Once stretched by pregnancy or weight gain, the abdomen often fails to return to its original shape. Stretched beyond the capacity to return to normal, these tissues will also fail to respond to exercise or diet programs. In these cases, abdominoplasty can provide a long-lasting solution.
Abdominoplasty (commonly called a tummy tuck) is a frequently performed procedure used to tighten overly stretched abdominal muscles and skin for a smoother, flatter appearance.
What are the benefits?
Abdominoplasty can dramatically tighten the abdominal muscles, as well as the sagging, excess skin and accumulated fatty tissue. The abdomen will be firmer and flatter. The amount of improvement depends upon the extent of surgery and the patient's skin tone, body build, and healing process. Most people are happy with the results, and report a better body image after the surgery.
What will happen at the consultation?
During the initial consultation, you and your surgeon will discuss the changes that you would like to make in your appearance. He will explain the different options available to you, the procedure itself, the risks and limitations, and the type of anaesthesia that will be used. Your surgeon will also evaluate your health, determine the extent of fat deposits in your abdominal region, and carefully assess your skin tone.
How is the procedure performed?
There are several different abdominoplasty techniques. The most common procedure is performed under general anaesthesia. In the full abdominoplasty procedure, an incision is made across the lower abdomen, just above the pubic area. Another incision is made around the belly button to free the surrounding skin, and all of the skin is separated from the abdominal wall.
Then the surgeon pulls the loose muscles from the left and the right sides and sutures them together. This tightens the muscles to create a stronger abdominal wall and a smaller waist. Excess skin is removed, and a new opening is made for the belly button at the right position. The incisions are closed with dissolvable stitches and a dressing is placed over the wound. 2 drains will be inserted to release any possible collection of blood.
If your only problem area is below the belly button, you may benefit from a less complex procedure called a partial abdominoplasty, or abdominoplasty done in conjunction with liposuction to remove fat deposits from the hips, for a better body contour. Sometimes liposuction alone offers the best results.
How long does the operation take?
Abdominoplasty generally takes about 2-3 hours, depending on the extent of the repair. A partial abdominoplasty takes about 1 or 2 hours.
How long do I have to stay in the hospital for?
Hospital stay depends on the extent of the repair. Two to three days in hospital after the surgery is most common. If the area of repair is minimal, you may be able to go home the same day.
What can I expect afterwards?
For the first few days, your abdomen will probably be swollen and you're likely to feel some pain and discomfort, which can be controlled by medication. You will probably stoop when walking for a few days until the skin stretches.
Bed rest for two to three days is recommended. While in bed, your legs should be bent at the hips in order to reduce the strain on the abdominal area. Although you may not be able to stand straight at first, you should start walking as soon as possible. An appointment will be made to see the consultant 1 week after discharge. Keep all dressings intact and dry until then.
It may take you several weeks to feel completely back to normal. If you are in top physical condition, recovery will be much faster. Some people return to work after two weeks, while others take longer to recuperate. Vigorous exercise, especially lifting, should wait until you can do it comfortably and your surgeon gives you permission. Your scars may appear to worsen during the first few months, by becoming more red and thicker but this is normal. It may take up to a year before your scars flatten out and lighten in colour. While they'll never disappear completely, these scars will be placed so that they'll be covered by your clothes, including most bathing suits.
What are the long-term results?
As long as you keep your weight relatively constant, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and follow your surgeon's instructions about how to resume physical activity, the long-term results from this procedure are generally excellent.
What are the risks?
All surgery has some potential risks, including the risks of bleeding, reaction to the anaesthetic, and infection. Scars are to be expected, but they will become lighter and flatter with time. Smoking may increase the risk of complications and delay healing. This could result in larger scars, and a second surgery. You can reduce your risk of complications by closely following your surgeon's instructions before and after the surgery, especially with regard to when and how to resume physical activity.
Note: If you have scarring from previous abdominal surgery, your doctor may recommend against abdominoplasty or may caution you that scars could be unusually prominent.