Abdominoplasty, Also Known As Abdominal Reduction
What is abdominoplasty?
Abdominoplasty, also known as abdominal reduction, or commonly called a “tummy tuck”, is a surgical procedure to remove excess fat and skin from the abdomen and to tighten the abdominal muscles, thus improving the shape and appearance of the abdomen.
What are the reasons for having abdominoplasty?
There are a number of reasons why someone may choose to have abdominoplasty. They include:
- Looseness of skin following weight loss
- Looseness of skin and weak abdominal wall muscles following pregnancy
- Reduce excess skin following successful treatment for obesity
For more information about maintaining a healthy diet and weight, see our separate factsheet.
What happens during abdominoplasty?
During an abdominoplasty excess fat and skin are removed and the muscles of the abdomen are tightened. The operation is performed under general anaesthetic.
Liposuction, which involves the removal of fat by suction through small holes in the skin, may be carried out at the same time as abdominoplasty. For further information on liposuction see our factsheet.
What happens before abdominoplasty?
It is important to discuss with your surgeon just what you are expecting to gain from the operation and what result you can realistically expect. As the best results are obtained when people are the correct weight for their height, part of your preparation for the procedure may involve losing weight if you are overweight. If you take the contracep-tive pill you will be asked to stop six weeks before surgery, and use an alternative method of contraception. This is in order to reduce the risk of blood clotting (thrombosis) after the operation. Those who smoke run a greater risk of chest infection and the healing of abdominal wounds in smokers may be slower. If you smoke it is advisable to cut down for a week before surgery and to stop smoking completely for three days immediately before the operation. You should avoid taking Aspirin or medicine containing Aspirin for two weeks before your operation as it can reduce natural blood clotting after the operation.
What should I expect in hospital?
You will stay in hospital for about two to four days. Before the operation the surgeon should explain in more detail what the procedure involves and your risk of developing complications, such as blood clots in the legs (DVT) or a chest infection.
Although not a complication as such, occasionally the scar may be painful or the wound takes a long time to heal. You may also experience some numbness in the lower part of the abdomen, but this invariably reduces over the next six to twelve months following the operation.
If you have any outstanding questions about the operation, this is a good time to ask them. Once this has been completed you will be asked to sign a consent form. You will not be allowed to eat for around six hours before the operation. The surgeon may draw the area of the operation on your abdomen and about an hour before you are taken to the operating theatre you may be given a light sedative.
After the operation
It is likely that after the operation you will awaken to find you a a drip in your arm. This is to provide you with fluid while you are not able to eat and drink. There will also be a drainage tube inserted at each side of your lower abdomen; these are to drain any blood or watery liquid that collects from the operation site. The drains are usually removed the day after surgery. You may experience moderate post-operative pain for which you will be given painkillers in the form of tablets or injections.
To reduce strain on your stitches you will be asked to keep your knees and hips bent when you sleep at night for a few days. All the stitches will dissolve beneath the skin except for those around the navel, which are removed about ten days after surgery.
Recovering after abdominoplasty
In general healing can be slow, particularly in the central part of the wound and sometimes dressings are needed for a few weeks. You may experience some tightness around the wound, but this is more common in patients who are overweight and who smoke.
Once you are mobile, you should try to walk a little each day. This, together with the wearing of anti-thrombosis stockings will help help prevent DVT and chest infection.
If you find getting around particularly painful or difficult talk to the hospital or your doctor about obtaining effective pain relief. You may also find wearing a support girdle will helpful.
Straining and stretching the wound when you first get home will increase fluid accumulation and reduce healing and so should be avoided.
Most people are able return to work between two to four weeks after the operation, but vigorous exercise is not recommended for at least six weeks.