How Long Are You At Risk For Blood Clot After Tummy Tuck

Blood clots are a possible complication for those who have had a stomach tuck procedure. There is a risk of life-threatening blood clots after belly tuck surgery. This is particularly true if you smoke cigarettes or use birth control pills, both of which increase your chance of developing blood clots.

Those who smoke should give up the habit before undergoing surgery. If you are currently on oral contraceptives and need to have surgery, you should discuss with your doctor the possibility of switching to another form of contraception. Factor V Leiden and Prothrombin G20210A are both hereditary conditions that put you at a higher risk. Talk to your doctor about taking medicine to prevent blood clots during pregnancy if you have one of these diseases and are intending on becoming pregnant shortly after your stomach tuck.

In this post, we provide the greatest and most up-to-date information on How long are you at risk for blood clot after stomach tuck, which we realize you may have a hard time finding elsewhere on the internet. Tummy tuck risk factors for blood clots. read to know more about How To Prevent Blood Clots After Liposuction and Tummy Tuck Risks Of Death.

How Long Are You At Risk For Blood Clot After Tummy Tuck

Surgery is one of the major causes of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of your body, often in your leg.

Clots happen when blood thickens and sticks together. That can be a good thing when it prevents you from bleeding, but not so much when a clot forms inside your blood vessels. Sometimes, one can travel to your lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE), and it can be life-threatening if it blocks blood flow.

While a clot can form after any type of procedure, you’re more likely to get one if you’ve had major surgery, particularly on your abdomen, pelvis, hips, or legs.

Some specific operations that come with a high risk for DVT and PE are:

  • Knee or hip replacement
  • Peripheral and coronary artery bypass
  • Surgery to remove cancer
  • Neurosurgery
  • Surgery on your abdomen
  • Other major operations

Why It Happens

These and other surgeries raise your risk for DVT because you often stay in bed for long periods of time while you recover. When you stop moving, blood flows more slowly in your deep veins, which can lead to a clot.  Other surgery–related factors that may increase your risk for blood clots  include:

  • How extensive or long the procedure was
  • The way you had to be positioned during surgery
  • The type of anesthesia used

You’re most likely to get a clot between 2 and 10 days after your surgery, but your odds remain high for about 3 months.

You may have a greater chance of DVT after surgery when you:

  • Smoke
  • Had DVT in the past
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have close family members with DVT
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a disorder that affects your blood or veins
  • Are older
  • Use certain medicines, including birth control and hormone therapy
  • Have specific types of cancer

During Surgery

Sometimes, the surgery itself can cause a blood clot. Long procedures where you’re lying on the operating table for many hours allow your blood to settle and pool, which makes it easier to clot. Major surgeries like cancer and heart bypass operations tend to take longer, which is one reason they’re higher risk for DVT.

Tissue, debris, fat, or collagen could get released into your blood system during an operation, making blood thicker around those particles. Blood clots can also form if your veins are damaged during an operation.

Surgeries that involve scraping or cutting into a bone, such as a hip replacement, may release substances known as antigens. These antigens trigger your body’s immune system and can lead to clots.

Symptoms to Watch For

Only about half of people who get DVT have symptoms.

Let your doctor know right away if you have any signs of DVT or PE:

  • Pain or tenderness in your leg
  • Swelling or warmth in your leg
  • Red or discolored skin on your leg
  • Veins that stick out
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Painful breathing

How to Help Prevent DVT Before Surgery

If you smoke, quit. Work on getting rid of any extra pounds you’re carrying, too. Talk to your doctor if you need help with kicking the habit or losing weight.

How to Lower Your Chances for DVT After Surgery

While you’re recovering at the hospital, it’s important to keep your blood moving to lower your chances for blood clots. The DVT prevention plan your doctor makes for you might include:

Blood thinner medicines. These are also called anticoagulants. They make it harder for your blood cells to stick together and form clots. You take them by mouth, shot, or through an IV.

Doctors don’t prescribe blood thinners after all surgeries, because they can cause excessive bleeding. Your doctor will decide if they’re right for you. You can ask them to explain the benefits and risks.

Simple movements. These can improve blood flow. Depending on the type of surgery you had, your care team might suggest gentle exercises like:

  • Leg lifts while you’re in bed
  • Moving your feet in a circle or up and down about 10 times an hour while you’re sitting in a chair or lying in bed
  • Squeezing your calf and thigh muscles regularly



If you got your hip or knee replaced, your doctor might have you start working with a physical therapist the day after surgery.

