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If you’re interested in having a tummy tuck, you’re likely wondering what the tummy tuck recovery process is like. We’ll help you understand the details of what to expect, as well as give you some tummy tuck recovery tips. Here are some frequently asked questions our tummy tuck patients often have.

What kind of bandages will I have during my tummy tuck recovery?

When you have a tummy tuck, you will have bandages and may have drain tubes. These thin tubes allow fluid to drain from your body, promoting healing and preventing the build-up of fluid near your incision. We will teach you or a friend/family member how to empty these tubes before you go home to recover. We will also schedule an appointment for you to come back and have the drains removed. In most cases you will also be wrapped in a compression garment after a tummy tuck. This compression is important because it helps reduce bruising and swelling, and can aid skin in tightening.

Can I smoke after a tummy tuck?

Smoking right after a tummy tuck can be very dangerous, and we ask that you refrain from smoking during recovery. Smoking slows down the healing process, and your body will be working to recover from a substantial operation. People who smoke are shown to have a higher chance of wound infection, and slower recovery of both muscle and skin. Additionally, smoking can make you cough which is something we want to avoid while your midsection is healing.

When can I drink alcohol after tummy tuck surgery?

After your operation you will be on prescription pain relievers, and during this time you should not drink any alcohol. Once you have stopped taking your pain medication, you can drink in moderation. Remember that your body will need a few months to heal, so the better your diet is during that time, the better your healing process will be.


Can I take a bath or shower after my surgery?

We will give you specific instructions based on your procedure, but in general you’ll be able to take a sponge bath after your tummy tuck, and shower carefully. Because you’ll be sore and may have drains in, you might not feel like showering for a few days. Since you’ll be in the recovery stage and on pain medication, it is safest to have someone help you shower at first. You may get light-headed and if you have drains in, you’ll need to keep those as dry as possible to prevent risk of infection.

Why do I look so bloated after my tummy tuck?

The reason you look or feel bloated is because of the swelling that occurs as a result of the procedure. This is very normal. Remember, a tummy tuck is a fairly serious surgery so your body needs time to heal. Within a few weeks you should see the swelling start to subside, and within 2-3 months should be seeing the positive results of your operation.

How much time should I take off work after a tummy tuck?

The amount of time you should expect to be off work depends on your type of job. If you have a job that requires little moving, like a desk job, you could be back to work in a week to 10 days. However, if your job requires physical movement or lifting, you could need a few weeks before returning to work. In general we estimate you’ll be free of restrictions within 6 weeks of your tummy tuck, but you still may have some residual swelling and soreness.

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Will I be on pain medication?

Yes, you will be given pain medication after your tummy tuck. You’ll likely continue prescription pain medication use for 5 – 7 days, at which point you will be through the worst of the recovery period. You cannot drive while you are taking this pain medication, so make sure to arrange for as much help as you need.

What kind of activities should I avoid during the tummy tuck recovery period?

During the first week after a tummy tuck, it will difficult to move around and you will not be able to stand fully upright. However, you’ll want to refrain from staying completely still because there is a risk of developing blood clots. We’ll speak to you in detail about short walks and how to move your legs to increase circulation. You should not do any lifting right after your tummy tuck. It will be about 4 weeks before you can lift 20 pounds, and 6 – 8 weeks before you have your full ability to lift.

What warning signs should I look for while I’m recovering from a tummy tuck?

While it is expected you will have some fluid coming out of your drain tubes, any sign of active bleeding is a reason to call your doctor right away. Additionally, although infections and DVTs are rare after a tummy tuck, you should look out for fever, shortness of breath, or pain in your calf. Any of these are reasons for an immediate call to your doctor, or a trip to the emergency room to rule out serious complications. We want our patients to feel confident and safe during their recovery, so do not hesitate to call us with any concerns you have.


How long after a tummy tuck can I fly on an airplane?

It is preferable to wait at least a month before you fly. A danger of flying after major surgery is the potential to develop blood clots. Ideally you can wait 6 – 8 weeks before you fly, in case you’ll have to lift heavy luggage on your trip. This is best done several months after tummy tuck surgery. If you find that you need to fly soon after surgery, call us so we can discuss potential medications to help protect you during your flight.

Tips for making the recovery process easier:

While there’s no way to avoid the necessary recovery process after a tummy tuck, there are some tips we can give you based on our experience. First, be patient with your recovery. Make sure you have help around the house during your tummy tuck recovery. Even putting away groceries will be too difficult at first. Another important tip is to go for short, slow walks as soon as you can, even around the house. These walks will improve your circulation, which can lead to better healing. They also help prevent blood clots.

Tips for setting up your recovery area:

Since you’ll have notably decreased mobility during the first week of your recovery process, you’ll want to set up your bed or sleeping area so everything you need is in easy reach. Some patients find they are more comfortable if they plan to rest and sleep in a recliner for the first few days. Wherever you decide you’ll recover, here are things to have within easy arm’s reach: thermometer to monitor for fever, cell phone and charger, paper towels, tissues, plenty of water to drink, a plain snack like low sodium saltines, your medications, and a notebook to track your medications. You’ll also want to have plenty of comfortable pillows to help support you as you rest.

If you are considering having a tummy tuck, your questions about the tummy tuck recovery process are important to us at Athenix. Please get in touch with us if you would like to set up a consultation. We’re happy to answer any additional questions you have.

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Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19 Your safety is our top priority.

To our valued patients,

I hope that you and your families have stayed healthy and well during this difficult time. We want to thank all of the essential workers that provided us with critical services during this period and also to all of you that remained at home preventing the further spread of the virus.

As we re-open our facilities our priority remains the safety and well being of our patients and staff. To that end, we have implemented a number of important safety measures at all of our facilities.

  1. All patients, staff, and caregivers will be screened via a questionnaire and temperature for Covid-19 symptoms at the front entrance.
  2. Only those individuals that pass the screening will be allowed into the facility.
  3. Patients can only bring 1 other person with them to the appointment.
  4. All patients (and caregivers) need to wear a mask while in the facility. Please bring a cloth or other mask with you to the appointment.
  5. Physical distancing will be in effect in the office waiting room and throughout the office.
  6. Once the physical distance capacity has been reached in the waiting room, patients will be asked to wait in their vehicles and will be called to come in at their appointment time.
  7. All surfaces in the office will be cleaned and disinfected at least on an hourly basis.
  8. All patient rooms will be cleaned and disinfected after each patient use.
  9. Caregivers waiting for patients after surgery will be asked to not wait in the facility.
  10. All staff will be wearing PPE in accordance with CDC guidelines.

We understand that these continue to be uncertain and difficult times however we remain committed to your health, well being, safety, and ensuring you the best outcome possible.

All Athenix locations are now open. However, as we continue to practice physical distancing, we are still available for virtual consultations at any of our locations. You can reach us by calling 1-888-276-1535 or email [email protected] to get scheduled.

We thank you for your continued support and trust in Athenix and look forward to seeing you soon.


Gavin M. Dry, M.D. Chief Medical Officer