Here’s What Happens When You Get a Tummy Tuck Procedure

People get plastic surgery for all kinds of reasons. If they want a more refined-looking nose, they can get a rhinoplasty. If they want to reduce the appearance of aging or wrinkles, they can get a facelift. And if they want a flatter, more toned abdomen, they can get a tummy tuck procedure. Unlike some cosmetic surgeries, though, there are a few requirements that you have to fulfill in order to be a suitable candidate for the surgery. For instance, the procedure should only be done after putting in some work through diet and exercise. After all, a tummy tuck can be a pretty drastic surgery; it shouldn’t be treated like a cure-all for perceived physical shortcomings. This is the kind of thing that an expert, like plastic surgeon Dr. Lahar of Beverly Hills, would bring up during a consultation. If you’re considering a tummy tuck yourself, here’s a summary of what your options are, and what you can expect during and after the procedure. 

Is a tummy tuck always invasive?

Even if you’re just getting a mini tummy tuck, it’s still considered invasive. After all, it involves both liposuction and the removal of excess skin; there’s a lot of stuff being moved around during the surgery.

  • Mini tummy tucks will result in the least scarring among the three options. There’s generally only one, and it’ll be a horizontal scar that’s easily hidden beneath underwear or a bikini.
  • Full tummy tucks are a sizeable step up, with a scar that usually goes from one hip to the other. This procedure often involves an incision that circles your belly button, but typically the plastic surgeon will remove the excess skin and construct a new belly button; with a skilled plastic surgeon you won’t even be able to tell the difference.

Extended tummy tucks are usually received by people who’ve achieved drastic weight loss, and have large amounts of loose skin as a result. They’ll have loose skin on the abdomen, as well as (possibly) on the chest, back, buttocks, and flanks. In addition to the horizontal incision, there may be a vertical one as well. 

There are three different kinds of tummy tuck

The kind you get will be determined by how much fat and loose skin needs to be removed; this will also influence how long the recovery period lasts.

  • Mini tummy tucks target the belly button area, and are less invasive than the other options. They’re great if you only have a little extra to tighten up on your abdomen.
  • Full tummy tucks target a broader area, both above and below the belly button.
  • Extensive tummy tucks are used for anyone with larger amounts of loose skin or excess fat that covers the entire midsection; they may also extend around to the back if needed.

As you can see, there’s a huge amount of variation in the scope of a tummy tuck. It could be a small scar that’s just a few inches long, or a scar that almost extends around the entire waist. Regardless of which one you get, though, it has to be treated with care afterwards to avoid complications.

Tummy tuck recovery week by week

Regardless of the extent of the tummy tuck, you can count on spending at least two weeks doing very little. By around the eight-week mark, you should be able to get back to normal. Here’s an overview of what to expect during each week of recovery; it’ll mainly apply to people who’ve received a full tummy tuck, so adjust as needed if you’re considering a different type of tummy tuck.

  • Week 1 – Some people talk about “discomfort” while recovering from a tummy tuck, but make no mistake – it isn’t discomfort, it’s pain. The doctor will prescribe you pain medication, of course, but you’ll still feel the effects of the surgery whenever you cough, sneeze, laugh, or make any sudden movement. You’ll probably have tubes placed in the incision that will help drain it; those will only stay for about a week. Compression garments will also be a fact of life for a while, as they’re important for reducing swelling. 
  • Week 2 – You should be perking up a bit at this point, but don’t take that as permission to start doing stuff; you still need plenty of rest. You might be able to switch from prescription medication to an OTC option – avoid those with aspirin. If your recovery is going well, the doctor may give you the go-ahead to start working again by the two-week mark. Only if you have a desk job, though; anything involving physical effort is still off the table.
  • Week 3 – Your pain should be pretty much gone at this point, but you should still use the compression garment to reduce swelling. 
  • Week 4 – Light physical activity is usually permitted by the end of this week, but again, don’t assume that you’re ready for anything just because you’re feeling better. If you experience a pulling sensation or numbness it might be worth mentioning to your doctor, but don’t freak out – that’s normal at this stage of recovery. 

Don’t forget to plan ahead!

Think about all the things you won’t be able to do (grocery shopping, meal prep, picking people up or dropping them off, work responsibilities, etc.) and make sure they’ll be taken care of while you’re out of commission. You can stock up on dry goods, put some meals in the freezer, and delegate other responsibilities to friends, family members, and co-workers. The first couple of weeks of recovering from plastic surgery should take up most, if not all of your time and effort, so don’t try to powerhouse your way through your usual responsibilities!

The takeaway

When considering a tummy tuck, it’s important to have realistic expectations; it could take as long as six months for the swelling to totally disappear. If you’re willing to go through the long and painful recovery process, though, you could get the results you’ve always dreamed of. 



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