The Painless Tummy Tuck—Yes, there is Such a Thing!


When considering any major surgical procedure, it’s only natural to experience some mixed feelings, both excitement and perhaps a little trepidation. The tummy tuck is a good example of a surgical procedure that might make you feel a mixture of emotions. And here at Charlotte Plastic Surgery, we meet a lot of patients who are excited about finally flattening their tummies, yet have some concerns about pain, recovery, and downtime.

There is a good reason for these concerns: Historically, recovery from a tummy tuck procedure has been difficult. Tummy tuck recovery has come a long way, however—and in fact, today’s procedures can be done virtually painless with the help of some advancements to post-operative protocols.

For many of our patients, the prospect of a pain-free tummy tuck recovery completely changes the equation. In this post, we’ll take a brief look at some of the ways in which the tummy tuck patient experience has improved by leaps and bounds.

What is a Tummy Tuck?

Before we get into tummy tuck recovery, let’s quickly define what we’re talking about. A common misconception is that tummy tucks are designed to help with weight loss, but that’s not the case. Actually, we generally only recommend tummy tucks to those who are already exercising and practicing good nutrition, and who have hit a maintainable, healthy weight.

Rather, the tummy tuck helps deal with extra, saggy skin and fat around the abdomen—stubborn abdominal bulk that you just can’t seem to get rid of, no matter how much you exercise. Often, this additional bulge comes either from pregnancy or from a recent weight loss experience. In any case, the tummy tuck can help tighten things up and remove that stubborn fat & skin.

The Painless Tummy Tuck Procedure

It sounds great—but what about the recovery process? Is it really true that tummy tuck recovery can be pain-free?

The answer is yes, thanks to some recent innovations in medical procedures. The most significant of these advancements is a product called Exparel®. This is something we’re proud to provide to our clients here at CPS, and we’ve found it to be highly effective in minimizing and even eliminating the pain associated with tummy tuck recovery.

Exparel is a long-acting numbing agent that’s injected deep into the soft tissues of the abdomen during the surgery itself. This is beneficial for two reasons: One, it serves as a highly effective, localized anesthesia during the tummy tuck surgery. And two, it continues to release bupivacaine, a powerful numbing agent, well after the procedure, making your recovery much more comfortable.

In fact, it typically lasts for about 72 hours—providing the patient with a few days of little or no pain. And for most tummy tuck patients, the worse of the pain subsides after two or three days anyway—meaning that, when your Exparel finally wears off, you’ve sailed through the hard part of the recovery process and you’re very comfortable.

Exparel isn’t a narcotic, which means it doesn’t make you drowsy or lethargic. In fact, we’ve studied the effects of this medication here at CPS, and what we’ve found is that the patients who use it seldom need to use any additional painkillers—meaning Exparel can help you avoid narcotics altogether.

Painless, But Also Drainless

There’s more good news about recovering from a tummy tuck. Pain is obviously one big deterrent that potential patients have to wrestle with, but another concern is draining and whether or not the patient will have to carry around drainage tubes during recovery. Again, recent medical advancements have rendered this much less of an issue than it used to be.

What do we mean when we talk about draining? During the surgery, the abdominal skin is lifted and repositioned. Skin and fat are separated from deeper tissues, which makes an opening between layers of the abdomen. Fluid will often collect in this space, and can lead to swelling as well as other complications.

That’s why, historically, recovery from a tummy tuck has required the use of drains—plastic tubes that help get rid of that fluid build-up. These drains can be unpleasant, to say the least. They can cause some discomfort, they are a nuisance to empty regularly, and they make it challenging to do simple tasks like showering or getting dressed. And, in the past, many patients have needed drains in place for weeks at a time.

But no more. At CPS, we now use progressive tension sutures, which are a much better alternative to drains. These sutures effectively fasten the skin and fat to those deeper layers of skin, closing the gap and preventing fluid build-up. And, they are applied with internal stitches that patients will never see or need to deal with.

Not only does this eliminate the need for drains, but it eliminates all those other drawbacks that accompany drains. There’s no discomfort, no inconvenience when showering or dressing, and nothing to empty. It’s another way in which recovery from a tummy tuck procedure has become significantly easier.

Learn More About The Tummy Tuck Recovery Process

Today’s tummy tucks may be painless and drainless, but it’s still important to give your body the time it needs to rest and restore itself. Make sure you talk with your surgeon about this before the procedure. And, be sure to attend follow-up appointments that your surgeon schedules, ensuring that your tummy tuck is healing the way it’s supposed to.

Here at CPS, patient safety is always our foremost concern. We’re happy to talk with you more about painless and drainless recovery, but more than that, we want to consult with you about all the factors that can ensure you are a good candidate for a safe tummy tuck.

Charlotte Plastic Surgery is one of the area’s leading names in cosmetic surgery, and our surgeons are recognized leaders in tummy tuck recovery. We’ve helped pioneer painless, drainless procedures, and continue to offer our clients a positive, effective experience.

The first step in getting a tummy tuck is to meet with us and have a consultation. We’ll talk about safety, outcomes, and surgical goals. Contact our office in Charlotte today and let’s schedule a time to meet about your tummy tuck!