Cosmetic Surgery Tips

2 Years After Tummy Tuck

A tummy tuck, which is also called an abdominoplasty, is a permanent surgery that can give you benefits that last a long time. It is important to make changes to your lifestyle, like eating healthier and working out regularly, so that the results of the surgery last as long as possible. Over time, changes in weight can affect the results of a tummy tuck, so it is important to keep your weight steady to keep the results for life. You can get more out of your tummy tuck for years to come if you take care of your body and eat well.

After getting a tummy tuck, it is normal for some people to have a stomach that sticks out two years later. This is because visceral fat and loose muscle have built up. In these situations, patients are told to focus on losing weight to get rid of the gas and get a smaller stomach. That being said, it’s important to remember that most people will be fully healed and happy with the effects of their tummy tuck surgery. It is always best to talk to a medical professional about any worries or problems that may come up after surgery. They can give you personalized advice and direction.

2 Years After Tummy Tuck


A tummy tuck poses various risks, including:

  • Fluid accumulation beneath the skin (seroma). Drainage tubes left in place after surgery can help reduce the risk of excess fluid. Your doctor might also remove fluid after surgery using a needle and syringe.
  • Poor wound healing. Sometimes areas along the incision line heal poorly or begin to separate. You might be given antibiotics during and after surgery to prevent an infection.
  • Unexpected scarring. The incision scar from a tummy tuck is permanent, but it’s typically placed along the easily hidden bikini line. The length and visibility of the scar varies from person to person.
  • Tissue damage. During a tummy tuck, fatty tissue deep within your skin in the abdominal area might get damaged or die. Smoking increases the risk of tissue damage. Depending on the size of the area, tissue might heal on its own or require a surgical touch-up procedure.
  • Changes in skin sensation. During a tummy tuck, the repositioning of your abdominal tissues can affect the nerves in the abdominal area, and infrequently, in the upper thighs. You’ll likely feel some reduced sensation or numbness. This usually diminishes in the months after the procedure.

Like any other type of major surgery, a tummy tuck poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia.

How you prepare

You’ll talk to a plastic surgeon about a tummy tuck. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:

  • Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions. Talk about any medications you’re taking or have taken recently, as well as any surgeries you’ve had.Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications. If your desire for a tummy tuck is related to weight loss, your doctor will likely ask detailed questions about your weight gain and loss.
  • Do a physical exam. To determine your treatment options, the doctor will examine your abdomen. The doctor might also take pictures of your abdomen for your medical record.
  • Discuss your expectations. Explain why you want a tummy tuck, and what you’re hoping for in terms of appearance after the procedure. Make sure you understand the benefits and risks of the procedure, including scarring. Keep in mind that previous abdominal surgery might limit your results.

Before a tummy tuck you might also need to:

  • Stop smoking. Smoking decreases blood flow in the skin and can slow the healing process. In addition, smoking increases the risk of tissue damage. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend that you stop smoking before surgery and during recovery.
  • Avoid certain medications. You’ll likely need to avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, which can increase bleeding.
  • Maintain a stable weight. Ideally, you’ll maintain a stable weight for at least 12 months before having a tummy tuck. If you’re severely overweight, your doctor will recommend that you lose weight before the procedure. Significant weight loss after the procedure can diminish your results.
  • Arrange for help during recovery. Make plans for someone to drive you home after you leave the hospital and stay with you for at least the first night of your recovery at home.

What you can expect

A tummy tuck is done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility. During a tummy tuck, you’ll be under general anesthesia — which makes you completely unconscious and unable to feel pain. In some cases, you might be given a pain-relieving medication and be moderately sedated (partially asleep).

Before the procedure

There are a number of different procedures for a tummy tuck, depending on your goals and the extent of change you would like to see. During the typical tummy tuck, your plastic surgeon makes incisions to remove most of the skin and fat between your bellybutton and pubic hair in a horizontal oval or elliptical shape. Connective tissue (fascia) that lies over the abdominal muscles is then tightened with permanent sutures.

The amount of excess skin removed and the type of procedure you have will determine the shape and length of the incision. The incision above the pubic hair will be stitched together and will leave a scar that falls along the natural crease within the bikini line.

