Tummy Tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure used to remove excess skin and fat from the abdomen. It can also tighten the muscles of the abdominal wall, flatten a bulging belly button, and remove excess fat around the pubic area.
Tummy tuck surgery is usually performed by a plastic surgeon who has extensive experience performing this procedure. The patient will be placed under general anesthesia (deep sleep) while the surgeon performs the surgery. The entire operation takes about two hours to complete, with an additional two hours for recovery in the hospital. Aftercare at home involves wearing compression garments for several weeks after surgery.
After five days or so, most patients can return to work and resume normal activities. However, it may take several weeks before any swelling or bruising disappears completely; some patients may continue to feel pain in their abdomen even after healing has occurred.
Is Tummy Tuck Major Surgery
A tummy tuck — also known as abdominoplasty — is a cosmetic surgical procedure to improve the shape and appearance of the abdomen.
During a tummy tuck, excess skin and fat are removed from the abdomen. Connective tissue in the abdomen (fascia) usually is tightened with sutures as well. The remaining skin is then repositioned to create a more toned look.
You might choose to have a tummy tuck if you have excess fat or skin around the area of your bellybutton or a weak lower abdominal wall. A tummy tuck can also boost your body image.
Why it’s done
There are a number of reasons you might have excess fat, poor elasticity of the skin or weakened connective tissue in your abdomen. These include:
- Significant changes in weight
- Abdominal surgery, such as a C-section
- Your natural body type
A tummy tuck can remove loose, excess skin and fat, and tighten weak fascia. A tummy tuck may also remove stretch marks and excess skin in the lower abdomen below the bellybutton. However, a tummy tuck won’t correct stretch marks outside of this area.
If you’ve previously had a C-section, your plastic surgeon might be able to incorporate your existing C-section scar into your tummy tuck scar.
A tummy tuck can also be done in combination with other body contouring cosmetic procedures, such as breast surgery. If you’ve had fat removed from your abdomen (liposuction), you may decide to have a tummy tuck because liposuction removes tissue just under the skin and fat but not any excess skin.
A tummy tuck isn’t for everyone. Your doctor might caution against a tummy tuck if you:
- Plan to lose a significant amount of weight
- Might consider pregnancy in the future
- Have a severe chronic condition, such as heart disease or diabetes
- Have a body mass index that’s greater than 30
- Have had a previous abdominal surgery that caused significant scar tissue
A tummy tuck poses various risks, including:
- Fluid accumulation beneath the skin (seroma). Drainage tubes left in place after surgery can help reduce the risk of excess fluid. Your doctor might also remove fluid after surgery using a needle and syringe.
- Poor wound healing. Sometimes areas along the incision line heal poorly or begin to separate. You might be given antibiotics during and after surgery to prevent an infection.
- Unexpected scarring. The incision scar from a tummy tuck is permanent, but it’s typically placed along the easily hidden bikini line. The length and visibility of the scar varies from person to person.
- Tissue damage. During a tummy tuck, fatty tissue deep within your skin in the abdominal area might get damaged or die. Smoking increases the risk of tissue damage. Depending on the size of the area, tissue might heal on its own or require a surgical touch-up procedure.
- Changes in skin sensation. During a tummy tuck, the repositioning of your abdominal tissues can affect the nerves in the abdominal area, and infrequently, in the upper thighs. You’ll likely feel some reduced sensation or numbness. This usually diminishes in the months after the procedure.
Like any other type of major surgery, a tummy tuck poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia.
How you prepare
You’ll talk to a plastic surgeon about a tummy tuck. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:
- Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions. Talk about any medications you’re taking or have taken recently, as well as any surgeries you’ve had.Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications. If your desire for a tummy tuck is related to weight loss, your doctor will likely ask detailed questions about your weight gain and loss.
- Do a physical exam. To determine your treatment options, the doctor will examine your abdomen. The doctor might also take pictures of your abdomen for your medical record.
- Discuss your expectations. Explain why you want a tummy tuck, and what you’re hoping for in terms of appearance after the procedure. Make sure you understand the benefits and risks of the procedure, including scarring. Keep in mind that previous abdominal surgery might limit your results.
Before a tummy tuck you might also need to:
- Stop smoking. Smoking decreases blood flow in the skin and can slow the healing process. In addition, smoking increases the risk of tissue damage. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend that you stop smoking before surgery and during recovery.
- Avoid certain medications. You’ll likely need to avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, which can increase bleeding.
- Maintain a stable weight. Ideally, you’ll maintain a stable weight for at least 12 months before having a tummy tuck. If you’re severely overweight, your doctor will recommend that you lose weight before the procedure. Significant weight loss after the procedure can diminish your results.
- Arrange for help during recovery. Make plans for someone to drive you home after you leave the hospital and stay with you for at least the first night of your recovery at home.
What you can expect
A tummy tuck is done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility. During a tummy tuck, you’ll be under general anesthesia — which makes you completely unconscious and unable to feel pain. In some cases, you might be given a pain-relieving medication and be moderately sedated (partially asleep).
