosmetic surgeon will also take your complete medical history and conduct a thorough physical examination as a part of your pre-operative preparation. Because of the risk of infection, should you develop a cold, flu, or other temporary illness, your surgery will most likely be postponed.


Be sure to tell your surgeon about any and all medications or herbal supplements that you’re taking. Many medicines and even vitamins that are normally good for your body may be unhealthy for a person who is about to undergo surgery. Your doctor will tell you to discontinue the use of any substances that may decrease your body’s ability to recover from surgery two weeks before your tummy tuck. Vitamin E can interfere with the body’s blood clotting response, causing increased bleeding during surgery. The same is true of aspirin and some NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). The use of birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and some forms of post-cancer treatment medication may also involve an increased risk of complications during or after surgery. Use of these types of medications may, by contrast, produce an increased risk of developing dangerous internal blood clots that can in rare cases lead to embolism. Many cosmetic surgeons recommend a daily vitamin C supplement in the weeks leading up to your surgery while some recommend the use of a multivitamin that does not contain vitamin E. Consult your surgeon about the use of nutrition supplements prior to surgery.

Remember to fill any pain medication prescriptions and bring them with you on the day of your surgery to avoid any unnecessary post-operative side effects.

How You Will Be Returning Home

Abdominoplasty surgery is sometimes performed on an outpatient basis. Whether your tummy tuck surgery is an outpatient procedure or not, you’ll need to consider how you’ll be getting home. This is major surgery, and you won’t be able to get up and walk out the door soon after your tummy tuck is completed. Some surgeons require that you have a friend or family member available to escort you home following your surgery. It’s also advisable to arrange for someone to stay with you during the first day or two of your tummy tuck recovery at home.

Visit the DocShop gallery to view abdominoplasty before and after photos.

Photo credit: Kovanda Plastic Surgery


Several factors are involved in a patient’s abdominoplasty recovery, including the patient’s overall state of health and physical fitness at the time of surgery, which type of abdominoplasty surgery was performed, and the patient’s cooperation with the surgeon’s post-operative guidelines. Many patients are anxious to view their final tummy tuck results, and it is not uncommon to be frustrated by the abdominoplasty recovery process. Keep in mind that abdominoplasty surgery involves the removal of a significant amount of skin, the tightening of muscles, and, if liposuction is combined with the abdominoplasty surgery, the extraction of fat. Your body needs time to recover and adjust to these changes.

Tummy Tuck Recovery Time

Healing from tummy tuck cosmetic surgery is an individual matter, but in general you should plan to miss a week or two of work as part of your abdominoplasty recovery period. Some patients will require up to four weeks of tummy tuck recovery time. Although it takes most patients several weeks or more to feel completely "back to normal" and to see their final tummy tuck results, patients who were in good physical condition at the time of the surgery will have a shorter tummy tuck recovery time.

Healing from a Tummy Tuck – The First Week

Depending on the type of tummy tuck surgery performed, a patient may have to stay in a hospital for at least one night. In the first few days while healing from tummy tuck surgery, it’s likely that you’ll experience some discomfort, swelling, and pain, which can be made tolerable with medication. Many surgeons will also provide their patients with tummy tuck drains. It’s common for tummy tuck surgeons to recommend a few days of bed rest.

The stitches from abdominoplasty surgery are usually removed within five to seven days of the surgery, or in stages. Your surgeon will give you guidelines for activities such as changing the surgical dressings, showering/bathing, and walking. It’s usually recommended that tummy tuck patients begin walking as soon as possible after the surgery, as gentle exercise helps the healing process and can prevent the formation of blood clots and other complications.

The First Few Weeks Following Surgery

Many surgeons will provide patients with a compression garment or "abdominal binder" to wear under their clothing for several weeks after the surgery. You may also be required to wear elasticized stockings for a short period while you are healing from tummy tuck surgery to decrease the risk that blood clots will form in the legs.

Many doctors agree that beginning a regular regime of light exercise about a week after surgery can help you heal faster and more completely. Walking is usually the best exercise to engage in after surgery, but other forms of non-aerobic exercise may also be acceptable. A gentle exercise plan that has been pre-approved by your doctor can help reduce swelling, prevent blood clots, and strengthen you immune system. Remember to avoid all strenuous exercise for six weeks after surgery. During your tummy tuck recovery time, you will need to pay special attention to your body’s physical limitations to avoid reopening your wounds and increasing the time needed to fully heal from surgery.

Visit the DocShop gallery to view abdominoplasty before and after photos.

Photo credit: Ramiro Morales, MD

Maintaining Tummy Tuck Results

Many people who are considering having a tummy tuck wonder about the long-term effects the procedure will have on their figures. Patients are curious about the effects of gaining weight after a tummy tuck surgery (abdominoplasty), traditional methods of weight loss vs. tummy tuck, and the necessity of exercise after tummy tuck. While the effects of a tummy tuck can dramatically enhance a person’s appearance and self-confidence, it is important for patients to understand that abdominoplasty is not a weight-loss procedure, nor is it a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. Patients who have unreasonable expectations going into their tummy tuck procedure may be disappointed. .

Gaining Weight after a Tummy Tuck

While tummy tuck is an effective method for firming and flattening the abdominal region, there is no guarantee against the possibility of a patient gaining weight after a tummy tuck. Abdominoplasty is not to be used as a weight-loss procedure. Patients who wish to avoid gaining weight after a tummy tuck must maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine as recommended by their surgeon. Not only will a healthy lifestyle help prevent a patient from gaining weight after a tummy tuck, but exercise will help the patient to heal more quickly and tone surrounding muscles.

Should I Exercise after My Abdominoplasty?

Many patients erroneously assume that there is no need for them to exercise after abdominoplasty. On the contrary, exercise after abdominoplasty is crucial to the maintenance of your new figure. In fact, even patients who did not have an exercise routine prior to their tummy tuck procedure are encouraged to exercise as soon as their plastic surgeon advises them that it is safe. Exercise after abdominoplasty will significantly aid in recovery, helping patients to reduce swelling, tone muscles, and reduce the chance of blood clots immediately after the procedure. Furthermore, exercise is essential to any healthy lifestyle and will help the patient tone and firm his or her entire body.

Visit the DocShop gallery to view abdominoplasty before and after photos.

Photo credit: Kovanda Plastic Surgery

Find an Abdominoplasty Surgeon near You

When you are ready to consult a cosmetic surgeon in your area about tummy tuck surgery and the results you can expect, DocShop makes the process easy and confidential. DocShop provides an online directory of surgeons who have extensive experience performing tummy tucks on patients.

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