Tummy Tuck - Post surgical instructions

By: Dr. Jose Rodriguez


When your surgery is completed, you must follow all the instructions given to you in order to heal properly and have the best possible outcome. 


Normal symptoms of a tummy tuck and signs to watch for after surgery include the following:

Tightness and stiffness in abdomen: Bruising, swelling and redness: Tingling, burning or intermittent shooting pain: These are normal symptoms as the skin, and sensory nerves heal. If you have persistent sharp pain then you should let Dr. Rodriguez know immediately.

Skin firmness, hypersensitivity or no sensitivity: This is normal and will gradually resolve with time.

Swelling can cause the skin to appear shiny. As the healing process advances, you may also find a mild to severe itchy feeling. An antihistamine like Benadryl can help if severe.

Asymmetry: both sided of your body heal differently: One side of your body may look or feel different from the other in the days following surgery. This is normal and expected. If the asymmetry is extreme then this should be reported to Dr. Rodriguez immediately. 

Call the office immediately for:

• Temperature greater than 101 degrees

• Severe nausea or vomiting, continued dizziness or strange behavior.

• Significant increase in swelling or one side of the abdomen significantly more swollen than the other

• Extreme pain not controlled by pain medication

• Redness around incisions or pus/yellow/green drainage

• Darkened or blackened skin (in excess of normal bruising)

• Shortness of breath, or calf pain

• Excessive bleeding of fluid seeping through the incisions.

You will only be released to the care of a responsible adult. All these instructions must be clear to the adult who will monitor your health and support you around the clock in the first 24 hours following surgery.


• Do not smoke. Smoking can greatly impair your safety prior to surgery and your ability to heal following surgery. You must not smoke.


• Your incisions are closed in multiple layers with absorbable sutures.

• The surface is sealed with steri-strips covering the incision. These will come off in about 2 weeks.

• Your abdominal closure may feel tight. Keep your body flexed when in bed by placing extra pillows behind your back and your knees or by relaxing in a recliner. When walking, you may need to bend at the knees and tip forward at the hips to relieve tension during the first week after surgery.

• You must wear a compression garment with foam at all times until told otherwise.

• Some drainage from surgical incisions can be expected for the first few days after surgery. If this happens, place a gauze or a Kleenex over the incisions.

• Absolutely no ice or heating pads to surgical sites.


• Use proper hand hygiene, such as a gel sanitizer, on hands before handling your drain.

• Twice a day, have your caregiver strip the drain tubing (gently milk the tubing towards the bulb) and record the output using clear measuring cups. Be sure to record each drain separately. Discard drainage in toilet only.

• Call the office for an increase in bright bloody drainage, cloudy drainage, increase in pain, loss of suction (bulb won’t stay compressed), leaking around drain exit site, or a clogged bulb.

• If there is accidental dislodgement of drain, apply a dressing with gauze and call the office.

• Secure the drains to clothing with safety pins.

• Your drains will stay in place until they are outputting 20 ml per 24 hours or less. Expect drains to stay in for about 2 weeks.


• Unless instructed otherwise, it is ok to shower 48 hours after surgery.

• Do not rub the incision. Pat dry.

• No soaking in a bath or swimming until cleared by the office. This is typically 4 weeks after surgery.

• Take of all garments to shower. After your shower you will put the foam pad back on and your compression garment. Make sure the foam pad is below your incision.


• Relax and rest within the home for first 2 weeks

• Take short walks around the house multiple times per day starting the day of surgery.

• No twisting or no lifting greater than 5-10 lbs for 4-6 weeks

• May drive after 2 weeks if off all prescription pain medication.

• May go back to work at 4 weeks if on “light duty.”


• Take all medication, exactly as prescribed. This includes oral pain medication and muscle relaxants. For less severe pain, it is okay to use over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil).


• Maintain a healthy diet and good nutrition. Fluids are critical following surgery. Stick to non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, caffeine-free and green tea-free beverages including fruit juices and water, milk and yogurt drinks. You must consume at least 8 ounces of fluid every 2 hours. Stick with soft, bland, nutritious food for the first 24 hours. Constipation is expected after surgery and can last for days.


• Dr. Rodriguez will inform you when to start scar massage, lymphatic drainage, and massage therapy. This can help soften any firmness or contour irregularities. This is usually started 2-6 weeks after surgery.

• Your first post operative visit will typically be the next day. 

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.