Your plastic surgeon will also reposition the skin around your bellybutton. Your bellybutton will be brought out through a small incision and sutured in its normal position.

During the procedure you might be given an antibiotic to prevent infection.

The procedure typically takes about two to three hours.

After the procedure

After a tummy tuck, your abdominal incision and bellybutton will likely be covered with surgical dressing. Small tubes might be placed along the incision site to drain any excess blood or fluid.

Members of your health care team will help you walk as early as the first day after a tummy tuck to help prevent the formation of blood clots.

You’ll likely be given pain medication. It’s normal to have swelling in the surgical area.

Drains might be left in place for several days after surgery. Your doctor or another member of your health care team will show you how to empty and care for your drains. You might need to continue taking an antibiotic as long as the drains are in place.

Your surgeon might also prescribe a blood-thinning medication for a short time after your tummy tuck.

You’ll wear a supportive abdominal garment (abdominal binder) for about six weeks after your tummy tuck. This helps prevent fluid buildup and provides abdominal support while you heal. Your doctor will explain how to care for your scar.

For the first six weeks after a tummy tuck, you’ll need to be careful when moving around. You’ll also need to avoid positions that strain your incision line — such as quickly bending at the waist — to prevent the reopening of the wound.

You’ll need to schedule regular follow-up visits. Ask your doctor how often you need to be seen.

upper abdominal bulging after tummy tuck

A “muffin top” refers to the protuberance of the upper abdomen which results in a protrusion (bulging outward) of the upper abdomen and concave (curving inward) lower abdomen. This contrasts to the more desirable “ideal” abdominal shape characterized by a concave upper abdomen and gentle convexity of the lower abdomen. Below is an example of a patient who underwent a tummy tuck with muscle repair by another surgeon. As you can see in the picture, her surgery resulted in a less than desirable “muffin top” appearance.

What Causes This Complication?

The question that patients consulting me for a revision tummy tuck routinely ask me is why did this happen?

To understand how this complication occurs, we have to review the anatomy and surgical maneuvers used during tummy tuck surgery. After lifting the skin of the muscles, surgeons repair them by plicating the muscles in the middle like a corset. Plicating just translates to “tightening”. This vertical tightening of the muscles is performed both above and below the belly button.

If one tightens the muscles above the belly button less than the muscles below, it can create a muffin top. Optimally, your surgeon should tighten the muscles above the belly button just slightly more than the muscles below the belly button in order to provide you the desirable concave upper abdomen and slightly convex lower abdomen.

Another possible cause of the muffin top after a tummy tuck can occur despite appropriately placed tension of the repaired muscles. Thinned out muscles and their lining causes this muffin top deformity in some patients. This occurs following muscle tightening if the increased tension makes the muscle and lining stretch out again. The medical terminology for thinned out muscles is muscle attenuation. Unfortunately, it is not possible to tell if your muscle repair will hold until after your surgery.

Tummy Tuck Revision to Repair a “Muffin Top”

We can fix a “muffin top” in two ways. If improper muscle tightening by the previous surgeon is the cause, then a revision tummy tuck will require resetting the proper tension so that the upper muscles are tightened slightly more than the bottom muscles. If the muffin top resulted from muscle attenuation, then you will require a Tri-Modality repair, which will not only tighten/repair but also reinforce your entire abdominal musculature, thereby eliminating the potential for further muscle stretch.

Pictured above, a 48-year-old mom with identified muscle attenuation who underwent the comprehensive Tri-Modality repair during her tummy tuck to avoid a post-operative “muffin top” deformity.

Are You Considering A Revision Tummy Tuck?

Are you unhappy with your results or struggling with a “muffin top” or other complications following a tummy tuck surgery? Contact Dr. Mowlavi for a free consultation to see how you can improve your results and achieve a flat, beautiful stomach. For your convenience, we have offices in Newport and Laguna Beach, CA.

muscle spasms years after tummy tuck

Tummy tuck surgery – or abdominoplasty – is a popular and highly effective way to reshape the abdominal area. A healthy diet and regular physical exercise might not be enough to repair the changes in your tummy’s appearance caused by pregnancy or massive weight loss. Pregnancy also leaves stretch marks and skin creases, resulting in skin elasticity loss, known as elastosis.

It’s important to keep in mind that tummy tuck surgery is NOT a weight loss surgery. It is a body contouring procedure that aims to resurface the abdomen and reverse the signs of aging. When performing a tummy tuck, your plastic surgeon will remove the excess skin and fat, and tighten your stomach muscles.

A normal side effect after tummy tuck is swelling, which is temporary and usually disappears within the first few weeks. However, potential infections or failure to follow the plastic surgeon’s post-operative instructions may cause swelling to persist for longer than expected.

Understanding why and how tummy tuck swelling occurs can reduce patients’ concerns and help them have realistic expectations about their tummy tuck recovery.

Tummy Tuck Recovery

Before examining the side effect of swollen abdomen, let’s see how a patient can heal better and faster after a tummy tuck or a mini tummy tuck.

As with any other type of plastic surgery, recovery after a tummy tuck takes time. Your plastic surgeon will explain exactly what to expect after the procedure. For example, it is normal to have a bulge in the lower abdomen during the first days after the operation.

The doctor will probably recommend using a light compression belt to help reduce swelling and other possible complications. The post-surgical garment should be worn day and night for up to six weeks.

Typically, the recovery period lasts for at least two weeks, but you should wait another four weeks before starting to work out again. Without your plastic surgeon’s approval, you should not engage in any physical activity – particularly abdominal exercises.

What Causes Tummy Tuck Swelling? Is It Normal?

Swelling in the lower abdominal area after tummy tuck surgery is an absolutely normal and expected part of the healing process.

Tummy tuck surgery causes changes to the patient’s lymphatic drainage system. In particular, the plastic surgeon pulls tight the abdominal skin and relocates it in a new position, similar to a facelift. As a result, the blood vessels and lymphatic vessels in the area that used to drain fluid upwards are now divided.

New lymphatic connections will form with time, but fluid cannot be drained through the lymphatic drainage vessels until then. Instead, it flows down with gravity. In addition, scar tissue stops the fluid from migrating. This fluid buildup that makes the tummy area grow larger is known as swelling or edema.

The extent of swelling may also depend on the type of tummy tuck surgery. A mini tummy tuck usually results in less swelling and recovery time than a traditional tummy tuck. Moreover, combining a tummy tuck surgery with liposuction in the abdomen or other parts of the body often produces more swelling in the affected areas.

Another thing to keep in mind is that pain medications also play a part in producing swelling in the abdomen. Pain medications may slow down the gastrointestinal tract and cause constipation and bloating. This is only temporary, though, and resolves when the patient no longer needs the medication.

How Long Do You Stay Swollen After A Tummy Tuck?

The patient’s abdominal area is visibly swollen over the first few days after tummy tuck surgery. The area around the scars is usually where swelling persists for longer.Minor swelling continues to exist in the area for around two months, but its extent depends on the patient’s aftercare routine and daily activities. For example, standing up for long hours will probably cause the abdominal muscles to grow large again. However, a good night’s sleep will help reduce swelling and speed up recovery.In some cases, minor swelling can persist up to one year after surgery, but most patients have gotten rid of the “bloating” feelings and appearance after 18 months.

Stages of Swelling after Tummy Tuck

Many patients are worried about lower belly swelling after a tummy tuck. Hence, we created the below list to shed light on this common concern of tummy tuck candidates and patients.

Swelling 3 Weeks after Tummy Tuck

As with any other surgical procedure, swelling after tummy tuck is typical to occur in the lower abdominal area. Three weeks after surgery, most patients feel very swollen and even experience hardness around the belly button.

Swelling 3 Months after Tummy Tuck

Noticeable swelling in the lower belly area should start subsiding three months after tummy tuck surgery. Yet, mild swelling and puffiness are normal to still be present in the area.

Swelling 6 Months after Tummy Tuck

Many patients experience persistent minor bloating even 6 months after tummy tuck surgery. A reason for this might be that patients spend long hours standing. However, a “good night’s sleep” will help improve the abdomen’s swollen appearance.

Swelling 8, 9 or 10 Months after Tummy Tuck

Most swelling should have been resolved between 8 and 10 months after the tummy tuck. Yet, fluid retention due to diet and salt intake might be the reason behind a still swollen belly. Patients who experience a bloated upper or lower abdomen 10 months after tummy tuck surgery should contact their doctor and have him/her re-examine them.

