Any type of surgery carries some risks of complications no matter how skilled the surgeon and cosmetic surgery is no different in this respect. Tummy tuck surgery is one of the most popular plastic surgeries, designed to create a flatter and more toned abdominal contour.
With this operation, professional plastic surgeons associations and government advice both stateside and the UK relentlessly repeat a common theme. Prospective patients should choose qualified, experienced and ethical surgeons rather than simply shopping around only for the price. Plastic surgery (cosmetic surgery, aesthetic surgery) is a surgical specialism within surgery, and within that specialism each procedure requires specialist training, qualification and a great deal of competent clinical experience. Medical risks are reduced in the hands of a competent surgical team but can never be guaranteed to be eliminated.
The complications detailed below should be taken in context. Firstly, they cannot constitute medical advice. It would be impossible to state all the risks and meaningless anyway as they will vary from patient to patient.
Secondly, their illustration here is to highlight the nature of tummy tuck surgery – it is an invasive, full operation which carries certain degrees of risk and requires excellent standards of surgical skill. Finally, to balance the picture, it is also equally true that tummy tucks are routinely performed around the world and have been for some years now.
– Bleeding underneath the skin can occur, and the drainage tubes the surgeon inserts sometimes cannot collect it. This can be accompanied by a hematoma (blood clot). This must be treated by further corrective surgery.
– Any surgery carries a risk of wound infection. Prophylactic antibiotics (given before surgery) help to minimise risk.
– Degrees of scarring vary from patient to patient. Further surgery for scar revision may be advised if severe or subject to rupture.
– Necrosis can occur to skin or fatty tissue – meaning cells simply die. Smokers appear more at risk (1); adequate counselling with the surgical team can explain this more fully before surgery.
– Pulmonary embolism means a blood clot which moves to the lungs. This is not a ‘routine’ complication and various techniques are used as precautionary measures against this.
– Numbness to abdominal region or thighs may occur if nerves are damaged with surgery. Commonly, damage resolves over months; occasionally small areas do not regain sensation.
– Seromas form due to collection of fluid between the muscle layer and the skin flap and can pose infections risks. Precautionary drainage techniques are used to reduce this risk. It may well be greater for patients with very high BMIs or smokers (2).
1. Kroll, Stephen S. M.D. 1994. Necrosis of Abdominoplasty and Other Secondary Flaps after TRAM Flap Breast Reconstruction. Plastic Reconstruction Surgery. 94: 637.
2. Kim, James M.D.; Stevenson, Thomas R. M.D. 2006. Abdominoplasty, Liposuction of the Flanks, and Obesity: Analyzing Risk Factors for Seroma Formation. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: 117 (3), pp.773-779.
DISCLAIMER: It cannot be emphasised enough that NONE of this article can be used as medical advice under any circumstances. Readers with any health concerns are advised to please only consult their professional doctor.