Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty)

What is a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty)?

Abdominoplasty, also known as a tummy tuck, is a surgical procedure to remove excess fat and skin from the abdominal area. In some cases the abdominal muscles require tightening. The aim is to achieve a tighter, flatter stomach.

This surgery can help those who have been left with folds of abdominal skin following weight loss through diet and exercise, or following successful weight loss surgery. Abdominoplasty can also help women who have stretched skin and muscles following pregnancy (and who do not plan to have any more children).

Surgery is not a weight loss treatment. If you plan to lose more weight it is advisable to do so before having an abdominoplasty.

What does this involve?

Abdominoplasty is carried out under a general anaesthetic and usually requires a two night stay in hospital.

During the procedure, the surgeon will make incisions over the abdomen and across the bikini line. An incision is also made around the umbilicus (belly button) so that it can be repositioned. If necessary, stretched or torn abdominal muscles are pulled together and sutured in place. The skin is pulled down and the excess is removed. A new hole is made to accommodate the umbilicus. Once surgery is complete, all incisions are closed with stitches.

Following the procedure you will be taken from the operating theatre into the recovery suite where you will be looked after until you are fully awake. After this, you will return to your room, where nursing staff will check your dressings and monitor your pulse and blood pressure at regular intervals.

The anaesthetist will prescribe painkillers and you should take these regularly for the first week or so. Pain can slow down your recovery, so it is important to discuss any discomfort with the nursing staff.

You may have drainage tubes in your abdomen - these have bottles attached to them and are there to drain away any excess fluid. The drains are removed before you are discharged home.

There may be a drip in one of your arms - this is to keep you well hydrated. This will be removed when you are able to drink a satisfactory amount.

You will have wound dressings and a supportive compression garment in place.

When will I recover?

After an abdominoplasty you are likely to have some pain/discomfort, swelling and bruising in your abdomen. These are temporary and should subside after the first few weeks.

Your surgeon will advise you as to how long you are required to wear your supportive compression garment and whether it is to be worn day and night.
You will receive a post-operative telephone call from the specialist nurse one to two days after your discharge home to ascertain your progress and well-being. You will also receive a follow-up appointment at which your surgeon will assess your progress and give advice on when you can resume your normal activities.
You must avoid strenuous exercise, heavy lifting, swimming and vacuuming for four to six weeks after surgery. You should only resume driving when you are confident that you can safely perform an emergency stop without experiencing discomfort.

The length of time you will need to take off work will depend on your type of employment, but is usually a minimum of two weeks.

What risks should I know about?

Abdominoplasty is a commonly performed and generally safe procedure. However, all surgery carries an element of risk.

The possible complications of any surgery can include an unexpected reaction to a general anaesthetic, excessive bleeding, infection and developing a blood clot (usually in a vein in the lower leg, known as a deep vein thrombosis).

You will be left with visible scars following your surgery. Initially they will be red and slightly raised, but they should gradually soften and fade over the following months. You may also experience some numbness in the lower part of your abdomen - this is usually temporary, but in some cases can be permanent. It is also possible that the final position of your umbilicus will not be central and in some cases there is a small risk of complete loss of the umbilicus, though this is very rare.

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