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- Type of anesthesia or sedation
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- Incision location/type
- Extent of surgery needed
An abdominoplasty or tummy tuck is a cosmetic surgery procedure to improve the appearance of the tummy. It’s suitable for patients who have lost a lot of weight and have excess skin, or for women who have sagging skin on the belly after multiple pregnancies. During the operation, the surgeon removes excess skin and fat, and tightens the abdominal muscles. This gives a smoother, firmer appearance to the abdomen.
Abdominoplasty is not a weight-loss surgery, although it may be combined with liposuction if you also have stubborn areas of fat that are resistant to diet and exercise.
Tummy tuck is not suitable for patients who are currently overweight. The best advice is to lose weight through diet and exercise, and consider cosmetic surgery if you have sagging skin after weight loss.
Women who are planning to get pregnant in future may be advised to wait to have a tummy tuck. The abdominal muscles are tightened during surgery, and pregnancy can reverse the tightening effect.
If you smoke, your surgeon will ask you to stop smoking completely 2 weeks before the surgery and for 2 weeks afterwards. This is because smoking makes it more difficult for your body to heal, and increases the chance of complications.
Your surgeon may recommend a full tummy tuck, or a partial “mini” tummy tuck. Both procedures are considered major surgery, so the operation is performed under general anaesthetic.
For a full abdominoplasty, the surgeon makes one low incision from hip to hip, and a second small incision around the belly button. This allows the surgeon to remove excess fat and skin, and tighten the stomach muscles. After the skin is removed, the surgeon repositions the belly button to give the best appearance.
A mini tummy tuck is suitable for patients who only have excess skin and fat below the belly button. This requires only one incision at the hip level, which may be smaller than the full abdominoplasty incision.
The operation generally takes between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the procedure.
When you wake up from your surgery, you will have stitches in place and bandages over the incision site. The surgeon may have placed drainage tubes, which will be removed at your follow-up appointment. You will also be given a compression garment, like a wide elastic corset, to reduce swelling and support the abdomen as it heals. This corset needs to be worn for several weeks after surgery.
There will be pain and swelling after the operation, which will begin to ease after the first couple of days. Your doctor will prescribe medication to help with this. You’ll be closely monitored during the 1-3 nights you spend in hospital. It’s important to take your first steps out of bed as early as the day after surgery, as this helps to reduce the swelling and the risk of complications. You will need to take at least two weeks off work, depending on your job. You should avoid all heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for four to six weeks.
After six weeks, tummy tuck patients are usually back to their normal routine and recovered from most of the effects of the surgery. The long scar running along the bikini line begins to fade from red to white by this point. During the following months, you may feel tightness or pulling when you stand up straight, and you may have some numbness in your tummy. It can take up to six months for full healing and to see the final results of the abdominoplasty.
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