Written by Shawn Candela for Avima.com

A tummy tuck is the nickname given to an abdominoplasty, a surgical procedure that is meant to improve the look of a patient’s midsection by removing excess skin and fat and repairing abdominal muscles.

Preparation

People who opt to have a tummy tuck operation will be expected to prepare several weeks in advance by going on a restricted diet, refraining from taking any aspirin-containing products, and avoiding too much sunlight. Smokers will be required to quit, at least for the short-term.
A doctor might also recommend losing weight before the operation and/or maintaining a stable weight for up to a year before surgery.

Patients should also arrange for a ride home after surgery, since they will have undergone anesthesia and be in recovery from an abdominal operation.

While many tummy tucks are done on an outpatient basis, some also are done at hospitals, where the patient remains for at least a day after the operation.

Surgery

A tummy tuck operation is usually administered under intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, but some cases allow for the use of local anesthesia instead.

Once the patient is sedated, the surgeon will make a horizontal incision above the pubic line so as to then remove loose skin, tighten abdominal muscles, and perform liposuction if necessary. The length of the incision is based on the amount of skin that needs to be removed. In some cases, the surgeon will need to make another incision near the navel to remove excess skin in the upper abdomen.

Because a tummy tuck can involve the stretching of skin from the upper abdomen to the lower abdomen and the resulting removal of excess skin, a new navel opening might be necessary, with the belly button pushed through the skin at a new location and sutured into place.

After the main surgery is complete, the doctor will close any incisions with dissolvable sutures, skin glue or another type of sealant.

The total time of most tummy tuck operations is approximately three hours.

Recovery

Typical recover after a tummy tuck includes a rest period during which the patient’s upper body will be slightly raised and his knees places at an angle to relieve pressure on the abdomen. If a patient remains in the surgical facility after the operation, he will usually receive additional help with walking so as to prevent blood clotting.

Swelling of the abdominal area is common after a tummy tuck, and patients are often dressed in an elastic bandage or other compression materials to keep swelling to a minimum and help ensure the safe, steady recovery of the abdomen. They also might be required to leave in small tubes that act to drain excess fluid and blood that can build up in the surgical area.

Patients should be instructed in how to care for the surgical site after leaving the operating facility. This can include applications that can aid in healing and prevent infection. They also might receive medication to be taken orally.

Considerations

• It can take time to recover from a tummy tuck. Besides initial swelling, patients often will have difficulty achieving a straight posture because of the damage and repair done to their abdominal muscles.
• Scarring at the incision point is common and typically fades within a year’s time.
• While many patients will see lasting results from a tummy tuck, it is imperative that the patient maintains a stable and comfortable weight. It is also possible that a second operation will be necessary to achieve desired results.
• Women who have undergone a caesarean section might be able to have the scarring of that initial operation incorporated into that of the tummy tuck.
• For approximately a month and a half after a tummy tuck operation, patients must be particularly cautious about making any movements that could put strain on the incision site. Even something as simple as a quick bend at the waist can cause bleeding.
• Patients will be expected to make regular follow-up visits for one year after surgery.