What is a tummy tuck?
An abdominoplasty, otherwise known as a 'tummy tuck', is a surgical procedure to remove loose skin and excess fat from the middle and lower abdomen.
A tummy tuck can tighten separated abdominal muscles and flatten the stomach. Abdominoplasty surgery is most commonly performed after pregnancy or weight loss in women and after weight loss in men.
By reducing a protruding or drooping abdomen and smoothing loose skin, tummy tuck surgery can make a major difference to the body shape. Nearly all patients undergoing abdominoplasty feel very positive about its results.
Who is abdominoplasty for?
Abdominoplasty is best suited for men and women in relatively good shape, but with loose abdominal skin and fat that won't respond to dieting or exercise. A tummy tuck repairs muscles and removes excess skin, revealing a stomach that is smoother and firmer. It’s important to note that abdominoplasty isn’t a replacement for a healthy diet and regular exercise, nor is it a weight loss solution.
A tummy tuck procedure may be appropriate for you if:
- You have realistic expectations
- You are physically healthy and at a stable weight
- You have excess stomach fat that hasn’t responded to diet or exercise
- You have droopy or loose skin around your stomach
Is tummy tuck surgery suitable for me?
You are most likely to benefit from an abdominoplasty if you are self-conscious about what your abdomen looks like. It is common for the skin of your abdomen not to shrink back after pregnancy or losing a lot of weight.
Your abdominoplasty surgeon will carry out a detailed assessment before deciding if surgery is suitable for you. During the assessment they will examine your abdomen, ask questions about your medical history and may take photos for your medical records. Your height and weight will also be recorded. If you’re overweight, they may suggest you lose weight before having tummy tuck surgery.
It’s important to let your surgeon know if you are planning to become pregnant in the future or are pregnant. Pregnancy may change the appearance of your abdomen and can affect the long-term results of abdominoplasty surgery.
What can I do to help make the tummy tuck operation a success?
If you smoke, it’s a good idea to stop smoking several weeks or more before the operation. This may reduce your risk of developing complications and will improve your long-term health.
Try to maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, you have a higher risk of developing complications.
Regular exercise should help to prepare you for the operation, help you to recover and improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
What are the different types of tummy tuck procedures?
There are five types of tummy tuck procedures including:
- Standard abdominoplasty
- Fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty
- Mini abdominoplasty
- Lower body lift or belt lipectomy
- Endoscopic abdominoplasty
1. Standard abdominoplasty
If you have a lot of excess skin, your surgeon will use this procedure. The surgeon will make a curved cut from one hip to the other, going down to just above the pubic area. Any excess skin and fat between the pubic area and your umbilicus (belly button) will be removed. Your surgeon will then cut under the skin above your umbilicus, pulling it downwards and tightening it. In some cases, your surgeon will need to reconstruct your umbilicus (umbilicoplasty) and tighten the abdominal wall muscles. Liposuction is sometimes used to remove excess fat.
2 Fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty
This surgical technique is suitable if you have a lot of excess abdomen skin hanging around and downwards, usually as a result of losing a significant amount of weight or having bariatric surgery. Similar to a standard abdominoplasty, your surgeon will also tighten your waist by making a vertical cut along your midline up to just below your breastbone, to remove more excess skin and fat.
This tummy tuck surgical technique is suitable if you have only a little excess skin. Your surgeon will need to make only a small cut just above the pubic area to remove the excess skin and may also tighten the muscles of your abdominal wall. They will not need to cut under the skin above your umbilicus and they will use liposuction only if they need to remove any excess fat.
4 Lower bodylift or belt lipectomy
These surgical techniques are suitable after significant weight loss, usually as a result of bariatric surgery. Your surgeon will remove excess skin and fat from your sides, abdomen and lower back. They may also use liposuction to remove excess fat from your thighs.
5 Endoscopic abdominoplasty
This technique is suitable if you only need to have the muscles of your abdominal wall tightened. Your surgeon will make small cuts and use a flexible telescope (endoscope) with surgical instruments to tighten the muscles of your abdominal wall. Your surgeon may also use liposuction to remove excess fat.
Your surgeon will usually insert drains (tubes) in the cuts to help your wounds to heal. They will usually close the cuts with dissolvable stitches.
How should I prepare for tummy tuck surgery?
Your recovery will include extensive downtime, and you should prepare to rest and take it easy. It’s recommended that you should take two to three weeks off work.
Make sure you arrange for a drive home from surgery. If possible, have someone stay with you for the first two days to help with your personal, medical, and household needs.
Before the day of your surgery, assemble everything you may need during recovery before the day of your surgery.
Some useful things to have on hand after tummy tuck surgery include:
- Compression garments,
- Pain medications,
- A stool softener, and
- Healthy, simple foods.
What is abdominoplasty recovery like?
The hospital stay required after an abdominoplasty varies from one to four days, depending on the operation. If muscle repair is part of the operative plan, recovery is slower than if no muscle repair is needed.
Before the end of the operation, local anaesthetic is inserted into the wound area to minimise any discomfort on waking.
The nursing staff will closely monitor you postoperatively, and given all the pain medication you need. An IV drip will give you fluid, and initially you will have an oxygen mask. The intravenous drip will be removed when you can drink well.
After the surgery, drain tubes may be required for several days to remove excess fluids from the wound. Your abdomen will be swollen for a few weeks after surgery and you will experience some discomfort. A urinary catheter may be necessary for a day or so.
How soon after abdominoplasty surgery can I resume normal daily activities?
To reduce the risk of a blood clot, make sure you follow carefully the instructions of the healthcare team if you have been given medication or need to wear special stockings.
Rest for two weeks and do only light activities. This will help your wound to heal and reduce the risk of fluid collecting. You should then be able to do a limited amount of activity, such as lifting young children.
