Top Tips for a Successful Recovery from Body Lift Surgery

Published: January 10, 2024
Category: Body, Dr. Michael Philbin, Body Lift, General

Thousands of Americans work relentlessly to shed their bodies of excess weight each year through diet and exercise. Some even resort to gastric bypass surgery when all other methods have failed them. Although a dramatic weight loss, especially one won through hard work and diligence, should be celebrated, there are some drawbacks to dropping significant pounds on the scale. Fat takes up a lot of volume under our skin. When a dramatic amount of adipose tissue is lost, it can leave the remaining skin loose and deflated in appearance. This sagging is often most prominent in the abdomen, flanks, upper thighs, lower back, buttocks, and upper arms and can be extremely discouraging. Body lift surgery aims to remove this excess skin to restore a tight, youthful contour to the body. More than any other plastic surgery, body lift can be a truly life-changing event, but it does have an extensive recovery period.

“Body lift surgery is a truly gratifying procedure to perform,” says Dr. Michael Philbin, a board-certified plastic surgeon and partner at Edina Plastic Surgery. “Not only are the outward, visible results on a patient’s body transformational, but the procedure can also transform a patient on the inside and allow them to lead a more confident and happy life. I always feel honored to partner with our body lift patients because it feels like we’re on a journey together, and I love seeing how enriched their lives become after they’ve recovered. Recovery is a long road, but there are key steps a patient can take to make it easier, more comfortable, and successful.”

Top Tips for a Successful Recovery from Body Lift Surgery

#1 – Prioritize Your Pre & Post Procedure Guidelines

“How well you prepare for surgery directly impacts how well you recover from surgery,” explains Dr. Philbin. “It is absolutely essential that you follow all instructions presented to you before body lift surgery to avoid complications during surgery and to set the stage for a successful outcome. Adhering to your post-procedure instructions is equally important. View these as the road map to follow to ensure you stay healthy and heal well throughout your recovery. A body lift is a commitment and an investment; protect it and do everything within your power to optimize your results.”

#2 – Anesthesia After Care

A body lift is an extensive surgery that may involve several areas of your body. As a result, once anesthesia wears off, you will experience pain and discomfort. Be sure to follow your pain management guidelines. This will ensure your pain is managed continuously and effectively without any peaks or crescendos.

Try ginger tea or chews to calm your stomach if you battle nausea after anesthesia. Ginger is effective and will not interact with any pain medications or antibiotics you may be prescribed.

#3 – Manage Your Meds

“The medications we prescribe after surgery are crucial to a healthy and comfortable recovery,” stresses Dr. Philbin. “We obviously want to reduce the risk of infection with antibiotics, but pain management is just as important. Following body lift surgery is not the time to try and be a toughie and get off pain meds as soon as possible. If you push it, your discomfort may cause you to move in a way that could jeopardize your recovery and results. Permit yourself to manage your pain responsibly and effectively with the medications prescribed. And yes, you DO need to finish the entire course of antibiotics!”

#4 – Sleep for Success and Respect the Need for Rest

Sleep and rest are integral components of health in everyday life but are twice as important when recovering after body lift surgery. Sleep is when the body repairs itself, so take your zzz’s seriously! Depending on what areas of your body will be addressed during your procedure, you may find it helpful to purchase an assortment of pillows before your surgery. These may include wedge pillows to elevate your back and relieve strain on your abdomen, a boppy pillow to support your arms or relieve compression on your buttocks, and even additional pillows to slide under your knees to reduce swelling. Your surgeon will help advise you on which support pillows may be most helpful.

“We recommend that our body lift patients take 2-3 weeks off work,” advises Dr. Philbin. “During this time, you’re encouraged to sleep at least eight hours a night and take plenty of cat naps during the day. Recovering from surgery, especially body lift surgery, requires a lot of energy from the body, and you will get tired out quickly. Don’t push it. Get a little gentle walking around the house in every hour you’re awake and then return to bed or your resting place so your body can then focus its energy on repairing tissues.”

#5 – Soothe Swelling & Comply with Compression Garments Guidelines

Swelling after body lift surgery gets worse before it gets better. This is normal, and you will be advised to use cool packs to help reduce swelling as you recover. You will also be outfitted with compression garments to reduce swelling further. Your surgeon may advise you to wear these for up to six months after surgery.

“I know compression garments are seldom comfortable and never fashionable,” says Dr. Philbin. “But, they have a big impact on controlling swelling after body lift surgery and are absolutely mandatory to ensure you get the best result.”

#6 – Dial in Your Diet

While it may be tempting and seem convenient to reach for comfort foods like pizza, Chinese takeout, and fast food while you recover from body lift surgery, this is actually a vital time to embrace a clean diet. Your body’s tissues will need extra protein to repair after surgery. Aim for at least 1 gram of protein (sourced from lean chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, or salmon) per pound of body weight. Up the ante on your water intake as well to help your body’s lymphatic system flush out waste and reduce swelling. Strive for half your body weight in ounces of water each day. If your urine is light yellow, you’re doing great! Add fiber-rich, cruciferous veggies loaded with vitamin C, like broccoli, to help keep bowels regular while on pain medications. Lastly, avoid high sodium, processed foods that may exacerbate swelling.

#7 – Take Your Taping Protocol Seriously to Improve Scarring

“One of the things that makes Edina Plastic Surgery unique is our advanced scar revision therapy after surgery,” says Dr. Philbin. “Your body lift incisions will be closed with absorbable sutures and covered in surgical tape to ease tension on sutures and enhance healing. You will be advised to wear this tape for several months to minimize the appearance of scarring. Afterward, you can purchase a significantly discounted scar revision package with our medical spa, Skin Artisans, that includes laser treatments to smooth scars further and reduce discoloration. We aim to make your surgical scars as least noticeable as possible, and we’re great at it!”

#8 – Heighten Your Hygiene Routine

After body lift surgery, you will not shower for up to three days or until your drainage tubes are removed. In the meantime, you can take careful sponge baths or use fragrance-free, preferably natural/organic body or baby wipes to stay fresh. Dry shampoo powders or sprays may be beneficial at this time as well if your hair tends to get oily.

Once you are cleared for showering, you will be encouraged to take brief, warm showers that aren’t too hot. Keeping the body clean and dry is essential to avoid infections at incision sites. If you use body lotions, keep them away from taped incisions and opt for natural, chemical-free formulations that will not irritate the skin.

#9 – Get Moving, But Don’t Push It!

“It’s normal for patients to get a bit of cabin fever during their recovery from body lift surgery, but it is really important not to push your body before it’s ready as this may disrupt healing or compromise your results,” advises Dr. Philbin. “After surgery, you’re encouraged to get up carefully every hour that you are awake and walk around the house a bit to increase circulation and blow flow. After the first week, you can take short 10-15 minute walks depending on how sore or swollen you feel. You’ll also have restrictions on lifting, exercising, and other strenuous activities that will all be outlined clearly in your post-care instructions. Remember, all of these guidelines are in place to ensure you have a healthy recovery and can enjoy the best outcomes from your body lift surgery!”

Have you lost a significant amount of weight and are now frustrated with the loose, excess skin left behind? Schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Michael Philbin or another board-certified plastic surgeon at Edina Plastic Surgery to see if body lift surgery may be a solution! Call (612) 688-3221, text (952) 925-1765, or CLICK HERE to get started.

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