Do Tummy Tucks Cause Scars?
Remember, tummy tucks are surgical procedures, so the incision made during the procedure will lead to scarring, regardless of the type of abdominoplasty you move forward with. For many patients, the prevention of scarring is one of the most worrying facets of tummy tuck surgery recovery. To properly treat your tummy tuck incision, it's important to understand scar formation and its relation to the three scar healing stages.
Phase 1: Inflammatory Phase
After the skin is broken, as it is during the incision of a tummy tuck procedure, the wound must seal. During the inflammatory phase, bleeding stops, but the body increases blood flow to the area. New cells begin to form a protective scab over the incision, and your scar will likely appear very red. During this phase, it's important to prevent rubbing and friction in the area, as wounds can easily reopen and hinder the healing process.
Phase 2: Establishment/Rebuilding Phase
The body begins producing collagen fibers to fill in the gap and close the wound, and blood vessels form to carry nutrients to the wound site. This step, also called the proliferative phase, typically continues for three to four weeks but may last up to six weeks. During this time, your scar may fade from a deep red to a lighter pink.
Phase 3: Maturation and Remodeling Phase
A scar can take months to years to completely mature, depending on the length and depth of the incision. Genetics and your overall health condition can affect this stage, but the most important factor of scar healing is proper care and treatment. Tension reduction and silicone sheeting like embrace® Active Scar Defense should be used continuously for at least 60 days to help scars fade.
What Do Tummy Tuck Scars Look Like?
The typical abdominoplasty involves two separate incisions that create horizontal scars from hip to hip and scars around the navel. The type of scars that you end up with and how they look ultimately depend on the type of tummy tuck procedure you have and the depth of the incisions. Let's take a closer look at the different types of tummy tuck scars below.
- Horizontal scars: In order to remove the excess skin and fat deposits from your abdomen, your surgeon must make an incision across the lower abdomen. The incision location lies somewhere between the belly button and pubic mound. This incision results in the most noticeable scar; fortunately, this scar can be minimized through proper treatment methods.
- Belly button scars: An traditional abdominoplasty also requires a small incision near the belly button. During a full tummy tuck, the belly button is repositioned and reattached. Scarring from a belly button incision should be minimal, as a well-done tummy tuck results in a navel that features a natural inverted U shape.
Your body can only heal as quickly as you let it, so it's essential to closely follow the care instructions outlined by your surgeon to expedite your tummy tuck recovery. We've collected some of the best tummy tuck recovery tips, which are designed to promote healing and reduce the appearance of scarring. From nutrition to drain care, these tips and strategies can help you speed up the healing process and get the beautiful finish you deserve from your tummy tuck.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Your diet plays an important role in the recovery of your tummy tuck surgery. To help your body heal faster, you must give it the nutrients it needs to repair the site of the incision. Below, we've listed a few recommendations on what to consume and avoid after an abdominal surgery, like a tummy tuck.
What should I eat after a tummy tuck?
- Protein: Increasing your protein intake is important during the tummy tuck recovery process. Incorporating foods high in protein into your diet, such as meat, eggs, tofu, nuts, and beans, can increase the amount of collagen your body produces and speed up healing.
- Vitamins: The right vitamins can help stave off infection, so make sure your diet is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C. You can also increase your intake of leafy greens, citrus, tomatoes, dairy, and cod liver oil to obtain the necessary vitamins.
- Fluids: Staying hydrated after an abdominoplasty helps move essential nutrients and oxygen throughout your body and the incision area especially. It's recommended you drink about 64 to 80 ounces of fluids to ensure you're hydrated.
What should I avoid eating after a tummy tuck?
- Salt: Eating excess amounts of salt can promote water retention and bloat. This isn't something you want because it'll expand your abdomen, making it more difficult to heal properly.
- Soda: Carbonated drinks high in sugar can also promote bloating.
- Alcohol: Alcohol can thin the blood and hinder the body's healing process. Alcohol may also negatively interact with your doctor-prescribed pain medication.
Get Plenty of Rest
Limited activity can help you heal faster and prevent muscle strain and damage, so take your rest seriously during the tummy tuck recovery process. After your surgery, your surgeon will likely recommend that you lay with your head and shoulders propped up and your feet elevated. They'll also provide you with pain medication that could leave you drowsy, so it's important to lay down for the early days following your abdominoplasty. Be sure to have a friend or family member around to provide care for the first couple of days you're home.
However, this doesn't mean that you can't participate in light exercise such as walking. In fact, walking, whether that's on your own and with someone's help, as soon as possible post-surgery can prevent blood clots from forming.
Proper Drain Care
A tummy tuck procedure creates space between your abdominal tissues and abdominal muscles, allowing fluid to collect in this open space. As a result, small, thin tubes will be placed in the incision to drain this fluid immediately following your surgery. These drains consist of a small, malleable tube that ends in a small bulb—the fluid drains out and collects in the bulb.
Proper drain care for abdominoplasty can ensure you the best tummy tuck results. It's important to empty the drain at least two to three times per day or when you notice it's full, whichever comes first. When you empty your drains, be sure to measure the amount of fluid that comes out with each disposal. For the first few days, your drainage will be red in color and gradually shift to a light straw color—keep an eye on the color as the week progresses. You'll likely only need to wear the drains for around a week; your surgeon will remove them after ensuring all excess fluid has been expelled.
You must also take care of the drain site. To do this, use gloves and a safe cleaning agent to disinfect the skin around the tube. Note of caution: Many mistakenly believe that hydrogen peroxide is an effective cleaning agent, but it can actually kill more than bacteria. Hydrogen peroxide can damage new skin cells your body produces when wounded, which can slow the healing process and extend your scar healing time. Ask your surgeon about safe cleaning solutions to use your abdominoplasty incisions.
Not taking the necessary steps to properly care for your tummy tuck incision can result in an infection that can further scar the surrounding skin. Keep an eye out for signs of infection, including:
- High fever, chills
- Excess pus or drainage
- Redness in area
- Foul odor at the wound site
- Hot to touch
- Painful to touch
If you notice one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, contact your doctor or seek medical attention right away. A severe infection can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Swelling is a body's natural response to surgery, and you'll likely experience a significant amount of swelling immediately following your procedure, which should subside within the span of three weeks. It's in your best interest to hinder swelling since the sooner you reduce it, the sooner you'll be able to see the true results of your tummy tuck. To decrease swelling after a tummy tuck, use the following tips:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids following your surgery. Dehydration can be a very serious health issue following a tummy tuck procedure, so be sure to drink a lot of water.
- Skip the salt: Steer clear of foods with high sodium content, as salt can make your body retain water.
- Compression garments: Wear your compression garment as directed by your surgeon—typically for the course of three to six weeks.
- Use ice: To manage pain and reduce inflammation, apply ice compresses or ice packs to the area daily.
- Pain medication can cause bloating: Pain medication may cause bloating, which can be mistaken for swelling. Be sure to talk to your surgeon about your pain management options to avoid this confusion.