Some surgeons may release you the same day (we’ll discuss why this isn’t a great idea later), while others may send you home the next day or five days later. What gives? This article will help you make sense of it all so you know how long your hospital stay after tummy tuck surgery will be with Dr. Bernard Beldholm, FRACS — an Australia tummy tuck and body contouring surgeon in Lorn.
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Why does the hospital stay vary so much?
You asked a simple question. But the answer is not that simple. It all depends on which type of tummy tuck surgery you need. It depends if you are fit and healthy. It depends on how much skin removal is needed. It depends how much help you have at home. There are a lot of variables.
Doctor Bernard’s answer is that there is not a standard medical reply to this simple question you asked. However, this article will tell you how much time to expect in the hospital, based on guidelines he has created over the years.
Things have changed a lot over the years…
Doctor Bernard is the first to admit that tummy tuck aftercare has changed a lot over the years. We are continually evolving and learning based on new research all the time. This is especially true when it comes to tummy tuck recovery.
More than a decade ago, Doctor Bernard sent most tummy tuck patients home the day after surgery. That meant just one night in the hospital. That is fairly common these days, but in his opinion, it is not really the safest or most comfortable option for the patient. Of course, he didn’t know that at the time. It was pretty standard to send everyone home the next day back then. For some surgeons, it’s still the norm.
One reason he felt comfortable sending patients home the next day is because of the unique way he performs the surgery. His tummy tuck surgery does not require drains. That certainly made it easier for patients to transition home quickly after surgery. All they had to do was change the bandages and wear tummy tuck compression garments at home. Most patients could handle this with relative ease.
So, what changed exactly?
For years, sending patients home the day after surgery worked quite well. However, today things have changed for Doctor Bernard. Since a decade ago, he has interviewed many women and men that had tummy tuck surgery in the past. He learned something that changed the way he sent patients home after surgery forever.
Most patients had this to say: The first day after tummy tuck surgery is really tough. That response was common, even for patients with supportive partners at home to help out.
Getting in the car after surgery was the hardest part. It’s not so easy to bend or climb into a car with a tender tummy. Every bump in the road has the potential to cause discomfort. Then getting out of the car, into the house, and either lounging on the living room sofa or attempting to go to the upstairs bedroom are all major feats. Trips to the bathroom, crawling in and out of bed, are also no fun in the early days of recovery. Home may seem like the most comfortable place, but it doesn’t often play out that way in reality.
He’s thinking about your comfort after surgery, and we need to be realistic about what you can do
Many surgeons only consider when it is medically safe to send a patient home. Sometimes, surgeons forget to think about what is comfortable for the patient. Doctor Bernard, not wanting his patients to endure unnecessary pain after surgery, began changing the length of time he kept patients in the hospital after tummy tucks for this reason.
Even though, from a medical point of view, Dr. Bernard could send patients home right away, and 99% of the time they’d be fine, he believes staying in the hospital longer is the safest decision.
For the last five years, he insists that everyone stay in the hospital at least three days after a tummy tuck — at minimum. Doctor Bernard believes seven days is ideal, but the average time his patients spend in the hospital is five days. In his opinion, the longer the better.
It goes beyond patient comfort, though. Being in the hospital could also mean a safer tummy tuck recovery. Certain kinds of surgery also extend hospital time (for example, body lifts).
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Tummy tuck patients can all agree the first day is the worst in terms of tummy tuck pain. Getting out of bed and walking after surgery (which may help to reduce the risk of blood clots) is usually quite difficult as well. Pain tends to peak and then starts to subside about 24 hours after surgery. This is when the local anesthetic wears off. It’s no wonder patients report the highest pain the day after surgery. And this is when most surgeons want to send you home!
At the hospital, the patient has access to on-demand pain medications that they would not have access to at home for several days.
Expect more time in the hospital for bigger surgeries
The more skin removed, the bigger the surgery. Recovery time is prolonged in patients that need a lot of loose skin removed. We are talking about the kinds of tummy tucks that happen after major weight loss surgery, such as a lower body lift, belt lipectomy or Fleur-de-lis tummy tuck.
For those big operations. Doctor Bernard aims for 10 days in the hospital to recover, ideally. However, most patients tend to go home on Day 7. They will have the option of staying up to 10 days in the hospital, however.
More people to help you after surgery
While some patients have a supportive partner at home, others don’t. Some households have a partner that works a full time and can’t take time off work to help out. Other may be single mothers. Regardless, the high level of care and attention patients receive in the hospital is often unmatched by the help received at home.
Even if you have a supportive partner, that is just one person to take care of you. At the hospital, there is a team of nurses. You won’t have to worry about preparing meals or household chores. It takes the burden off family members in the early days of recovery. At the hospital, you have access to round-the-clock care from a team of dedicated medical professionals to assist you.
Pain relief is different at home vs. in the hospital
At the hospital, you can press the bell and get pain relief. Hospital pain relievers tend to be stronger than what you can get at home. In hospital, you can have a PCA, or patient-controlled analgesia, to minimize pain after tummy tuck surgery.
You are monitored in the hospital, unlike at home
Tummy tuck surgery is considered safe. However, a tummy tuck is considered a major surgery. All surgeries, both minor and major, come with risks. That is true even if the patient is fit and healthy. While tummy tuck risks are low in a healthy individual that sees a qualified tummy tuck surgeon, keeping the patient in the hospital for a few days potentially makes it even safer.
