Abdominoplasty (Tummy tuck)

Overview

As a result of pregnancy and weight loss women often develop an excess of abdominal skin and fat with stretched abdominal muscles. Men can also suffer a similar excess of skin and fat following weight loss. An abdominoplasty ("tummy tuck") is an operation to remove excess fat and skin from the abdomen in order to improve the shape and contour of this region of the body. The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and takes 2-3 hours requiring a 2-3 day hospital stay. During the procedure a long curved cut is made in the skin across the lower abdomen at the level of the top of the pubic hair, and a separate small cut is made around the umbilicus ("tummy button"). Beneath the skin and fat the abdominal wall muscles are tightened with stitches and the excess skin and fat are then excised.  The lower wound is stitched with dissolving sutures leaving the resulting scar concealed by bikini style underwear. The umbilicus ("tummy button") is stitched with a combination of dissolving sutures and some that will need to be removed 7-10 days after the operation. This is one of the most commonly performed cosmetic procedures and has high patient satisfaction and low complication rate. It can be performed in conjunction with liposuction if additional excess fat needs removing. In some patients with a smaller excess of lower abdominal skin and fat, a mini version of an abdominoplasty is performed requiring a smaller scar in the bikini line but without the need for any scarring around the umbilicus.

Frequently asked questions

Am I suitable for an abdominoplasty?

What are the benefits of an abdominoplasty?

Where are the scars?

Is the procedure painful?

How long does it take to recover from the surgery?

When will I notice the results and how long will they last?

Will I be told the risks and complications?

What follow-up appointments will there be?

Am I suitable for an abdominoplasty?

Not everyone is suitable for an abdominoplasty. Suitability is a matter for you and Mr Johnson to discuss in clinic, following a thorough analysis of your medical history and a thorough clinical consultation.

What are the benefits of an abdominoplasty?

The surgery improves the contour and shape of the abdomen increasing patient confidence and improving self esteem. Patients who have had an abdominoplasty enjoy being able to wear clothes and swimwear that they would have previously been to embarrassed to wear.

Where are the scars?

There is one long low abdominal scar extending in a curve from one side of the abdomen to the other. This scar is hidden within the bikini line. There is also a small scar around the umbilicus ("tummy button"). In a mini-abdominoplasty, the low abdominal scar is in the same location but usually much shorter and there is no scar around the umbilicus.

Is the procedure painful?

During the operation strong painkillers are administered so that when patients wake up from the surgery they will be comfortable. It is normal for patients to experience some discomfort from the scar line and for the first day or two postoperatively, strong painkillers can be administered intravenously if required. This is usually controlled by the patient themselves pressing a button which administers the painkiller via an infusion pump. On discharge from hospital, any discomfort from the wounds can usually be managed with simple tablet type painkillers such as paracetamol etc.

How long does it take to recover from surgery?

Following surgery, you will be given a corset to wear for six weeks. For the first week you will need to walk around stooped over a little, and sleep with a pillow under your knees to keep tension off the wound. For the first two weeks postoperatively, you should not lift anything heavier than a kettle. Depending on your job you can usually return to work for light duties after 2-3 weeks. A gradual increase in light exercise is encouraged after you your first wound check following discharge from hospital, but no sport, strenuous exercises or weight lifting should be undertaken until six weeks following surgery or until you are seen by Mr Johnson for review.

When will I notice the results and how long will they last?

The visual improvement in abdominal contour will be immediately apparent following abdominoplasty surgery. However, there may some bruising, swelling and numbness around the wound which may last several weeks. The scars will undergo a natural maturation process involving a series of colour and texture changes over a period usually varying from 6 months to 2 years. The final result can usually be judged at around 1 year following surgery. The results of abdominoplasty are long lasting but large fluctuations in weight, further pregnancies and the normal age related effects on skin laxity can lead to a recurrence of loose skin.

Will I be told the risks and complications?

Complications are uncommon following abdominoplasty. During your initial consultation Mr Johnson will have a full discussion with you about the risks and complications of surgery. You will be given an information leaflet about abdominoplasty which includes complications and if you decide to go ahead with surgery, these risks will again be discussed as part of the consenting process. Fortunately, with correct patient selection and appropriate procedure selection, the risks are kept to an absolute minimum. It is important that you should be reassured that Mr Johnson will not agree to perform any cosmetic procedure on you unless he feels the benefits significantly outweigh the risks.

What follow-up appointments will there be?

Mr Johnson will come and see you on the ward after your surgery and will review you everyday throughout your hospital stay. After you have been discharged Mr Johnson will arrange to see you in clinic after 7-10 days to review the wound and remove any stitches. He will then make arrangements to see you in clinic for longer term follow-up appointments. You will be given contact details for the hospital and Mr Johnson's secretary should you wish at any time to discuss further aspects of your care or make additional arrangements for review.


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