Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)
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What is a tummy tuck?
Also known as abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck removes excess fat and skin and tightens the muscles to flatten the stomach.
Enhancing your appearance
Despite diet and exercise, some people can just can not achieve a flat abdomen. Bulges around the waist, stretched out skin, and poor scars are all issues that can occur even in people with normal weight. The most common causes of a bulging stomach include:
- Significant fluctuations in weight
- Prior surgery with scars
Also known as abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck works to correct these issues and to create an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer.
Types of Abdominoplasty
There are three ways to improve the shape of the abdomen:
- Full tummy-tuck
- “Mini-tummy tuck”
A full tummy-tuck tightens the muscles from the breastbone to the pubic bone, and tightens the skin with an incision near the pubic hair. There is a necessary cut around the belly button. A “mini” tuck tightens the muscles only from the belly button to the pubic bone, and uses liposuction in the upper abdomen. Your doctor will discuss with you what procedure would be the best for your particular situation.
What it won’t do:
A tummy tuck is not a substitute for weight loss or exercise program.
Stretch marks below the umbilicus (belly button) are mostly removed with a tummy tuck. However, stretch marks above the umbilicus are improved by moving them into the harder to see area near the pubic hair area.
Tummy tucks are lasting improvements to the cosmetics of the abdomen. However, significant weight gain or pregnancy can cause the abdominoplasty to not remain as flat or tight as it was originally after surgery.
Is it right for me?
Tummy tuck surgery is a highly individualized procedure and you should do it for yourself, not to fulfill someone else’s desires or to try to fit any sort of ideal image.
Abdominoplasty is a good option for you if:
- You are physically healthy and at a stable weight
- You have realistic expectations
- You are a non-smoker
- You are bothered by the feeling that your tummy is too large
What to expect during your consultation
The success and safety of your tummy tuck procedure depends very much on your complete candidness during your consultation. You’ll be asked a number of questions about your health, desires and lifestyle.
Be prepared to discuss:
- Why you want the surgery, your expectations and desired outcome
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and your general health status
- Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- Previous surgeries
- Any history of unusual bleeding or clotting
Your surgeon may also:
- Take photographs for your medical record
- Discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes of the tummy tuck and any risks or potential complications
Preparing for surgery
Prior to surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Stop smoking well in advance of surgery
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
Special instructions you receive will cover:
- What to do on the day of surgery
- The use of anesthesia during your tummy tuck
- Post-operative care and follow-up
Important facts about the safety and risks of abdominoplasty
The decision to have tummy tuck surgery is extremely personal. Your plastic surgeon will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks or potential complications.
Possible risks of abdominoplasty include:
- Unfavorable scarring
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Fluid accumulation (seroma) between the skin and stomach muscles
- Poor wound healing
- Skin loss
- Blood clots in the legs
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Anesthesia risks
- Skin discoloration and/or prolonged swelling
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Major wound separation
- Recurrent looseness of skin
- Pain, which may persist
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Persistent swelling in the legs
- Nerve damage
- Possibility of revisional surgery
- Suboptimal aesthetic result
You’ll need help
If your abdominoplasty is performed on an outpatient basis, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.
Step 1 – Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedures. The choices include intravenous sedation with local numbing medicine, and general anesthesia. Your doctor will discuss the options with you.
Step 2 – The incision
A full tummy tuck requires a horizontally-oriented incision in the area between the pubic hairline and navel. The shape and length of the incision will be the related to the amount of extra skin you have. Through this incision, weakened abdominal muscles are repaired and tightened. A second incision around the navel is necessary for full tummy tucks.
Step 3 – Closing the incisions
Sutures, skin adhesives, tapes or clips close the skin incisions. Drains are typically left in place for 3-7 days to remove fluid accumulations.
Step 4 – See the results
Your tummy tuck will result in a flatter, tighter stomach. Liposuction is often done in the flanks. The final results may be initially obscured by swelling and your inability to stand fully upright until internal healing is complete.
Within a week or two, you should be standing completely upright.
Illustrations of procedure
Following your surgery, dressings or bandages may be applied to your incisions, and you may be wrapped in an elastic bandage or a compression garment to minimize swelling and to support your abdomen as it heals.
Two small thin drainage tubes may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.
You will be given specific instructions that may include: How to care for the surgical site and drains, medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential for infection, specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health, and when to follow-up with your plastic surgeon.
Be sure to ask your plastic surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period.
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery?
- When will they be removed?
- Are stitches removed? When?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
Previous abdominal surgery may limit the potential results of a tummy tuck. In women who have undergone cesarean section, the existing scars may often be incorporated into the new scar.
Words to know
Abdominoplasty: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.
Diastasis: Condition in which abdominal muscles have separated , typically during pregnancy.
General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness.
Local anesthesia: A drug is injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
Tummy tuck: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen