After you have tummy tuck surgery, you will need to take some time off from driving. The questions many patients have is how long? That can be tricky to answer since there is no universal standard for how much time you will need to avoid driving after getting an abdominoplasty. Tummy tuck recovery time can vary person to person. It also depends on the kind of tummy tuck you have had.
Continue reading for tips and general guidelines that Doctor Bernard Beldholm recommends for driving after each type of surgery. We will also review some important factors that will help you get a sense of when you can start driving again.
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Downtime after a tummy tuck
All body contouring surgeries have some downtime. The recovery time is not set in stone, though. Everybody heals differently. Some people experience more discomfort and swelling than others. It also depends how much tissue and fat you had removed. This varies by procedure.
Removing a small amount of excess skin and fat usually means you will be able to get back to driving sooner. On the flip side, larger procedures like a tummy tuck with abdominal muscle repair for diastasis recti, multiple procedures, and extensive surgeries like body lifts have a longer recovery time.
Download our short guide: “Preparing for your Abdominoplasty Surgery Checklist”
The days following surgery are often the hardest
On the first three to five days after surgery, you can expect to have some marked discomfort. Swelling will be quite obvious during this time, and it can last for weeks or months. Your skin and muscles will also feel very sensitive early on. Pain medication will be given so that you do not experience true pain after plastic surgery.
Safety reasons to avoid driving after tummy tuck surgery
Some patients are anxious to get back to driving as soon as possible, but you should not rush into it. Your health and safety are of utmost importance.
The first day of surgery, you will not be able to drive due to anesthesia. That goes for patients who get general anesthesia for any type of surgical procedure, whether it is cosmetic or not. Anesthesia can cause tiredness and confusion. You will not be able to operate a car or other machinery after waking from anesthesia. Plus, surgery can be exhausting. It is a major event that can take a toll on the body. You do not want to drive when you are sleepy or not feeling well. It usually takes 18-24 hours for anesthetic to leave your system.
Once the anesthesia has left your system, your body still needs time to heal before it is safe to drive. This can range between one to several weeks post op, depending on the procedure. You will be tender and sore after surgery. The more invasive the surgery, the more intense those sensations may be.
As much as you may want to drive, you will find that you have some restricted movement after surgery. Simple things like turning your body to view your blindspot, sitting down in the driver’s seat, and even opening the car door can be harder than normal. Turning the wheel is the hardest thing since it requires more complex movement and core strength. It is not safe to drive until you truly feel ready. Your reaction time and limited mobility after a tummy tuck make driving early in recovery unsafe.
Tips for finding help to drive your kids around after a tummy tuck
Having kids that need a ride can make mums feel pressure to drive sooner. You can harm others on the road and yourself if you do not give yourself enough time to heal before you are ready to drive again. That is why it is important to make other arrangements while you heal.
Having a plan is vital. Do not be afraid to ask others for help. This can include your partner, extended family, friends, and neighbors. You may be surprised to see who is willing to lend a hand if you only ask. If your children are old enough, public transportation may also be a good option, even if they are used to getting a ride.
What about getting to work?
Busy professional can also feel pressure to get back to work after surgery. If you drive to work in a car, be mindful of putting your safety first. Taking the appropriate time off work is very important. Trying to drive when you are not ready just to go to work is not wise. You would be doing yourself and others on the road a real disservice.
Taking time off work is not always easy. There is pressure from bosses and colleagues. There are bills to be paid. It makes sense. If you absolutely must work soon after surgery, ask for permission to work from home. These days, that is becoming much more common, so your higher ups may be receptive to the idea.
Patients who work in the service industry may have a harder time getting approved for time off, and working home is not always possible. If you have a sedentary job, ask for a ride from a friend, family member, or colleague. See if ride sharing is available in your city. Taxi services can be a pricier option, but it is only a temporary measure.
No matter what, you do not want to strain yourself in early recovery. If you must work, finding a ride alternative is necessary.
How do I know when I am ready to drive?
Since the guidelines below are only guidelines, it is up to your pain threshold and healing progress to determine when you can drive again. If you think you are ready to get behind the wheel, you should first assess that you are comfortable in the car. For example, can you sit comfortably? Open the door? Work the controls? If you had to make a sudden emergency stop or turn the wheel sharply to avoid an accident, could you?
Next, put your seatbelt on. Is there any uncomfortable rubbing or pressure? This can be especially bothersome for long drives, so keep that in mind. You do not want to irritate incisions as they heal. Then, look over your shoulder to see if you feel discomfort. Finally, you may want to inch forward in a safe, secure area like your driveway or garage. Can you turn the wheel comfortably? When you feel ready to do all of these things, you are ready to drive.
Of course, you also cannot drive when using certain pain medications that indicate to avoid driving.
General guidelines for driving* after each kind of tummy tuck:
- Mini tummy tuck: 7-10 days after surgery
- Full tummy tuck: 2-3 weeks
- Body lift: 4 weeks
- Extended tummy tuck: 3-4 weeks
- Fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty: 3-4 weeks
*Commercial drivers may need longer to recover
Insurance implications for driving after a tummy tuck
Insurance companies are usually guided by medical advice when it comes to driving after surgery. It is a good idea to inquire with your auto insurer about any policy exclusions. Most Australian insurance companies surveyed said that all patients will be fully insured when driving after surgery, as long as they were given medical clearance to drive.
Take it slow after cosmetic surgery
Don’t be in a rush to get behind the wheel after surgery. It is important to give yourself time to heal. Ask your doctor how much time you will need to take off work. If you have kids that need to be driven from place to place, make other arrangements for up to the first few weeks after getting surgery. Same goes for getting to and from work. You will also need a ride home from the hospital on the day of surgery. A qualified surgeon will be able to advise you on what to expect afterwards based on their experience so that you can plan to take time off from driving.
Stay tuned for our next blog post about Medicare rebates for tummy tuck, coming soon!
For more information about tummy tuck recovery, check out this guide: Get the Facts on Tummy Tuck Recovery Downtime