There are various stages of the recovery from surgery and especially from a significant procedure such as an abdominoplasty.
Immediately after the surgery is common to feel a little dizzy, discomfort and a bit disorientated in association with the medications from your anaesthetic and for managing pain.
The various stages include managing discomfort and the activities of daily living, managing more general household responsibilities, returning to activities including driving and exercise and finally the full maturation of the outcome and scar. These aspects all occur at different speeds.
You will remain in hospital until you are able to manage your discomfort and perform all the necessary routine activities of daily living with the level of support that you will have available at home. This will be after one or two nights in hospital for most patients.
While in hospital you will be taught how to manage your drains and remain in contact with the clinic so that you will know when the drain is ready for removal.
You will be commenced on a medication called clexane and taught how to administer it at home. Clexane thins your blood and is administered by injection once a day. Abdominoplasty surgery does increase the intra-abdominal pressure and reduces blood flow from the legs and theoretically increases your chance of clots. This medication helps reduce the risk of clots during the initial early stage of your recovery during which your mobility is most affected and therefore this risk is Increased. This is a very effective precaution and is continued for a total of 10 days for most patients unless there is additional risk.
In the short term when you get home there will be no driving, no significant exertion and you will feel a little bent over when you try to stand and your abdomen will feel tight. In bed most patients require some extra pillows under their knees to keep them in a slightly bent position for comfort. After about one week most people are standing and lying flat.
At about one week you are well in control. You can return to driving, you know what will bring on the pain and therefore you avoid it and the medications are becoming far less necessary to remain comfortable. A relatively moderate discomfort during the day can be ignored when you are busy or thinking the other things that may become more noticeable when you are trying to clear your mind for sleep. Consequently many patients will still take a stronger pain tablet at night.
Patients with a sedentary job need to be back at work may be able to go back on light duties if they are no longer requiring strong painkillers and especially if they are able to have shortened hours. Most patients will prefer to wait until two weeks if their circumstances permit. If the level of exertion at work can’t be controlled than six weeks off work will be required in uncommon circumstances.
By three weeks you are performing gentle exercise such as walking quietly without hand weights. You are in control of all aspects of your recovery and many patients are completely off painkillers. At this stage you will be performing most of your normal activities they will just be a little more slow and deliberate than usual because you will still be avoiding significant exertion and not moving quite as freely as usual to avoid exacerbating any discomfort.
At six weeks you are liberated! You can return to all activities even exertion at the gymnasium however it will take a while to build back up to normal speed. He will have both good days when you do a bit more and bad days when you feel the results of those activities. For those with significant back pain prior to surgery there will have been about a 75% improvement and about an 80% improvement in bladder function for those with symptoms of urinary stress incontinence.
At six weeks your scar will appear as a relatively fine pink line. From this point it will actually become pinker and reach its most obvious point for most patients between three and five months.
At about three months most patients feel that they are not reminded daily about the surgery. They are back to their normal activities and for those who are normally quite active and familiar with their own capabilities will comment that they are notably stronger and they were prior to surgery after the repair of the muscles. The post-operative swelling in the lower part of the abdomen and associated with areas of liposuction will have largely stabilised and resolved. There will be further improvements particularly in areas of liposuction over the next 12 months but these won’t be occurring at a appreciable rate from day-to-day.
At six months patients with back pain will have had an average 90% improvement and this tends to be maintained. The scar will have usually peaked in terms of its visibility and already be improving but the full improvement of the scar is slow and takes 18 to 24 months.