Abdominoplasty – As You Heal
Activity limitations following abdominoplasty
Initially you will be positioned with your hips flexed (bent at your waist). You will need to stay that way for a few days and gradually stand up. This is to take the tension off the wound at your waist. No lifting more than ten to fifteen pounds for six weeks. No strenuous activity for eight weeks to allow the tightened abdominal wall to heal. Ambulation (walking) is encouraged immediately to reduce the risk for blood clots forming in your legs. Driving will be OK when you feel that you are able to drive safely and act quickly and appropriately should a sudden emergency or road hazard arise (i.e. slam the brake, quickly turn the steering wheel to avoid an accident). You may resume sexual relations as you feel comfortable, limiting the effort expended initially so as not to be too strenuous. Strenuous activity can result in temporary elevations in blood pressure which can result in bleeding under the abdominal skin flap after surgery and this is to be avoided.
What to expect to experience after abdominoplasty?
Swelling – Surgery is a controlled form of trauma. Advances in surgical technique have dramatically reduced this trauma, but there is still some trauma to the tissues. Furthermore, natural fluid that flows through the abdominal skin can no longer drain by gravity to the lymph nodes in the pelvis because an incision was made across your waist interrupting the flow of this fluid. So due to the effect of gravity, this fluid will build up in the abdominal skin. The net result is swelling of the abdominal skin flap, mostly at the lower portionand the sides. Sometimes the swelling is very mild, sometimes it is moderate or even severe. But fear not, all swelling eventually goes away and this will too. Some patients find it useful to wear a Spanx garment after the first week to reduce swelling and give them a feeling of support.
- Water retention – This is due to the body’s natural tendency to retain water after surgery. This is due to changes in the hormones in the body responsible for water balance and this too should resolve within five to seven days or so.
- Scars – I discuss the extent of the scars in detail with my patients at the initial consultation. Just before surgery, the incisions are marked on the skin with a surgical marker as you stand in front of a mirror. I then review the location of the incisions with you so that you understand them. After surgery, when the wound begins to heal, the scars will be a thin, red line. The redness will improve with time, how soon will depend upon your genetic predisposition. I can’t think of a single surgical scar that remained red forever. They eventually will fade, although all scars are permanent and no scar is perfectly invisible. Sometimes the scar will widen, however, every attempt is made to minimize this by not removing too much abdominal skin at surgery and creating a wound under a lot of tension. I will also give you detailed instructions in scar management consisting of massage, use of topical agents and sun avoidance to optimize your appearance of your scar. This will begin three to four weeks after surgery and continue for several months afterwards. We now offer state of the art Palomar laser treatment to scars. Laser has been shown to be very helpful to reducing the duration of redness as well as the scar itself.
After four to six months, your contours should be fairly stable. I find that the vast majority of patients experience substantial improvements in their contours and patient satisfaction is extremely high after this procedure.