Tummy tuck swelling comes in various degrees depending on whether the patient has received simultaneous liposuction and muscle repair. Nevertheless, most people can expect noticeable improvement in their abdominal area after 2-3 months when most of the inflammation has subsided.
Tummy tuck swelling is primarily due to the interruption of blood vessels and lymphatic channels that occurs at the time of surgery.
More and prolonged swelling is expected when muscle repair is performed, which has become an integral part of tummy tuck as it “holds” the new contour and minimizes to some extent the impact of unintended pregnancy and weight gain, as suggested by leading Orange County plastic surgery expert Dr. Tarick Smiley.
In addition to the actual swelling in the soft tissue, the postop swelling is also caused by fluid accumulation between the abdominal wall and the skin. For this reason, some surgeons recommend lymphatic drainage massage, which involves gentle pressure techniques to eliminate the waste fluids (seroma and hematoma) from the affected area.
Some doctors allow their patients to start their lymphatic drainage massage one week postop, while others feel that waiting at least 2-3 weeks is more ideal.
Furthermore, the use of medical-grade compression garments is believed to control tummy tuck swelling. Some proponents even suggest wearing them round the clock for the first two weeks postop.
The goal of compression garments is to prevent seromas or fluid accumulations and ultimately encourage the skin to heal smoothly and evenly.
As previously stated, most of the swelling will resolve after 2-3 weeks. But if it remains persistent beyond this period, it might be caused by the unintended separation of the sutures that hold the abdominal muscle in place. To prevent this complication that warrants a revision surgery, Dr. Smiley says he prefers making “individual stitches,” as opposed to “one long running suturing” technique, when performing muscle repair.
With the use of individual permanent stitches, the risk of muscle separation is almost eliminated, explains the celebrity plastic surgeon.
Another possible cause of persistent tummy tuck swelling is the presence of fat, which can be diagnosed on physical examination. Again, this can be avoided with proper surgical execution and possibly the use of simultaneous liposuction, says Dr. Smiley.