Tummy tuck surgery — often referred to as abdominoplasty — is designed to smooth and add firmness to your abdomen, giving you a slimmer and trimmer profile. Whether you've been left with excess skin on your tummy due to pregnancy or losing a large amount of weight, tummy tuck surgery could be your best option to get rid of an 'apron tummy'.
A 'saggy' stomach is often the result of substantial weight loss or following pregnancy. You lose all the pounds, but end up with a surplus of loose skin and fat. Many women also suffer weakened stomach muscles after pregnancy especially in the case of multiples. Abdominoplasty can help by tightening up those muscles, helping you to regain that flatter, tighter tum. Tummy tuck surgery can even eliminate some stretch marks, especially those located below the navel.
A tummy tuck also can remove stretch marks and excess skin in the lower abdomen below the belly button. Liposuction may be used to improve the contour of flanks or hips. A tummy tuck may narrow the waist, but not the hips. To achieve a balance between the two, the surgeon may recommend liposuction of the hips and thighs at the same time.
Anyone planning on losing weight should do this before a tummy tuck. Significant weight loss after the procedure can result in even more excess skin.
Candidates for abdominoplasty must abstain from all nicotine products and avoid secondhand smoke for at least six weeks before and after surgery, and refrain from taking aspirin three weeks before and after surgery.
Length of procedure: Up to 3 hours
Length of stay: Usually home in 1 to 2 days
Discomfort: Moderate to severe; controlled with intravenous pain medications
Anticipate: Swelling up to 6 weeks which could take up to 3 months to resolve completelys
Final result: 3 months
Duration of results: Usually lasting, unless substantial weight gain or pregnancy occurs
What to expect
Abdominoplasty entails removing most of the skin and fat between the belly button and pubic hair in a horizontal oval or elliptical shape. The fascia, which overlies the abdominal muscles, will be tightened with permanent sutures..
The skin around the belly button will then be repositioned. The belly button will be brought out through a small incision and sutured in its normal position. The incision from hip to hip above the pubic hair will be stitched together and will leave a scar that falls along the natural crease within the bikini line. The length and visibility of the scar varies from person to person.
Drains may be placed during surgery to prevent fluid collections (seromas). In some cases, drains are left beneath the skin for several weeks following surgery. Patients will be instructed how to empty and care for drains. They will also wear a supportive garment, called an abdominal binder, for four to six weeks after surgery. This helps prevent fluid buildup and provides abdominal support during healing.
Risks associated with abdominoplasty include, but are not limited to:
- Seroma (fluid collection beneath the skin) is the most common risk of tummy tuck surgery. Drainage tubes left in place help reduce this risk. Fluid may also be removed by the surgeon in the office using a needle and syringe.
- Hematoma, a collection of blood under the skin.
- Smoking, diabetes and excess weight increase the risk of skin death. Depending on the size of the area, skin may heal on its own within weeks or require another operation to remove.
- Reduced sensation or numbness in the abdominal area, and sometimes, in the upper thighs. This usually diminishes in the months following the procedure.