A “tummy tuck” or abdominoplasty is an operation to remove excess skin and fat from the lower abdomen as well as tightening the muscles of the abdominal wall.
A tummy tuck is not a weight reduction operation, rather it creates an abdominal contour which is smoother and firmer, especially in those cases resistant to dieting or exercise.
Women who have given birth, or any patient who has lost considerable weight are ideal candidates for a tummy tuck.
Tummy tuck technique
In a standard lipoabdominoplasty, the incision and therefore final scar goes from hip to hip just above the pubic region. The abdominal skin is lifted up to gain access to the abdominal musculature. The abdominal muscles, which are very often separated as a result of pregnancies, are then reapproximated with sutures. The excess skin and fat of the lower abdomen is excised and the belly button is recreated in a more youthful and aesthetically pleasing position.
Some patients, particularly thin women following multiple child births, are more suited to a mini abdominoplasty. Mini refers not only to the size of the incision but also the extent of dissection. The excess skin and fat of the lower abdomen is excised much like a standard abdominoplasty, however, the bellybutton does not need repositioning. The final scar is much like a well healed caesarian scar which does not extend to the hip bones.
With both abdominoplasty techniques I use liposuction to achieve a sleek abdominal contour and refine the shape of the hips and flanks.
How long does it take to recover from a tummy tuck?
Abdominoplasty is performed under a general anaesthetic . You will generally require a one to three night hospital stay afterwards, which will be followed by two to four weeks recovery time, during which you won’t be able to work. My preference is not to use drains, which dramatically reduces the hospital stay and recovery.
What are the potential risks and complications of a tummy tuck?
- Infection of the wound which may require treatment with antibiotics
- Incision site may be uncomfortable and painful
- Blood clot may occur under the skin flaps and around the incision sites
- A skin graft may be required for areas of skin that do not heal
- Excessive accumulation of fluid (seroma) may occur under the incision site and may require a procedure for draining
- Incision sites may become temporarily numb, but will improve over time
- A blood transfusion may be required if there is a large loss of blood during surgery
- Short term nausea and vomiting may occur following surgery as a result of the anaesthetics used
- The tummy skin will have been tightened from above down, and the muscles from the outside in. This results in a tight feeling and cause difficulties in bending and other movements.
- Prominent and visible scars, known as hypertrophic and keloid scars may form over a healed incision. These scars are red, thickened and raised and may be annoying, itchy and unsightly, but they do not pose a health threat.
- Life threatening risks such as a blood clot are rare; however, should a blood clot occur it can move to the lungs, chest or deep veins of the legs.
How much does a tummy tuck cost?
A tummy tuck may be covered by some private health insurers. Review your policy carefully to determine what is covered.
Costs associated with a tummy tuck varies between: $12,000-$20,000 depending on a number of factors such as:
- Anaesthetist’s fee
- Private hospital or day surgical facility fees
- Need for post-operative garments
- Length of hospital stay
- The cover from your insurance company
- Whether you need other body contouring procedures such as labiaplasty, liposuction, thigh lift or arm lift.
- Surgical assistant’s fee
After our consultation my staff will give you an itemised account of the total cost.
The full answer is dependent on what you consider normal, however, there are general recovery phases that tummy tuck patients experience. Immediately after surgery, you will feel groggy from the anaesthesia, your pain will be noticeable. You’ll have pain medication to handle discomfort during this initial recovery period. Pain is usually at its worst a couple of days after surgery, after which you should feel noticeably better daily. The first 2 to 3 weeks after surgery, you will only be able to do light activity, and likely won’t want to do much more than taking easy walks and doing light housework. You should feel ready to return back to work after a couple of weeks though you may not reach your regular level of productivity at first. Lifting and straining are not recommended for about one month, so while you may feel more like yourself, you won’t be able to do as much as you normally do. After 4 to 6 weeks, however, most patients are able to gradually return to exercise and feel mostly back to normal.
Even though residual swelling can linger, your shape will visibly improve and be very close to its final shape within 6 months after a tummy tuck. Something else to consider with tummy tuck results is the scarring. A tummy tuck produces a long scar between the hip bones which will appear pink for the first few months, and gradually fade with time. If you care for the scar properly and pay attention to your surgeon’s post-op instructions, it should fade significantly, becoming a faint line after a year or so. Even if this sounds like a long time, tummy tuck scars can be concealed beneath most types of swimwear, so you need not worry too much.
Swelling is a part of the body’s natural healing response as fluid collects around the surgery site in order to protect healing tissues. You will notice an immediate improvement in your abdominal contour but swelling can be uncomfortable and may hide your final results for a couple of months after tummy tuck surgery. Drains will usually be placed to collect excess fluid and relieve pressure on your abdomen. They can improve your comfort during the initial healing period and will usually be removed after one week. After that, time and sticking to your plastic surgeon’s instructions regarding activity will be the best way to get complete healing and a good result. Once your results are final, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a firmer, slimmer figure for many years to come.