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 of a tummy tuck is to achieve a tighter, flatter stomach.

Many people feel quite self-conscious about their stomach and live with the anxiety that they don’t look the way they think they should. Sometimes, no amount of dieting or exercising can help the issue, particularly if they are a mother having recently gone through a pregnancy. In such instances, they may be left with stretch marks, loose stomach muscles, or slack skin. This can greatly affect body image, leading to low self-esteem and depression.

If you’ve been struggling with body confidence issues and are considering ways to change, why not meet with one of the plastic surgeons at Circle Health to discuss longer-lasting options and alternatives such as cosmetic surgery?

This particular surgery can help you if:

  • You have been left with folds of abdominal skin (after significant weight loss through diet and exercise),
  • You have had successful weight loss surgery,
  • You have scarring from a previous surgery or injury,
  • You have stretched skin and muscles following pregnancy (and do not plan to have any more children).

It is important to note that this surgery is not a weight loss treatment and won’t prevent you from gaining weight again in the future. If you plan to lose more weight, it is advisable to do so before having an abdominoplasty, and you may wish to inform your consultant that this is your plan. Typically, this surgery is most effective when a patient is at their ideal body weight, as maintaining this weight helps prevent the need for any further treatment.

Before undergoing any cosmetic surgery, it is important to consider all other options and ensure your decision to have surgery has been sufficiently thought out. For this reason, your consultant will generally recommend waiting a few weeks between your initial appointment and your surgery, so as to give you ample time to make the best decision for you.

For surgery to go ahead, you should be in good physical and mental health, and the abdominal area that will be operated on should not be shaved or waxed in the week leading up to your operation. Smokers are also advised to stop smoking several weeks beforehand, as smoking can increase the risk of complications and slow down the rate of recovery from surgery. If applicable, you may also be advised to stop taking the contraceptive pill four-six weeks prior to your operation, as doing so reduces your risk of developing a blood clot.

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.

As with any surgery, it is important to make sure your preferred surgeon has the necessary qualifications and is registered with the usual regulatory bodies, such as the General Medical Council Specialist Register. All the surgeons at our Circle hospitals are registered with the appropriate bodies and comply with all relevant regulations, and you can easily verify this on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) database.

At this stage, you will want to locate your nearest Circle hospital for your convenience, as this may inform which cosmetic surgeon you ultimately decide upon. Whichever Circle hospital and surgeon you choose, your surgery will be carried out efficiently, safely, and competently.

Before surgery, you will meet with your chosen specialist.They will ask you about your aims and goals for surgery, discussing what it is that troubles you about your abdomen, and they will help you understand what is achievable through surgery alone.

It is important to be honest with your surgeon at this stage about what you hope to gain from surgery and how you want to look once the procedure is complete. This is also your opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the procedure and air any concerns. You will be asked for your medical history and general level of fitness, and given a physical examination.

You will be advised to think about your plans for after care once surgery is completed and you have been discharged from hospital. This will include thinking about who is able to look after you and help you with daily activities while you recover, as you will be limited in the first few weeks. You will also need to consider transport in terms of how you will get home, as you will be not permitted to drive for several weeks following surgery.

Abdominoplasty is carried out under a general anaesthetic and requires a two-night stay in hospital. You will be assigned a dedicated anaesthetist who will administer your general anaesthetic and monitor you closely throughout the surgery.

During a standard tummy tuck procedure, the surgeon will make incisions (precise cuts) over the abdomen and across the bikini line, from hip to hip. An incision is also made around the umbilicus (belly button) to free it from the surrounding tissue 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 then made to accommodate the umbilicus. Once the surgery is complete, all incisions are closed with stitches.

If you are only having a small amount of skin and fat removed, your surgeon may have given you the option of a mini tummy tuck, in which a smaller incision is made just above the pubic area. This results in less scarring, and there is no need to move the umbilicus, although sometimes the umbilicus is stretched during the procedure, somewhat changing its shape.

Depending on the type of abdominoplasty you are having and how much skin and fat is being removed, the procedure typically takes between two and four hours. 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 the 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 on your own.

You will have wound dressings and a supportive compression garment in place while you recover from the operation. The compression garment will help to minimise any swelling and the dressings will be removed at your post-operative appointment

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. At first, you will want to avoid any movements that place any stress on your stomach muscles, and you will likely be advised to lie in bed with your knees bent to avoid strain on your abdominal stitches. Most surgeons use dissolvable stitches, but your doctor will inform you if you need to return to hospital to have any stitches removed.

During the first few weeks, it will be helpful to have someone at home with you as you will need to take it easy at first. This is particularly relevant if you have young children, as you should avoid heavy lifting to prevent added strain on your stitches. However, as long as the pain is manageable, it is good to keep mobile whenever you feel able

Your surgeon will advise you as to how long you are required to wear your supportive compression garment and whether or not 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 vigorous exercise, heavy lifting, swimming, and vacuuming for four-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; longer if you undertake particularly strenuous work.

It can take around six weeks to make a full physical recovery may take several months before you see the final result of your surgery. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight after surgery as significant weight loss or gain can affect the appearance of your abdomen.

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 (which may require more surgery),
  • Infection (resulting in the need for antibiotics),
  • 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 over the following months, typically fading to white within six months. On occasion, the scars may not improve and may remain red and raised. You may also experience some numbness in the lower part of your abdomen - this is usually temporary, but in some cases can be permanent.

With standard tummy tucks, 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. This risk is removed in a mini tummy tuck, where the umbilicus is not repositioned.

If you are considering a tummy tuck and think it might be just what you need to restore your body confidence and help you look the way you want to, why not get in touch and book an appointment at your nearest Circle hospital today? This will give you the opportunity to discuss all the benefits an abdominoplasty can provide with a plastic surgery specialist, addressing any concerns you may have as well. The consultants will be able to advise you on any alternative treatments, and can ultimately help you decide if surgery is your best option.

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Just enter your details below and we'll ring you to provide a quote or answer your questions. We will use your personal information to process your enquiry and contact you with relevant information. For further information, please see our website privacy policy.

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Circle Reading Hospital, 100 Drake Way, Reading, RG2 0NE

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Overall rating 24th October 2019

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