You might need to take pain medicine so you can exercise comfortably.

If you can’t exercise after major surgery, ask your doctor if someone on your care team should massage your lower legs and move your legs through range-of-motion exercises.

Getting mobile. A nurse will help you get out of bed to move around as soon as possible after surgery. It’s good for your blood flow.

Elastic compression stockings. Your doctor may recommend these to help keep your blood flowing and to stop it from pooling in your veins, which could cause clots to form. Compression stockings fit snugly and may feel uncomfortable at first, but you may get used to them after you wear them a few times.

Compression device. This type of gadget applies pressure to your legs to get blood moving and prevent clots. They have names like “sequential compression device” or “intermittent pneumatic compression” device.

Your care team wraps plastic sleeves around your legs, and a connected pump inflates and deflates them. Take the sleeves off before you walk somewhere (like to the bathroom) so you don’t trip and fall. Your care team can help you remove them if you need a hand.

How to Help Prevent DVT Once You’re Home

Follow these tips after you leave the hospital and start recovering at home:

If your doctor gave you blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants), keep taking it exactly as prescribed. Ask the doctor or a pharmacist if you should avoid certain foods or drinks while you’re on the medicine. Also ask what to do if you accidentally skip a dose. 

If your doctor wants you to use compression stockings, make sure they tell you often and how long to wear them. Check your legs and feet for redness or sores each time you take the stockings off. Call the doctor right away if you notice changes in your skin.

If the doctor wants you to use a compression device at home, follow their instructions on how to do so exactly. They’ll tell you how long and how often to use it. Remember to take the device’s sleeves off before you walk around.

Follow your doctor’s instructions on getting active again. Your doctor may keep certain activities off-limits at first. But in general, move as much as you can to keep your blood flowing.

If your care team had you doing gentle movement exercises in bed or in a chair at the hospital, keep doing these at home. You could also ask a loved one to help you move your arms and legs while you’re in bed or if you need to use a wheelchair.

How do you prevent blood clots after a tummy tuck?

Tummy tucks and body lifts can be life-changing procedures. The removal of skin and fat excess along with tightening of the abdominal wall can reverse many of the problems that occur following childbirth and/or weight loss. But make no mistake: even though tummy tucks and body lifts are cosmetic surgeries, they are still surgery. And every surgery has risks.

The most serious risk of any excisional body contouring procedure is blood clots. Due to the immobility associated with any major surgery (especially one that temporarily makes it more difficult to walk), there is a risk of blood clots forming in leg veins (deep venous thrombosis). If a clot “breaks off” and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, it can suddenly and seriously impair oxygen exchange. This life-threatening condition is called a pulmonary embolus. It requires immediate treatment with blood thinners (to dissolve the clot) and oxygen.

Every plastic surgeon and plastic surgery patient should take these risks very seriously. The question: what can we do to prevent blood clots following tummy tuck and circumferential body contouring (body lift)? We have a protocol:

  1. DO NOT smoke for at least one month before surgery and one month after surgery. Smoking causes constriction of blood vessels, impairing blood flow and oxygenation. Smoking greatly increases your risk of blood clots (even if you are not undergoing surgery).
  2. DO NOT use contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy for at least one week before surgery and one week after surgery. These substances can increase your risk of blood clots (even if you are not undergoing surgery).
  3. DO walk regularly after surgery. Every time you want to eat or use the restroom, you must have a family member or friend help you to the kitchen or the bathroom. Regular meals in bed are just a bad idea. Walking helps pump blood through your leg veins, preventing clots from forming.
  4. DO use SCDs. Sequential compression devices (SCDs) are mechanical pumps that intermittently compress the leg veins, promoting circulation by simulating walking. We place these on all patients undergoing surgery in our nationally-accredited surgical facility, the West Plano Plastic Surgery Center. We send abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and body lifting patients home with an SCD machine for the first few days to further reduce the risk of blood clots. I do not know of any other surgeon or surgery center that does this routinely, and I sincerely believe that they should.
  5. DO consider anticoagulants. Anticoagulants (blood thinners) can significantly reduce the risk of blood clots. Unlike #s 1 to 4 above, they do increase the risk of postoperative bleeding, so they must be used with caution. For example, I will not use an anticoagulant in a patient who bleeds excessively during surgery. However, in most patients undergoing excisional body contouring, I begin low dose Lovenox (low molecular weight heparin) in the first 24 hours after surgery and continue its use daily for a week.

