Abdominoplasty surgery, commonly known as a tummy tuck, is a surgical procedure to remove excess skin and fat from the tummy and repair damaged and weakened abdominal muscles. A tummy tuck is suitable for patients who may have loose skin after major weight loss or pregnancy. This procedure can’t help you lose or control weight, and won’t stop you from gaining weight in the future, so it important that you are at your ideal weight. For the right person, a tummy tuck can make a big difference to their confidence and quality of life.
We invited Mr Nigel Carver, Consultant Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon here at One Hatfield Hospital, to address the questions he is commonly asked about abdominoplasty.
How long is the recovery?
You must set aside a minimum of 3 weeks for the basic recovery period. After that it takes about another three weeks until you are fully active. You can go back to gentle exercise at 2 months and then the last residual swelling is gone at 3 months.
Is it very painful?
This varies very much from person to person as each individual has a different pain tolerance. Generally though it is quite sore in the first week and then gets much easier in the second week. This is because the separated tummy muscles from having children are brought back together with stitches. You’ll be given moderate pain relief tablets but will be expected to move around gently. Resting in bed too much has it’s own dangers.
What are the risks?
It is very important that the surgery is as safe as possible. So you have to be fit and healthy. The main dangers to be avoided are getting a clot in the leg (deep vein thrombosis) or a chest infection. The risk of a clot is reduced by ensuring that you are not too overweight for surgery, that you get up and stay mobile after surgery and that you are a non-smoker. You must wear anti-embolism stockings and you must also cough, even though it hurts, to prevent a chest infection. Antibiotics are given to prevent wound infections and the risk of bleeding after surgery is reduced by making sure that you rest still on the first day.
Where will the scar be, and how long is it?
The scar will be as low as possible in the bikini line but it must be quite long in order to get the smooth flat result that is needed. Sometimes there must be a short vertical scar at the bottom but you would be told about that in advance and shown photos of what this looks like. The scar will become a white line after about 6 months and is well hidden. There will be a vertical oval scar just inside the edge of the re-positioned tummy button to keep it out of site.
Do I need a full tummy tuck or can I get away with a mini one?
This can only be determined by examining you to see where the problem is and how much the skin stretches. A mini tummy tuck will only solve loose skin at the very bottom and doesn’t tighten the muscles. By insisting on having a lesser procedure you can end up with disappointment. An experienced surgeon will guide you and only do a procedure which will produce the best outcome.
Will I need to wear a special garment like a corset after the surgery?
Will my tummy be completely flat after surgery?
There are a few things that can prevent surgery from making a tummy flat. These are things that already there and that the surgeon cannot change. It’s important to know about these in advance so you know what result you will get and whether it’s worth doing.
These problems are:
- A marked forward curve of the back (called a lordosis) means that the profile of the tummy, even when tight, will be a curve. A prominent rib cage can also ‘get in the way’.
- Very stretched muscles, even when tightened, sometimes don’t achieve a completely flat result.
- If you are overweight then fat behind the muscles will prevent them from being tightened.
- Lastly your posture. That’s your ability and desire to hold your tummy flat. This sounds easy but unfortunately some of us are unable to do this.
How can I find out more?
Mr Nigel Carver is a Consultant Consultant Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon. He has regular clinics at One Hatfield Hospital.