A tummy tuck is a cosmetic surgical procedure to improve the appearance of the abdomen.
During a tummy tuck — also known as abdominoplasty — excess skin and fat are removed from the abdomen. Connective tissue in the abdomen (fascia) usually is tightened with sutures as well. The remaining skin is then repositioned to create a more toned look.
A tummy tuck poses various risks, including:
- Fluid accumulation beneath the skin (seroma). Drainage tubes left in place after surgery can help reduce the risk of excess fluid. Your doctor might also remove fluid after surgery using a needle and syringe.
- Poor wound healing. Sometimes areas along the incision line heal poorly or begin to separate. You might be given antibiotics during and after surgery to prevent an infection.
- Unexpected scarring. The incision scar from a tummy tuck is permanent, but is placed along the easily hidden bikini line. The length and visibility of the scar varies from person to person.
- Tissue damage or death. During a tummy tuck, fatty tissue deep within your skin in the abdominal area might get damaged or die. Smoking increases this risk. Depending on the size of the area, tissue might heal on its own or require a surgical touch-up procedure.
- Changes in skin sensation. During a tummy tuck, the repositioning of your abdominal tissues can affect the nerves in the abdominal area, and infrequently, in the upper thighs. You’ll likely feel some reduced sensation or numbness. This usually diminishes in the months after the procedure.
The procedure typically takes about two to three hours.
Normally,general anesthesia is required for a tummy tuck surgery.
How you prepare
Initially, you’ll talk to a plastic surgeon about a tummy tuck. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:
- Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions. Talk about any medications you’re taking or you have taken recently, as well as any surgeries you’ve had.Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications. If your desire for a tummy tuck is related to weight loss, your doctor will likely ask detailed questions about your weight gain and loss.
- Do a physical exam. To determine your treatment options, the doctor will examine your abdomen. The doctor might also take pictures of your abdomen for your medical record.
- Discuss your expectations. Explain why you want a tummy tuck, and what you’re hoping for in terms of appearance after the procedure. Make sure you understand the benefits and risks, including scarring. Keep in mind that previous abdominal surgery might limit your results.
Before a tummy tuck you might also need to:
- Stop smoking
- Avoid certain medications
- Maintain a stable weight
- Take medication to prevent complications
- Arrange for help during recovery
After the procedure
After a tummy tuck, your abdominal incision and bellybutton will likely be covered with surgical dressing. Small tubes might be placed along the incision site to drain any excess blood or fluid.
Members of your health care team will help you walk as early as the first day after a tummy tuck to help prevent the formation of blood clots.
You’ll likely feel moderate pain, which will be controlled by pain medication. It’s normal to have swelling in the surgical area.
Drains might be left in place for several days after surgery. Your doctor or another member of your health care team will show you how to empty and care for your drains. You might need to continue taking an antibiotic as long as the drains are in place.
Your surgeon might also prescribe a blood-thinning medication for a short time after your tummy tuck.
You’ll wear a supportive abdominal garment (abdominal binder) for about six weeks after your tummy tuck. This helps prevent fluid buildup and provides abdominal support while you heal. Your doctor will explain how to care for your scar.
For the first six weeks after a tummy tuck, you’ll need to be careful when moving around. You’ll also need to avoid positions that strain your incision line — such as quickly bending at the waist — to prevent the reopening of the wound.
You’ll need to schedule regular follow-up visits. Ask your doctor how often you need to be seen.