Before the procedure
There are a number of different procedures for a tummy tuck, depending on your goals and the extent of change you would like to see. During the typical tummy tuck, your plastic surgeon makes incisions to remove most of the skin and fat between your bellybutton and pubic hair in a horizontal oval or elliptical shape. Connective tissue (fascia) that lies over the abdominal muscles is then tightened with permanent sutures.
The amount of excess skin removed and the type of procedure you have will determine the shape and length of the incision. The incision above the pubic hair will be stitched together and will leave a scar that falls along the natural crease within the bikini line.
Your plastic surgeon will also reposition the skin around your bellybutton. Your bellybutton will be brought out through a small incision and sutured in its normal position.
During the procedure you might be given an antibiotic to prevent infection.
The procedure typically takes about two to three hours.
After the procedure
After a tummy tuck, your abdominal incision and bellybutton will likely be covered with surgical dressing. Small tubes might be placed along the incision site to drain any excess blood or fluid.
Members of your health care team will help you walk as early as the first day after a tummy tuck to help prevent the formation of blood clots.
You’ll likely be given pain medication. It’s normal to have swelling in the surgical area.
Drains might be left in place for several days after surgery. Your doctor or another member of your health care team will show you how to empty and care for your drains. You might need to continue taking an antibiotic as long as the drains are in place.
Your surgeon might also prescribe a blood-thinning medication for a short time after your tummy tuck.
You’ll wear a supportive abdominal garment (abdominal binder) for about six weeks after your tummy tuck. This helps prevent fluid buildup and provides abdominal support while you heal. Your doctor will explain how to care for your scar.
For the first six weeks after a tummy tuck, you’ll need to be careful when moving around. You’ll also need to avoid positions that strain your incision line — such as quickly bending at the waist — to prevent the reopening of the wound.
You’ll need to schedule regular follow-up visits. Ask your doctor how often you need to be seen.
By removing excess skin and fat and strengthening your abdominal wall, a tummy tuck can give your abdomen a more toned and slimmer appearance.
Tummy tuck results are usually long lasting if you maintain a stable weight.
Tummy Tuck Surgery Side Effects
Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) can help address stretchmarks and sagging of the stomach, making it and ideal procedure for people who have experienced major weight loss following pregnancy or bariatric procedures. Dr. Kimberly Henry has helped countless patients in and around the greater San Francisco area achieve a trimmer and slimmer frame thanks to tummy tuck surgery, and it can really do wonders for you.
Of course, all surgeries cause certain side effects to occur. With that in mind, we’d like to go over some of the basic side effects of tummy tuck surgery so patients can have realistic expectations about what to expect from the treatment process.
About Tummy Tuck Surgery
Tummy tuck surgery typically involves three incisions in an anchor shape around the lower abdominal area:
- One lateral incision below the belly button that spans from hipbone to hipbone
- A circular incision around the belly button
- A vertical incision that connects the previous two incisions
Working through these incisions, a cosmetic surgeon is able to remove excess skin, adjust underlying tissues, tighten the remaining skin, and improve a patient’s overall body contour in the process.
The Effects of General Anesthesia
One of the most common side effects experienced after tummy tuck is related to general anesthesia. When coming out of general anesthetic, patients are likely to experience grogginess, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. This is all normal, and it’s why patients should avoid driving and operating machinery in the first 24 hours after their tummy tuck.
Soreness and Discomfort After Tummy Tuck
After any kind of surgery, patients are bound to note soreness and discomfort as they recover. This is especially pronounced in the abdominal region where the work was performed. The pain and discomfort is more pronounced in the first days after surgery, though patients should notice improvements in pain and discomfort as they continue to recover.
Bruising After Tummy Tuck
Bruising is not uncommon after surgery given the way that the blood vessels are affected by incisions and adjustments to the abdominal region. In general, the bruising is more noticeable in the first days after surgery, gradually fading over the course of three weeks to a month.
Swelling After Tummy Tuck
Swelling is another common side effect, and also a sign that you are healing properly. Since the accumulation of fluid can be pronounced, it’s not uncommon to have drainage tubes kept around certain incision sites to help filter fluid from the body and minimize swelling. Major swelling typically abates over the course of a month, though minor swelling can persist for a few months.
Preventing Blood Clots After Tummy Tuck
Blood clots are a potential danger after any major surgery. This is particularly true of clots in the leg. In order to prevent the formation of dangerous blood clots, patients are asked to walk a little bit every day as they recovery. This improves circulation and helps prevent blood clot formation in the legs and other parts of the body.
Post-Surgical Scarring and What You Should Know
Scarring after tummy tuck is pronounced, though thankfully it I concealed by many undergarments, tops, and bathing suits. Over time, the scars should fade and become less noticeable, though keep in mind that the nature of scarring does vary from patient to patient.
How to Avoid Complications After Tummy Tuck
To avoid potential complications following a tummy tuck, it’s best for patients to follow all post-op instructions to the letter. This offers optimal conditions for post-surgical healing and proper recovery. We can go over these post-op instructions during the consultation process.