Go From Oww to Wow! 3 Insider Tips for Post-Op Pain

Camille G. Cash, M.D. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Mommy makeovers and tummy tucks yield some of the most dramatic results and highest satisfaction rates.  But some patients might be concerned about the intensive recovery process these surgeries often require.

I always want recovery to be as comfortable as possible for my tummy tuck and mommy makeover patients here in Houston. And the potential drawbacks of these popular procedures—such as post-operative scarring and pain during healing–are now significantly minimized due to ongoing advancements in the medical field.

Fade Scars with Embrace®

Most find a scar to be an easy trade-off for a newly flat and contoured abdomen. In fact, most are pleased to find that after about a year of healing, the scar fades to white or silver and is much less noticeable. And now, thanks to new technology, the ability to fade scars has gotten even easier. With Embrace® Active Scar Defense, patients are able to proactively minimize the appearance of scars before they even form.

Tension is the root cause of scarring, so Embrace works by relieving skin tension along the incisions during the healing process. Incorporating Embrace scar therapy has been a game changer in the medical field. As a plastic surgeon, it has been incredibly rewarding to be at the forefront of scar reduction and to be able to help patients further enjoy the benefits of their newly sculpted and restored figures!

Soothe Discomfort with Pain Pumps

While primarily elective, plastic surgery is still surgery, so it should come as no surprise that some pain will be involved during the first few days of healing. Among the surgeries I perform, tummy tucks rank high in terms of post-operative pain.

In the past, this pain has been managed quite well by a pain pump. The pain pump is a device that disperses an anesthetic to the surgical area by way of a couple of tubes, positioned by the surgeon at the end of surgery, through the skin of the upper abdomen. The anesthetic solution is stored in a bulb about the size of a tennis ball and is automatically dispersed over a period of about 3 days.

The system has worked quite well in keeping patients comfortable. However, the device which is in a bag worn by the patient with a strap going around the neck, proved to be occasionally somewhat cumbersome and restricted the patient’s movement.

Rest Easy with Exparel®

In keeping up to date with the latest innovations, in 2012 I began using Exparel to manage pain after tummy tucks and mommy makeovers. Exparel is a slow release numbing agent that is a onetime injection I perform at the end of surgery. This injectable lasts for about 72 hours, which is the duration of the most noticeable part of post-surgical discomfort. This gives patients the freedom of not being tethered to a pain pump.

When the brain receives signals of pain, Exparel will block the nerve impulses, providing relief to the patient. The anesthetic used in Exparel is bupivacaine (more commonly known as Marcaine) which is suspended in liposomes that slowly release the drug.

While most patients tolerate Exparel very well, it may not be recommended if you have conditions such as:

  • Past problems with anesthesia
  • Kidney or liver problems
  • Seizures issues
  • Heart rhythm disorders or heart disease

While it is not unusual for patients to seek some sort of additional pain relief in addition to the Exparel, studies show that patients that had the Exparel injections took about a third less pain relievers than the non-Exparel patient.  The same study found that Exparel patients had a faster recovery time with less discomfort.

Exparel is comparable in cost to a pain pump, so it is mostly used in extensive surgeries such as tummy tucks and mommy makeovers.  However, patients with a low pain threshold or those who are anxious about an upcoming surgery and the initial post-operative phase, it is worthwhile to discuss this pain management option with me during your consultation and pre-operative visits.

Between technologies like Embrace, Exparel, and pain pumps, my Houston practice tries to keep our tummy tuck and mommy makeover patients as comfortable as possible. If you have any other questions about these treatments or surgeries, please contact me online or by calling the office at (713) 571-0600.

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