With this protocol in place over the past five years, we have not experienced a single clotting-or bleeding-episode in a tummy tuck or body lift patient.

We want you to look great after surgery. But first and foremost, we want you to be safe!

How much movement after surgery to prevent blood clots?

In the days and weeks after surgery, you have a higher chance of developing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is a condition in which a blood clot or thrombus develops in a deep vein. They are most common in the leg. But a DVT may develop in an arm or another deep vein in the body. A piece of the clot, called an embolus, can separate from the vein and travel to the lungs. A blood clot in the lungs is called a pulmonary embolus (PE). This can cut off the flow of blood to the lungs. It’s a medical emergency and may cause death.

Healthcare providers use the term venous thromboembolism (VTE) to describe both DVT and PE. They use the term VTE because the two conditions are very closely related and their prevention and treatment are similar. 

Patient in hospital bed wearing sequential compression sleeves on legs.

Prevention in the hospital or other facility

Your healthcare provider will usually prescribe one or more of the following to prevent blood clots:

  • Blood-thinner (anticoagulant). This medicine prevents blood clots. You take it by mouth, by injection, or through an IV (intravenous). Commonly used anticoagulants include warfarin and heparin. Newer anticoagulants may also be used, including rivaroxaban, apixaban, dabigatran, and enoxaparin. Sometimes, your healthcare provider may not give you an anticoagulant medicine. It’s important that they discuss the risks and benefits with you and document them. 
  • Compression stockings. These elastic stockings fit tightly around your legs. They help keep blood flowing toward your heart by the pressure they apply. They prevent blood from pooling and forming blood clots. When you first put them on, the stockings may be uncomfortable. But after a while, you should get used to them. 
  • Exercises. Simple exercises while you are resting in bed or sitting in a chair can help prevent blood clots. Move your feet in a circle or up and down. Do this 10 times an hour to improve circulation.
  • Getting out of bed and walking (ambulation). After surgery, a nurse will help you out of bed as soon as you are able. Moving around improves circulation and helps prevent blood clots.
  • Sequential compression device (SCD) or intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC). Plastic sleeves are wrapped around your legs and connected to a pump that inflates and deflates the sleeves. This applies gentle pressure to promote blood flow in the legs and prevent blood clots. Remove the sleeves so that you don’t trip or fall when you are walking. For example, when you use the bathroom or shower. If you need help removing the sleeves, ask for help.

Prevention at home

Foot doing rotation exercise.

Deep vein thrombosis can happen even after you go home. Follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. The following are some general guidelines about DVT prevention: 

  • Blood-thinner medicine. If a blood thinner was prescribed, make sure you follow all directions about taking it. Be sure you know what foods and medicines may interact. Also, ask your healthcare provider what to do if you forget to take a dose.
  • Compression stockings. Your healthcare provider will tell you how often to wear and remove the stockings. Follow all instructions closely. Each time you remove your stockings, check your legs and feet for reddened areas or sores. If you see any changes, call your healthcare provider right away.
  • Returning to activity.  Follow all instructions about returning to activities. Be as active as you can. This improves blood flow and helps prevent a clot from forming. When in bed or in a chair, continue with the ankle exercises you did in the hospital.
  • Sequential compression device (SCD) or intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC). In some cases, this device may be recommended at home. If you are using this device at home, make sure you closely follow all instructions from your healthcare provider. You will be instructed on how often and for how long to use the device. Again, remove the sleeves if you are up and walking.

When to call your healthcare provider

You may have signs or symptoms of a blood clot. Or you may have signs or symptoms of bleeding from medicines to prevent clots.

Call your healthcare provider if you have the following:

  • Pain, swelling, or redness in the leg, arm, or other area
  • Blood in the urine or stool
  • Very dark or tar-like stool
  • Vomiting with blood
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • A cut that will not stop bleeding
  • Bleeding from the vagina

Call 911

Call 911 if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fainting
  • Coughing (may cough up blood)
  • Heavy or uncontrolled bleeding

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