Post Operative Care: Abdominoplasty

AFTER SURGERY

POSITION: Because abdominoplasty involves removal of the extra abdominal skin and usually tightening of the abdominal muscles, you will experience some difficulty standing up straight for a week or two or even longer. During this period, you may find it more comfortable to place a pillow or two under your knees while in bed. The tightness will gradually disappear as you heal and progressively use your body muscles for the activities of daily living. Please make no special attempt to stretch or pull the abdomen straight during the first two weeks of healing. You must change your position and walk around the house every few hours to reduce the danger of blood clots.

DRESSINGS: Occasionally, we will place an elastic abdominal binder around your tummy after surgery to provide some gentle pressure, to give you stability, and to reduce swelling. If it feels too tight or causes pain, take it off. We do not want the binder to interfere with circulation to the skin, which could cause blistering or skin loss! You may also remove it temporarily for laundry. EVERY PATIENT DOES NOT GET AN ABDOMINAL BINDER.

DRAINS: Dr. Zubowski will probably place two drains in the surgical area at the time of surgery. These drains evacuate the fluid that accumulates after surgery and enable you to heal faster. When the drain is first put in place, the bulb at the end of each tube will be compressed to create gentle suction. As the fluid collects in the bulb, it will expand. When the fluid accumulation is less than 30 cc in a 24-hour period, we will remove the drains.

DRAIN CARE: Secure the bulb of the drain to your clothing or the abdominal binder with a safety pin. Whenever the bulb fills or expands 50% or more, empty the bulb by opening the plug at the top and pouring out the contents. Do not attempt to remove the bulb from the tubing. Squeeze the bulb to recompress it, and put the plug back into the hole at the top in order to maintain the vacuum. If the bulb fills rapidly after emptying it, or you need to empty it more than 3 times a day, please call us at 201-261-7550. Dr. Zubowski or a nurse will remove the drains 5 to 10 days after surgery, when the fluid begins to turn a clear straw color and/or the amount of drainage diminishes. You may shower the day after your drains are removed. Occasionally Dr. Zubowski will allow you to shower with your drains in place. For a video demonstration on how to care for your drains, click here.

ACTIVITIES: Tummy tucks are probably the most uncomfortable operation we do. You will experience some pain for 10 to 20 days and will not feel like resuming sports or heavy exercise for at least 6 weeks. After the first 2 weeks, you may resume moderate walks for as long as it is tolerable. Too much initial activity can prolong swelling.

SUTURES: The only removable stitches you will have will be around the drain site. The rest of the sutures will dissolve on their own over the course of several weeks. You will have clear strips along the incision lines. You may get them wet and dry them as you do your own skin. If they loosen, it will not hurt to remove them.

EXPOSURE TO SUNLIGHT: We recommend that you protect your scars from the sun for a year after surgery. Even through a bathing suit, a good deal of sunlight can reach the skin and cause damage. Wear a sunscreen with a skin protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 when out in sunny weather.

LONGER TERM

ACTIVITY/SPORTS: We want you to avoid straining or any aerobic activity for at least 3 weeks after surgery. This is to avoid bleeding, bruising, and swelling. Do not resume strenuous exercise for 3 to 4 weeks. Dr. Zubowski will give you clearance to increase your activities according to the progress of your recovery.

DRIVING: You may resume driving when you feel you are able, but wait at least two days after surgery. Keep in mind that you must have full use of your reflexes. If pain will inhibit them, don’t drive!

SEXUAL ACTIVITY: You may enjoy sexual activity as your body allows with the following restriction: please reread Activity/Sports above and apply the same concept to sex.

SUN EXPOSURE: If fresh scars are exposed to the sun, they will tend to become darker and take longer to fade. Sunscreen can help. Take extra care and precautions if the area operated on is slightly numb — you may not “feel” a sunburn developing.

WORK: Follow whatever plan you and Dr. Zubowski have agreed upon.

AS YOU HEAL

TIGHTNESS: Your abdomen will feel tight for a month or longer. If you have had a muscle repair as well (the usual case), you will feel the most tightness down the center of your tummy where Dr. Zubowski has actually repaired your muscles. This hurts more than any other part of the procedure.

HEALING OF SENSORY NERVES: Usually, the skin of the abdomen remains partially or completely numb for several months or longer. Tingling, burning, or shooting pains indicate regeneration of the small sensory nerves. This feeling will disappear with time and is not cause for alarm. It may take as long as two years for sensation in your abdomen to be restored completely.

FEELING OF FULLNESS: You may pleasantly find that you feel full sooner than normal when you begin to eat regular meals.

ACTIVITIES: If your job keeps you sedentary, you may plan on returning to work in 10-14 days, with the understanding that you will still have discomfort with motion. Please discuss this with Dr. Zubowski and the nursing staff. Here again, swelling may indicate too much activity. Do not plan on resuming aerobic or strenuous exercise for about 5-6 weeks after surgery. Let your body tell you what it can do.

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