Swelling 1 Year after Tummy Tuck

Post-surgical swelling diminishes gradually over a year to a year and a half after a tummy tuck. However, there is no specific time schedule for each individual’s recovery. If swelling seems unusual to the patient, then it is time to consult with their plastic surgeon.

Swelling 2 Years after Tummy Tuck

A protruding stomach appearance 2 years after a tummy tuck might be down to visceral fat and loose muscle. In such cases, patients need to lose weight to reduce the bloating that is still present. A visit to the plastic surgeon for further assessment or a second opinion might help.

Being patient and following your plastic surgeon’s aftercare instructions is the key to effectively resolve swelling and puffiness after a traditional tummy tuck or a mini tummy tuck. Patients with a strong immune system, who stick to their doctor’s post-operative care instructions, heal faster and better.

If you had your tummy tuck surgery at the European Institute of Plastic Surgery (EIPS), Dr. Stavrou would always be eager to answer all your questions during and in between your follow-up visits.

How To Reduce Swelling After A Tummy Tuck

Wearing a compression garment as directed by the plastic surgeon is one of the most crucial steps of post-operative care that speeds up the recovery process and helps relieve feelings of discomfort.

The patient should avoid any strenuous exercise and excessive movement after surgery. A good idea would be to go shopping before the surgery to ensure there is plenty of food, water and anything else they might need at home during the first days of healing.

Even though swelling is a natural part of the recovery process, here are 10 doctor-approved tips that can help reduce the severity of swelling after a tummy tuck.

Tummy Tuck Combined with Liposuction or A Mommy Makeover

Patients who choose to combine a tummy tuck with liposuction or a Mommy Makeover should expect more persistent swelling in the affected areas. Again, it is normal for the healing process to last longer for patients who underwent a combination of plastic surgeries.

However, most women find it worth the swelling, as this combination of procedures resculpts the body beautifully, leaving a firmer, more pleasing silhouette. Apart from a tummy tuck, Mommy Makeover may also include an arm lift, breast lift, and liposuction of the abdomen and thighs.

Can a tummy tuck come undone years later

By leading a reasonably active lifestyle and eating a healthy and nutritious diet, your tummy tuck results could last for a lifetime. Of course, the opposite is also true: if you become inactive or make food choices that are known to cause health and weight problems, you can quickly undo the results of your procedure.

So, exactly how long do tummy tucks last? As long as you are willing to make the effort to maintain your results.

What Does a Tummy Tuck Do?

During tummy tuck surgery, lumpy fat deposits are removed from the abdomen, loose and sagging skin is excised, and the muscles of the abdominal wall are brought back together. This process radically changes the dimensions and appearance of the entire midsection.

Tightening the abdominal wall draws in the waist and tones belly. In cases of diastasis recti, this can help prevent herniation and chronic back pain as well. Weight gain and pregnancy can easily separate these muscles again. Maintaining tummy tuck results requires not gaining significant amounts of weight.

Liposuction removes stubborn fat deposits to reveal underlying muscle. Eliminating unnecessary skin allows for a taught and smooth appearance, helping to enhance the definition of newly uncovered muscle. As with the tightening of abdominal muscles, weight gain will “undo” these results.

Abdominoplasty is “Permanent”

Once subcutaneous fat has been removed, it cannot grow back. New fat can accumulate, however. If too much new fat begins to accumulate, the skin will stretch to accommodate the increasing bulk. If weight gain is excessive, abdominal muscles may separate as well, as visceral fat (the dangerous kind) envelops the organs and expands the middle portion of the body.

Barring genetic factors and the gradual slowing of our metabolism as we age, weight gain is largely avoidable – especially when it comes to excessive weight gain. As such, maintaining your tummy tuck results is mostly up to you.

To maintain your results, eat a healthy diet and commit to leading a healthy lifestyle. If you struggle with these things, it can be helpful to work with a dietitian and personal trainer following your tummy tuck recovery. During your time in our care, we can discuss this in greater detail to help you plan accordingly.

To schedule your initial consultation with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons, please call 650-934-7020 today. Located in Los Altos, Altos Oaks Plastic Surgery serves San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and all surrounding areas of California.

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