How long does the swelling last after getting a tummy tuck?

I'm 11 days post-op and my swelling still doesn't show any signs of going down. How long until the majority of the swelling goes away?


F, 41, Maryland

Swelling can linger for some time after abdominoplasty as it’s one of the more invasive plastic surgery procedures. Liposuction is often included as part of a tummy tuck and can cause trauma to the surrounding fat, blood vessels and nerves, also contributing to the swelling.

Some individuals experience more pronounced swelling than others as there are many variables that affect the body's healing response: for example, the extent of procedure, high blood pressure, age, weight, general health, the amount of time taken to rest and recover following surgery, and the frequency with which you use your compression garment.

Initial swelling following an abdominoplasty may be due to a seroma, particularly if drains were not used (but also if drains were used and removed), and should be checked by your surgeon.

Swelling is an entirely normal and common consequence of surgery as your body heals and repairs the wound. It’s generally most noticeable approximately two to three months after surgery. After this period, there will still be some puffiness around the abdomen that may take up to one year to completely subside.

While being patient and allowing your body to move through the various stages of healing is obviously important, there are still things you can and should do to encourage swelling to dissipate more quickly.

You are still in the early stages of your recovery, so the swelling is likely to be fairly pronounced. You may find it useful to apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas to help ease swelling and inflammation. Make sure you wear an abdominal girdle or compression garment for the first five or six weeks post-op at the very minimum: you should be wearing the garment 24/7 for the first week, and for half-days thereafter.

The compression garment dramatically reduces puffiness and swelling, accelerates your recovery, and also helps to hold your new abdominal contours in place. Avoid a high-sodium diet as this prevents excess water retention. Avoid any strenuous exercise for the first three to four weeks after surgery as this can exacerbate swelling and place strain on your incision.

Finally, check in regularly with your surgeon as you are recovering. Direct any questions to him or her so that any issues or concerns you may have can be addressed immediately.

Dr. Frederic Corbin has 2 Tummy tuck before & afters:

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Recovery from surgery is a process that happens in stages. Swelling is one of the most common side effects of an invasive surgery such as abdominoplasty, and is a sign that your body is healing. Swelling promotes healing by bringing increased fluids such as proteins to the surgical site.

  • The extent to which you experience swelling depends on:
  • The extent of your tummy tuck surgery (length of your incision);
  • If liposuction was included as part of your procedure;
  • The amount of physical activity you engage in during the postoperative period;
  • The extent to which you wear your compression garment to help reduce swelling;
  • Your diet (excessive salt, for example, causes fluid retention);
  • Alcohol consumption.

You will most likely notice that your swelling changes throughout your recovery. Swelling initially occurs in the immediate postoperative period and will most likely peak three months after surgery. This is because the scar tissue also peaks around this time, which can prevent the fluid from migrating downwards. As the scar tissue matures and flattens, fluid can travel more efficiently from the surgical site and swelling diminishes.

After three months you should see you a significant improvement in your swelling. It will be much less evident and slowly continue improving from that point onwards. All swelling should subside after one year, although in some patients it can take up to 18 months for the swelling to completely dissipate.

If you have any concerns about your healing process I suggest you seek medical advice from your surgeon.

Generally speaking, tummy tuck recovery takes a few months. As your body heals, abdominal swelling is an inevitable part of the process.

By the end of the first 3 month period, you should see most of the major swelling go down. By the end of the second 3 month period you should look almost normal. And after 12 months you should be able to see your final results. Keep in mind there are multiple variables that may reduce or prolong your recovery time. For example, if you had lipo as part of your tummy tuck operation it's possible your healing time will be longer.

At the 2 week mark it's not uncommon to appear a little less swollen in the morning, but experience increased swelling later in the day.

Make sure to keep your plastic surgeon informed about your recovery and to consult with him or her about the specifics of your case.

It’s possible you will need to have lymphatic massage or lymphatic drainage if excess fluid begins to collect between your skin and your abdominal wall. Your plastic surgeon should advise you on whether this or any other steps will be necessary over your recovery period.

Dr. Landon Pryor has 2 Liposuction, Tummytuck before & afters:

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Great question. Most of the swelling from a tummy tuck typically subsides within the first 2-3 months, but it's not uncommon for the swelling to last up to 12 months.

Since I'm not your physician and don’t know any of the specifics of your case, I obviously can't answer your question directly -- but I wouldn't expect to see much dramatic improvement so soon. You're still very early in your recovery period. Tummy tuck surgery is one of the most invasive cosmetic surgeries we perform, and the recovery process can be slow.

As with all plastic surgery, healing times vary from person to person. Your recovery time will depend on the specifics of your procedure, your age, your weight, your diet, your sleeping position and whether or not you consume alcohol.

Remember that all post-operative swelling is a natural part of the body's healing process. It's normal to experience swelling and bruising during the post-op period.

