What is a tummy tuck?

Tummy tuck surgery, otherwise known as an abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic surgery used to improve the shape of your tummy area (abdomen).

It can involve removing excess loose skin, fat and stretch marks as well as tightening the abdominal muscles. The aim is to remove excess skin on the tummy that cannot be removed through exercise – for example, excess skin caused by pregnancy or losing a lot of weight.

Tummy tuck surgery is not a quick fix for losing weight. The procedure is usually only recommended for people with a healthy body mass index (BMI).

Types of abdominoplasty

There are two types of abdominoplasty; a partial abdominoplasty and a full abdominoplasty.

A partial abdominoplasty involves making an incision across the lower tummy. A full abdominoplasty involves making an incision across the lower tummy from hip to hip.

What to expect during tummy tuck surgery

Both types of tummy tuck surgery can take between 2 and 5 hours and are usually done under a general anaesthetic.

During a partial abdominoplasty after making an incision the surgeon will separate the skin from the abdominal wall below the belly button. Excess fat and skin is then removed and the remaining skin is pulled together and stitched in place.

A full abdominoplasty is different in that after the first incision a second incision is made to free the belly button from the tissue that surrounds it. The skin is then separated from the abdominal wall and the abdominal muscles are realigned. Excess fat and skin is removed and a new hole is cut for the belly button and stitched back in place. The remaining skin is pulled together and secured by stitching in place.

Tummy tuck surgery recovery

After surgery you’ll be given pain relief if you experience any discomfort afterwards.

Most people need to stay in hospital for a few nights. Someone will need to drive you home and stay with you for the following 24 hours.

You will leave the hospital with a pressure garment (corset) or tummy-control pants which will need to be worn for 6 weeks to encourage your skin to heal properly and to reduce any swelling.

You will need to take about 4 to 6 weeks off work and refrain from exercising. You will not be able to drive for a few weeks after the operation (your surgeon and insurance company can advise you about this).

It takes about 6 weeks to fully recover and to see the full effect of a tummy tuck.

Tummy tuck surgery risks

The majority of tummy tuck surgeries are successful. However, as with all surgical procedures there is the possibility of problems occurring, including:

  • have prominent scarring in the first 6 weeks which eventually fade
  • find it difficult to stand up straight – it may feel like your tummy is being pulled (this will improve over time)
  • have pain and bruising
  • experience numbness in your tummy for an extended period
  • have a temporary fluid-filled swelling above the scar

Your surgeon will be able to tell you more about these risks, including how likely they are and how they’ll be corrected if you have them.

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