Many patients scheduling a tummy tuck at my NYC practice ask about recovery, which always leads to a discussion about compression. After your surgery, compressing the tummy tuck area is incredibly important. This is because that during the surgical procedure, the skin on your abdomen is separated from the muscles of the abdominal wall. This separation can potentially create a space—and this space can fill with fluid because your tissues have been injured and tend to ooze quite a bit in response.
Preventing a Seroma
We don’t want the oozing fluid to collect under the skin, because it can pool and form a pocket of fluid, which is referred to as a “seroma.” Now, a seroma isn’t the worst problem in the world—in fact, we consider it more of a nuisance than a complication (seromas go away eventually). But you really don’t want the hassle of getting a seroma and needing to manage it.
Compressing the abdominal area (and typically using a drain as well) can help to prevent a seroma from forming. The compression garment should be worn for about 3 to 6 weeks, depending on your surgeon’s instructions.
How Long to Compress?
I instruct my patients to wear a compression garment for 23 out of every 24 hours daily for the first 3 weeks after surgery. You can certainly take off the garment to shower, but I like for you to put it right back on again once you are done with your daily routine.
The second 3 weeks of the compression period help with the patient’s own comfort as much as they help determine final results. The truth is that when many people take off the compression garment, they find the swelling is more dramatic than they anticipated. As a result, patients often look bloated and feel more pain than expected, which is why many people put their garment back on after just a few hours. For most patients, this phase seems to pass by about 6 weeks after surgery.
You can read more information about the tummy tuck procedure in this earlier blog post.
Select Your Own Compression Garment
I should add that after the first week or so, we typically encourage patients to purchase their own, more comfortable compression garment rather than using the surgical one we provide. With so many styles of compression garments available, patients often find a type they prefer. Additionally, I figure that if patients feel better about wearing their own post-surgical attire they are more likely to comply with wearing the garment for the recommended duration.
Is a Drain Necessary?
As for the drain … yes, I still say you need the drain, as it helps to remove fluid and assists with all of the reasons mentioned above. But you do not need to keep the drain in for nearly as long as you need to wear the compression garment. Additionally, I am using some maneuvers to decrease the amount of time the drain is in place, but I still want to leave it in for the first 4 to 5 days, and I’m glad I do. Again, we want to do whatever we can to prevent a seroma, and the drain is as important as compression after a tummy tuck in that regard.
To see tummy tuck results from many of my previous patients, please visit our photo gallery where we have many examples to show what you might look like after the operation.