Wearing compression garments for the first 5 to 6 weeks can help reduce swelling. I typically advise my tummy tuck patients to wear their garment 24 hours a day for the first week following surgery, and for half-days during the rest of their recovery period -- particularly when they exercise.

You should start to see a dramatic improvement by the end of the third month. We typically tell patients to expect final results around the 1 year mark, but you should see a 90% recovery after 6 months or so.

Be sure to maintain contact with your plastic surgeon throughout your recovery process.

And always consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Dr. Jonathan Heistein has 11 Tummy Tuck before & afters:

Tummy Tuck before image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinTummy Tuck after image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinTummy Tuck before image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinTummy Tuck after image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinTummy Tuck before image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinTummy Tuck after image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinTummy Tuck before image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinTummy Tuck after image performed by Dr. Jonathan Heistein

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Significant postoperative swelling is normal following abdominoplasty. When the tummy tuck is performed, the removal of excess skin and fat and subsequent lifting and pulling of skin can disrupt the body's lymphatic drainage. In addition, the body releases chemical mediators as a response to injury: two factors that cause swelling to occur.

The amount of swelling a patient experiences and its duration depends on the individual and the specificities of their surgery: for example, more swelling is associated with tummy tucks that include liposculpture.

Diet, sleep position, compression garments, and general health and wellbeing will all influence the rate at which the swelling subsides. Some plastic surgeons also insist on the use of drains in the immediate postoperative period, draining excess fluid away from the incision.

In the first few weeks after surgery the swelling can appear particularly bad; this may actually be due to bloating in the lower abdomen. Bloating is a common side effect of pain meds, which can cause constipation. A high-fiber diet and plenty of water can help during this time.

Most tummy tuck patients notice a dramatic improvement in their healing after 12 weeks, at which point swelling also begins to subside. However, it can take up to 18 months before all swelling is completely resolved. Maintain contact with your surgeon and check in with him or her regularly to ensure your recovery is progressing as planned. If you experience any unusual swelling or pain, be sure to contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Postoperative swelling and bruising is a natural part of the body's healing process. Swelling varies from person to person, but most abdominoplasty patients find that the majority of their swelling subsides after two to three months. It can take up to a year before all swelling has completely resolved and your final results are apparent.

At just 11 days after surgery, it’s normal to be experiencing significant swelling. Swelling or edema occurs as the body directs fluid and white blood cells into the area of inflammation or injury. The best thing you can do to reduce swelling is to follow your surgeon's postoperative guidelines to assist your body in its recovery.

Because fluid collects there, soft tissue swelling is likely to be more pronounced directly above the stitch line in the lower center part of the tummy. The dispersion of this fluid is hindered by the raised scar tissue of the wound. As such, the affected area may remain puffy even while swelling along the stitch line improves.

There is a range of things you can do to accelerate healing and minimize swelling:

Wear the compression garment recommended by your surgeon.
Sleep in a reclined position with waist bent and legs elevated if possible.
Practice massage therapy using lymphatic drainage techniques to reduce swelling and promote blood circulation. Your surgeon can guide you regarding technique.
Avoid strenuous exercise for five to six weeks.
Avoid tight clothing as it can restrict blood flow to the swollen area.

If you feel that your swelling is excessive, however, it may be a seroma, which is a collection of fluid between the skin and muscles. On touch, it could either cause a fluid wave or a ripple. Seroma may require drainage so if you’re uncertain you should contact a medical professional.

At this early stage of your recovery, my main advice is to be patient. It will take time for swelling to subside and your body to heal. Tummy tuck surgery is one of the more invasive cosmetic procedures and the recovery process can be lengthy, however, the often beautiful results you will enjoy upon healing are worth it.

Dr. Neil Zemmel has 5 Tummy tuck before & afters:

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Surgical swelling of tissues may take 2-3 moths to completely disappear.  Seroma is a fluid collection, not swelling, so you have to make your your surgeon doesn't think you have a seroma.

Tummy tuck and swelling can take many months to settle. I think that majority will go down within 2-3 months, but some swelling may persist for 6 months to a year.

I tell my patients that 60% will be gone by 3 months, 90% by 6 months and 100%+/- by 1 year but you can still see changes after 2 years.

You need to be patient for the swelling. Compression may help.

Different times for different techniques. If the procedure was done with a lot of liposuction then it can take up to three months. Shouldn't you be discussing this with your surgeon?

Dr. Donald Kress has 1 Liposuction, Tummytuck before & after:

Liposuction, Tummytuck before image performed by Dr. Donald KressLiposuction, Tummytuck after image performed by Dr. Donald Kress

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There are many variables but the rage is 3 to 6 months. 

Dr. Darryl Blinski has 1 Tummy Tuck before & after:

Tummy Tuck before image performed by Dr. Darryl BlinskiTummy Tuck after image performed by Dr. Darryl Blinski

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The majority of the swelling usually resolves within the first month or so but you may still have residual swelling for 6-8 months post-operatively especially if liposuction was performed at the same time.  Hope you love your result!