A Tummy Tuck (also known as abdominoplasty) is a cosmetic surgery procedure to tighten the abdomen. The tummy tuck procedure is not as simple as it sounds. The operation removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen and sometimes requires tightening of the abdominal wall muscles.
Frequently Asked Questions
The surgery is appropriate for persons who have a large amount of fat on their abdomen which won't respond to diet or exercise. It's also for people who have sagging skin on their lower abdomen following massive weight loss or after pregnancy. Liposuction is not an alternative where the skin is loose or sagging. On the contrary, removing excess fat could make the skin droop even more.
Tummy Tuck Options
Even though smaller abdominoplasties may be performed on an outpatient basis, the operation is nevertheless a serious one. If the procedure is more extensive it will usually be performed in hospital under general anaesthetic. Before the operation your surgeon may insert a catheter. This ensures your bladder remains empty throughout the surgery.
There are various options with regard to the incision. The traditional technique is to make a straight lateral incision from one hipbone to another (just above the pubic region). A newer technique is to make an incision in the shape of a 'W' (from one hipbone, down to the bupic region and back up to the other hipbone).
After the pubic/hip incision, the surgeon proceeds to cut around the naval or belly button. This leaves the naval stalk still attached to the abdominal wall, but allows the surgeon to lift up the flap of skin exposing muscles up to your ribs. Once the underneath muscles are exposed, sutures are used to tighten the abdominal muscles along with the superficial fascial system. Your surgeon then pulls the skin flap back toward the incision and measures how much excess should be trimmed. Once the extra skin is removed, your surgeon cuts a new hole for your navel. The wounds are then closed with stitches.
There are alternatives to the tummy tuck procedure. For example, some surgeons may use a long vertical incision from the ribs to the pubic area. The surgeon may also make the horizantal incision shorter, however, this can make the skin bulge and gather at the ends.
Tummy Tuck Recovery
Recovering from a tummy tuck procedure can be lenghty and uncomfortable. You wake up with a dressing over your abdominal area. Your abdomen will be very sore and swollen. Your knees will be bent to alleviate some of the tension on your skin. Most likely you'll remain in hospital for 48 to 72 hours. You'll be advised to sleep with your knees bent for the first few days following surgery.
Once you arrive home, you will need plenty of bed rest for the first two to three weeks. Your surgeon will prescribe pain killers for the first one or two weeks following your abdominoplasty. You may be given a pressure garment. You won't be able to move much for the first week. Leg circulation can be promoted by doing calf flexion exercises. Your surgeon may also give you compression socks or stockings.
Your tummy will be swollen and bruised and you may not be able to straighten your body for several weeks. Despite this, your surgeon will advise you to start walking as soon as possible to reduce the risk of blood clots in your legs. The outer stitches are generally removed after about 10 days. You'll need to wait at least 2-3 weeks to have deeper sutures removed. Avoid tight clothing, stretching, straining or any heavy lifting for at least one month. Also do not climb any stairs during the first week.
Tummy Tuck Risks
Here are some of the risks associated with abdominoplasty surgery:
- Deep vein thrombosis - caused by blood clots in the legs. This can be treated with medication but is potentially fatal if left untreated. Watch out for signs including short breath and chest pain. Smoking, being on the pill and obesity increases the risk of DVT;
- Thick scarring - visible scarring is inevitable and permanent with a tummy tuck. The movement you are required to take to avoid blood clots may widen the scars;
- Loss of navel - your new navel may be out of balance, uneven and may even disappear.
- Fluid build up (seroma) - this is usually absorbed naturally by the body;
- Infection - requires drainage and antibiotics;
- Internal bleeding - you may need revision surgery if this occurs;
- Necrosis - dead skin cells around the scar which could be unsightly.