Doctor Bernard sees you every day in the hospital after surgery. If there are any issues, then the nurses call him during the day and he can come by right away to see you. This is better for both patient and surgeon.
Now, in the rare event you get an infection or significant bleed, that tends to happen within the first 24 hours. Minor wound breakdowns, a spike in temperatures or lung issues usually happens between Days 3 to 5. So if you are in the hospital, your surgeon can deal with it almost immediately.
Get medical help fast
Post-op complications are thankfully rare. The most common risks of surgery tend to be mild and non-life threatening. However, there are risks with any surgery — some of which can be serious. If there are any problems after surgery, being in the hospital puts you in a much better position to get instant care, compared to being at home.
In the hospital, Doctor Bernard sees you every day. Nurses also see you throughout the day. This makes it easier to see a problem, before it gets serious. Medical staff can tackle the problem right away, and most patients go home with no issues afterward. While serious tummy tuck complications are rare, why gamble with your health by rushing home so soon after surgery?
Safeguarding your family’s health is our top priority
Receiving prompt medical attention keeps tummy tuck patients safe and healthy. We see many new mums for tummy tucks and mummy makeovers that want to get rid of loose skin after pregnancy. It goes beyond keeping the patient safe, though. It’s about keeping families safe. When you have little ones that rely on you, it pays to make smart decisions with your health. If that means staying a few extra days in the hospital, then so be it.
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What about patients that want to go home sooner?
It’s normal for patients to assume they will be more comfortable at home. But as we’ve learned, this is often not the case. Being in the hospital may be unfamiliar territory, but it makes tummy tuck recovery much easier and potentially safer.
Doctor Bernard prefers to keep tummy tuck patients in the hospital for five days ideally, but three days is the minimum. If you had a big surgery such as a body lift, or simply lack support at home, that could extend your stay to seven to ten days. It’s a case-by-case basis, but Doctor Bernard insists on three days in the hospital at minimum. There are some exceptions that might get you home sooner, so keep reading!
Is it possible to go home the same day as surgery?
The minimum hospital stay for Doctor Bernard’s patients is three days. But if you had a “skin-only” mini tummy tuck surgery, you may be able to go home the same day. A mini tummy tuck is useful to remove the flap of skin after c-section births. It’s also good for patients that have a small amount of loose skin on the lower abdomen only.
If you have loose skin on the upper abdomen as well, you’re going to need a full tummy tuck, which has a minimum three-day hospital stay.
A few surgeons out there might send a tummy tuck patient home the same day. Doctor Bernhard has never done that, personally, for a standard tummy tuck. Even in the early days, most tummy tuck patients at least stayed one night in the hospital.
“I find it very difficult to imagine that someone straight after a three to five-hour operation is going to be fine and happy at home,” Doctor Bernard says.
What about recovering from tummy tuck surgery in a hotel?
There are some surgeons that send patients to hotels with a nurse. This is generally fine since the nurse is there to take care of you. They are trained to look for complications and provide help to keep you safe during recovery.
However, Doctor Bernard does not recommend this, personally. It’s difficult to get into and out of a car then head to a hotel straight after surgery. And in the rare event that a serious complication occurs, you’ll need to travel back to the hospital — which may delay getting the help you need. Whereas in the hospital, you can get help right away if needed.
Don’t let your surgeon rush you home from surgery
This is where it pays to do your due diligence when choosing a tummy tuck surgeon in Australia. A surgeon that rushes you home right after surgery should make you raise an eyebrow, in Doctor Bernard’s opinion.
Doctor Bernard is a FRACS specialist surgeon. He has successfully completed many years of surgical training. There are other doctors that perform tummy tuck surgery that lack this level of medical training. Some cannot get admitting rights to the major hospitals. That means patients can’t stay overnight, even if they really need it.
Other surgeons may offer one-day surgeries in private settings. They have no choice but to send you home the day of surgery, because they lack the facilities for overnight care.
Does that mean they are a worse surgeon?
No, not necessarily. It just means you may have to go home sooner than is ideal. In some cases, it could indicate that the surgeon may lack the advanced training of a FRACS surgeon.
And again, going home on Day 1 or 2 of surgery could mean more discomfort for the patient, getting out of the hospital and into a car then up the stairs at home when the tummy is most tender and painful.
You may also not receive prompt medical attention if you get post-op complications since you’re not in a hospital. All these factors are worth considering when choosing an Australia body contouring surgeon.
Questions to ask at your tummy tuck consultation
At the consultation, ask what credentials the surgeon has. In Doctor Bernard’s opinion, he feels that a FRACS designation is what you should look for. That is why he chose to complete FRACS training to qualify for this medical designation. To him, it means more than just adding initials at the end of his professional name.
Ask how long they plan to keep you in the hospital. Mention that you might feel more comfortable with a several-day hospital stay. See what they say. This may tell you a lot about the surgeon. Again, it’s up to you to choose a tummy tuck surgeon you feel comfortable with. That is a personal decision, and the choice is yours alone.
When you see Dr. Bernard Beldholm, FRACS for tummy tuck surgery, your minimum hospital stay is three to five days, sometimes shorter for a skin only mini tummy tuck, sometimes longer for major procedures like a body lift, Fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty or extended tummy tuck. After discussing how much support you have at home and extent of skin removal surgery, he will create a hospital plan this is personalized to your needs.