Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) helps flatten the abdomen by removing excess fat and skin, and tightening muscles. The best candidates for abdominoplasty are in good physical condition, with pockets of fat or loose skin that have not responded well to diet and exercise. Abdominoplasty can also be appropriate for slightly obese people whose skin has lost some of its elasticity, and for women with skin and muscles stretched from pregnancy. Anyone planning on losing a significant amount of weight, and women planning on having (more) children, should wait before undergoing abdominoplasty.
The Abdominoplasty Procedure
Abdominoplasty takes approximately 2 to 5 hours to perform; the patient is placed under general anesthesia. Two incisions are made: one from hipbone to hipbone close to the pubic area, and another around the navel. Skin is separated from the abdominal muscles, which are then pulled together and stitched into place for a firmer abdomen and narrower waist. The skin flap is then stretched down over the newly tightened muscles, excess skin is removed, and the navel is reattached where it looks natural. The incisions are then closed, and sterile surgical dressings are applied over the sutured areas.
The Belly Button
The main scars for abdominoplasty are kept relatively short, and very low. This makes it easy to hide them in underwear, and a bikini. The belly button/umbilicus/navel has the visible scar. The technique utilized helps to break up that scar and make it as natural as possible. The circular “target” seen in many abdominoplasties or the tiny “marble” belly button is avoided.
Recovery After Abdominoplasty
After surgery, a temporary tube may be inserted to drain excess fluid from the surgical site. An overnight hospital stay may be necessary. Recovery time ranges from 2 weeks to 2 months. Abdominoplasty leaves a scar spanning the lower abdomen from hip to hip, although it is low enough to be concealed by a bikini. Maintaining weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise provides long-lasting results.
Risks of Abdominoplasty
In addition to the usual risks associated with surgery and anesthesia, risks associated with abdominoplasty include the following:
- Poor aesthetic result
- Unsightly scarring
- Loose skin
- Numbness in skin sensation
- Need for revisional surgery
Patients who have had previous abdominal surgery may find that their old scars look more raised, have stretched or are more noticeable in general. Undergoing a scar revision may minimize their prominence.