Recovery from an abdominoplasty has unique features that are different from other cosmetic operations. These are aspects of recovery that I see commonly, but they are not often reviewed in the medical literature. On my web page, there are specific recovery instructions for an abdominoplasty so the patient can know exactly what to expect. This includes writings on DVT or clot prevention, and how to care for and handle your drains. Click here. This educational writing focuses on signs and symptoms that many patients experience. They are actually common. But because they are not serious, they aren’t frequently described. This was written at the request of a patient from Baltimore, MD.
Bloating and Distention
Bloating, gas pains, and abdominal distention are common features of tummy tuck recovery. Taking pain medication is part of the reason this is seen as it can effect intestinal motility or movement. The medication can cause constitution also. But what I have found unique is the bloating is more visible because the stomach is flatter and excess tissue has been removed with an abdominoplasty.
It’s normal to experience bloating in life. Just eat too many beans and you will feel the bloating. But patients after a tummy tuck will say they see it. This is because normally the extra skin and fat hide the bloating and gas we might get after certain foods. With the removal of this excess skin and fat the abdomen is flatter, thinner, and more sculpted. With this smaller abdomen, the gas bloating is now more visible and can be seen at times. This is normal and you should not worry about it. It improves over time and is not a medical problem. It’s good to know about it in case you experience it.
Paresthesias are abnormal sensations after surgery. They can be described as electric shock, tingling, vibrations, water trickling on the skin, bug feelings, and many other unusual feelings. Paresthesias are very common after surgery. Many people will say it’s the nerves “waking up.” These sensations or symptoms are common, and you should not be alarmed. But they can be surprising at how strong they are. They happen after all types of operations including breast augmentation, liposuction, face lifts, and rhinoplasty. After tummy tucks, patients should be aware of the potential for these feelings. They go away over months and essentially are never permanent.
The tummy tuck operation is often associated with back pain. After this operation, it is common to have longer periods of time in bed. Too much time in bed can irritate the back. Even though it is recommended to get up and move around to minimize DVT or clot risks, it is frequently seen that patients will feel back pain. You can’t sleep on your stomach and sleeping on the side is difficult, so these can aggravate back issues.
During the abdominoplasty recovery it’s recommended to walk slightly bent over to take tension off the incision. This bending at the waist can further worsen back pain. The pain is not permanent, and most don’t have these symptoms. The abdominal garment worn to help the stomach heal will help with any back issues or symptoms. Heating pads and other forms of heat application to the back is strictly forbidden during the recovery process. The numbness associated with surgery and the Pain-Buster can diminish the ability to detect heat. Burns can occur in rare circumstances. As I have said, no heat application of any type. Treatment for the back pain is the abdominal garment, standing straight, Motrin, and walking. The pain is usually minor and goes away in a short period of time.
Numbness is common after many cosmetic operations. For example, after a face lift it’s normal to have numbness in the cheek area. After liposuction as well, it’s common to have associated numbness in the area treated. As far as a tummy tuck, essentially all patients will have stomach numbness. This is the nerves healing from the operation. It is most severe in the first 4-8 weeks. It gradually resolves over 6-12 months. This numb feeling is one of the reasons we should not apply heat to any surgical area. Heating pads as described above can injure the skin and are contraindicated. The numbness is minor and gradually goes away.
Learning about the recovery from an abdominoplasty is important. Most educational sources will focus on pain management, drainage tubes, and activity. These topics are essential to learn about to recover well. However, during the healing process some patients will experience unusual signs and symptoms that can be frustrating. These include bloating and distention, paresthesias, back pain, and numbness. These problems and feelings are very common, and you should not worry. They are minor and more of a nuisance than a real problem or complication. They resolve slowly over months.
I specialize in cosmetic surgery. Tummy tucks are one of my favorite operations. Please come in for a complete and thorough consultation.