Get yourself fitted with a customised corset to help reduce any swelling and to keep you comfortable over the first month.
Depending on your type of work, you should be able to return to work after two weeks.
Do not lift anything heavy or do strenuous exercise, such as vacuuming or ironing, for six weeks.
Do not have sex for three weeks and then be gentle.
The healthcare team will advise you on exercising to help keep you to a healthy weight and to improve the tone of your abdominal muscles.
Do not drive until you are confident about controlling your vehicle and always check your insurance policy and with your doctor.
When results can I expect from abdominoplasty surgery?
Your tummy tuck will leave you with a tighter, flatter stomach and may remove some stretch marks. You shouldn’t expect much weight loss as a direct result of the tummy tuck surgery. Unless you have a significant weight change or become pregnant, your stomach should remain firmer and flatter for many years.
Are there risks or complications with tummy tuck operations?
Any surgical operation brings complications of anaesthesia. Your anaesthetist will be able to discuss with you the possible complications of having an anaesthetic.
General complications of every surgery include:
- Pain. Your healthcare team will give you medication to control the pain. To reduce discomfort and prevent headaches, it’s important that you take the medication.
- Infection of the surgical site (wound). Let your surgeon know if your wounds bleed, swell or become tender. An infection usually settles with antibiotics but you may need another operation.
- Blood clot in your leg (deep-vein thrombosis – DVT). This can cause pain, swelling or redness in your leg, or the veins near the surface of your leg to appear larger than normal. Your healthcare team will assess your risk. They will encourage you to get out of bed soon after the operation and may give you injections, medication, or special stockings to wear. Let the healthcare team know straightaway if you think you might have a DVT.
- Blood clot in your lung (pulmonary embolus). If a blood clot moves through your bloodstream to your lungs. If you become short of breath, feel pain in your chest or upper back, or if you cough up blood, let the healthcare team know straightaway. If you are at home, call an ambulance or go immediately to your nearest Emergency department.
Specific complications of abdominoplasty surgery include:
- Developing a swelling under the skin in your lower abdomen caused by blood or fluid collecting. You may need to have a small procedure to remove the blood or fluid.
- Numbness or continued pain on your abdomen caused by injury to the small nerves that supply your skin. Any pain or numbness usually gets better within a few weeks but can sometimes continue for many months.
- Cosmetic problems. It is difficult to predict exactly how your abdomen will appear after the operation. Sometimes you will still have a small area of excess skin. If you are overweight, particularly on your sides, you may get flaps of skin towards your sides near the ends of your wound. If you had a standard abdominoplasty, your umbilicus may go slightly off-centre but usually only you will notice this. If you had a fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty, your midline scar may thicken and become more noticeable.
Are there any alternatives to an abdominoplasty?
If you have too much fat around your abdomen, it may be better to have only liposuction, where the fat is sucked out using a small tube. Your surgeon may recommend having liposuction before, during or after an abdominoplasty.
If your abdomen looks saggy because the muscles of your abdominal wall are slack, your appearance may improve if you follow an exercise programme.
What will happen if I decide not to have the operation?
An abdominoplasty will not improve your physical health. The appearance of your abdomen will stay the same. Your surgeon may be able to recommend an alternative to improve the appearance of your abdomen.
What’s the recovery time for abdominoplasty surgery?
The amount of time for recovery from tummy tuck surgery will vary greatly from patient to patient. Depending on the extent of your abdominoplasty and your general health, it may be possible to return to non-strenuous work within two to three weeks of surgery. Most patients resume normal activities, including exercise, after several weeks.
For the first couple of weeks after the tummy tuck procedure, you will experience some level of discomfort. Within several weeks, most of the swelling will be gone. It’s important to note that it may take several months before all swelling subsides, and you see the final result of your abdominoplasty surgery.
Should I wait until I’ve had all my children before I have a tummy tuck procedure?
To achieve the best results, many abdominoplasty surgeons recommend women wait to have a tummy tuck until after they have completed their family. Pregnancy can reverse some of the corrections from a tummy tuck, with follow-up surgery sometimes needed to refine the look.
How do I choose an Abdominoplasty Surgeon?
An abdominoplasty is an elective surgery procedure to improve the appearance of your abdomen. It’s important to consider your options carefully and have realistic expectations about your tummy tuck results.
With any elective surgical procedure, the most important factor in choosing a surgeon is experience. We suggest you look for a board-certified plastic surgeon who performs the procedure frequently and has proven safe results.
Once you have a short list of tummy tuck surgeons, it’s a good idea to have multiple consultations before you select a surgeon. Find the best Abdominoplasty Surgeons in Australia here.
An abdominoplasty or tummy tuck is a type of cosmetic surgery performed to remove fat and excess loose skin from the abdomen.
Many surgeons recommend that a tummy tuck should only be considered after a suitable diet and exercise program have achieved a healthy body size for the individual. Overweight patients may be advised to lose weight before undergoing abdominoplasty surgery.
Complications of tummy tuck surgery include infection, haematoma and seroma (blood or fluid collections under the wound), wound breakdown requiring regular dressings, and a poor scar requiring minor revisional surgery. There is always some numbness of the skin just above the scar after this surgery.
Abdominoplasty is not a treatment for obesity. Excess hanging skin can hamper exercise, so occasionally it is preferable to remove this before weight loss is attempted.
Having a tummy tuck procedure won't stop you from gaining weight in the future. To maintain your abdominoplasty results, you should avoid big fluctuations in your weight.
Important to know
So you can make an informed decision, your elected surgeon will discuss the possible risks associated with abdominoplasty surgery. Although the majority of patients do not experience these complications, it's important to understand how they can be managed in the event that they occur.