Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

Abdominoplasty surgery, also known as tummy tuck, removes excess fat and skin and, in most cases, restores weakened or separated abdominal wall muscles creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer.

After childbirth when tissues are stretched the loose skin and stretched out muscles may never return back to the original anatomical state. Also, weight loss can lead to saggy skin. In both instances, an abdominoplasty is an effective procedure to remove the excess skin and tone up the abdominal wall.


Who is a suitable candidate?

You should be physically healthy and at a stable weight. Ideally, a non-smoker and you are bothered by the appearance of your abdomen.  Abdominoplasty is a highly individualised procedure and you should do it for yourself and not fulfill someone else’s desires or try to achieve an ideal image.


What happens before surgery?

You will be asked to stop certain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen or herbal medicines that might increase the risk of bleeding during or after surgery.

If you are a smoker, you will be advised to stop smoking at least two weeks before and a similar length after surgery to reduce the chances of wound healing issues.


What does the surgery involve and how long it takes?

The surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic and usually takes between 2-3 hours.  Tummy tuck procedure could either be a mini-abdominoplasty where most of the skin and fat are below the belly button or a full abdominoplasty where the excess skin and fat are widespread over the abdomen.

The scar is usually placed below the swimwear and extends from one side of the hip to the other. The upper abdominal skin is pulled down like a curtain. The excess skin is trimmed, the underlying muscle is tightened with strong stitches and a new opening for the belly button is created, the belly button is popped through to the surface and sutured into position. The lower abdominal incision is closed in several layers with dissolvable stitches. Usually, two drains are placed to remove excess fluid collection. The incision is dressed and a light support dressing (binder) is applied around the abdomen.


What happens after surgery?

After staying in the hospital overnight, the next morning the drains are removed and you are encouraged to walk around to reduce the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). You can go home or stay another day depending on how you feel.

You will be seen 7 days after the procedure to assess if you have any collection of seroma fluid; which can be easily and painlessly removed in the consultation room. You will be seen 3 months after surgery to assess the outcome and your satisfaction.

You can return to work 2-3 weeks after surgery but avoid heavy lifting, bending and exercise up to 4-6 weeks.


What are the risks and complications?

Significant and major complication rates are very low in abdominoplasty but the following could occur:

Bleeding (haematoma): occasionally small blood vessels may open up under the skin soon after surgery (same day) and a return to the theatre is required to release the stitches and washout the collection. This will not impact the overall results of your tummy tuck.

Infection: wound infection rates are low in abdominoplasty surgery. Routine antibiotics are not required after tummy tuck surgery. Occasionally, antibiotics are required to treat an infection.

Seroma: this is a collection of straw coloured fluid under the tummy tuck skin. You may feel a swelling that may become uncomfortable. At your one-week postoperative visit, you will be assessed for any seroma collection. If required, this fluid can be painlessly removed in the consultation room.

Wound healing issues: small parts of the incision site can sometimes come apart and form a scab (wound dehiscence). This is most common at the centre of the scar as it is under the greatest tension. This problem is usually managed with regular dressing changes until healing takes place.

Numbness and nerve damage: expect some “fuzziness” or numbness around the scar site, which will settle over time. Major nerve damage is unlikely but rarely a nerve that supplies feeling to the outer part of the thigh may get damaged leading to a numb patch over the thigh area. This will have no impact on mobility.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): this is a rare but potentially significant complication where clots are formed in the deep veins in the legs and can travel towards the lungs. Great care is taken to avoid this complication by wearing special stockings before and after surgery, moving around soon after surgery. In theatre special compression devices are also used around your calf muscle to reduce the risk of clot formation.

  • Summary
  • Operation time 2-3 hours
  • Anaesthetic General Anaesthetic
  • Nights in hospital 1-2
  • Time off work 2-3 weeks
  • Return to exercise 4-6 weeks

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