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Abdominoplasty is the medical term for a ‘tummy tuck’ cosmetic surgery procedure. It is designed to slim and particularly tone the lower abdomen. During the procedure, surgeons take out unwanted adipose (fatty) tissues and excess skin. They may also repairs abdominal muscles which have become damaged, for example during multiple pregnancies.

What makes people want a tummy tuck?

The reasons why any one individual chooses cosmetic surgery can be complex. Some patients who have a particular bodily feature they are uncomfortable with may experience an emotional ‘magnification’ effect. Their body’s ‘defect’ looks and feels extremely ugly to them, yet is average and everyday looking to everyone else. Sometimes the choice is following multiple pregnancies which have created abdominal muscle weakness and loss of skin elasticity. The resulting ‘pouch’ may be resistant to dieting and exercise, as the muscles themselves no longer contract and relax as before. Ironically for patients who have followed extreme diets in the hope of looking slimmer, rapid or excessive weight loss can cause loose abdominal skin. The loose skin then alters the contour of the tummy unfavourably and again may not respond to further dieting or exercise. Although it may not be as well known as the motivation to get a flatter tummy, sometimes the surgery can also improve the appearance of stretch marks or scars from previous surgeries.

Emotionally, typical motivations are gaining self confidence, especially around wearing more revealing clothing. Wanting to look younger is also common.

The Procedure

Despite its ‘instant fix’ image in certain sections of the media, patients may still be advised to follow traditional abdominal reducing methods before the surgery, namely dieting and exercise. This is to ensure the best possible results from the operation.

Abdominoplasty requires a full anesthetic and hospital based care. Surgery is typically around 3 hours long. Procedures will vary from patient to patient, however there are some common features of the operations. An incision is made, commonly laterally from hip to hip around the level of the pubic bone, to enable the surgeon to remove the unwanted tissues. Once loose skin and fatty tissue has been removed, the surgeon may move to repairing damage to abdominal muscles using extremely strong surgical sutures. These are embedded into the abdominal wall. Drainage tubing is commonly is inserted to allow the wound to drain hygienically and the incision is resealed with sutures.

The Recovery

The use of prophylactic antibiotics plus pain relief medication is quite routine.

The hospital stay is typically 12-48 hours following surgery, with the drainage tubes removed before the patient is discharged.

Once the hospital phase is over, the recovery process in truth has only just begun. Abdominoplasty is an invasive, full operation and like any such procedure requires the patient to take good care of themselves while convalescing. Wound monitoring appointments with the surgeon are vital, as any complications in the healing process can be better addressed at this stage. Patients typically wear a form of body support, a medical ‘corset’ like garment to encourage good wound healing. This must be worn throughout the day and night, typically for 2 to 3 weeks, then during the daytime only for the time advised by the surgeon.

In week 1, bed rest is commonly advised, with the introduction of gentle exercise to promote both healthy skin healing muscle tone from typically the 2 week marker. A typical length of time away from work is 2 weeks, although this will vary with each patient – and their occupation. One consideration is vigorous exercise is not allowed until the surgeon says it is safe to do so. Typically this could be after week 6.

DISCLAIMER: All discussion of medical issues here is for illustrative purposes only – NONE of this article can be a substitute for professional medical advice and/or treatment under any circumstances. Please only consult professional doctors for advice.

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