How to help swelling subside after a tummy tuck & liposuction

Written by laura bramble
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The popularity of elective cosmetic surgery like liposuction (lipo) and tummy tucks make it seem like they are commonplace and "no big deal." There is the perception that you go to sleep and wake up with a new, slim body that is ready to go. The reality is that liposuction and tummy tuck recovery is painful and involves serious down time. Besides pain and bruising, your body undergoes severe swelling as a reaction to the trauma of surgery. This swelling can last for weeks or even months, obscuring the results of your liposuction or tummy tuck. However, there are things you can do to help keep swelling subside after surgery.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Be sure that your surgeon is familiar with the proper way of handling and draining the excess fluid he pumps into your fat layers to make the surgery easier. Ask questions, check certifications and choose a doctor with good recommendations and credentials.

  2. 2

    Ask your doctor about using an open drainage technique for lipo, where the incisions are not stitched closed. It may be messier as drainage is occurring, but the swelling will go down faster.

  3. 3

    Wear your compression garment as directed, especially if your incisions are stitched closed. This thick elastic girdlelike garment forces the remaining fluid to spread out and be absorbed into the body. They also help to collapse the tunnels left in the fat by the cannula, or fat sucking tube.

  4. 4

    Try massage to help redistribute fluids if there is stubborn swelling.

  5. 5

    Explore external ultrasound if other techniques to reduce swelling do not work. This uses sound waves to break down swollen areas so that the fluid can absorb into the body easier.

Tips and warnings

  • Expect more swelling after lipo on areas that are lower on the body, like the stomach or thighs, than on areas that are higher on the body like the chin or arms.
  • Take genetics into account. Some factors that cause increased swelling run in families and cannot be prevented.
  • Have patience. Swelling does not go away in a few days. It can take weeks or even months before your body is back to normal. You put your body through a lot of stress and you need to let it recover on its own time.
  • Remember that swelling can also occur inside, not just outside. Just because you avoid looking swollen does not mean that you are not swollen.
  • This is major surgery-follow the surgeon's directions for aftercare. Do not attempt home remedies like ice for swelling.

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