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  • CosmeticSurgery
  • Abdominoplasty

Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

What is an Abdominoplasty?

An abdominoplasty is an operation designed to improve the appearance and function of the anterior abdominal wall. Following pregnancy, surgery or weight loss, the appearance of folds of skin and fat, or bad scaring can be improved by a variety of techniques.

In any person, three layers of tissue need to be assessed. Weakness and subsequent stretching of the tummy muscles frequently follows pregnancy. The development of a gap between the muscles in the midline (divarication) results in a prominent bulge as the abdominal contents push outwards. For many patients repair and tightening of the muscles corrects this.

The fat layer may also need addressing. Some patients have an excess of fat both in the front and sides of the tummy. This can be removed at the time of surgical tightening of the muscles. Liposuction can also form part of an abdominoplasty procedure.

For patients who have had large or multiple pregnancies, or succeed in considerable weight loss, excess skin is commonly seen. The appearance can be asymmetric, and is often worse if abdominal surgery such as a caesarean section has taken place.

A tummy tuck can take anything between one and three hours to perform, depending on which combination of the above procedures is necessary. If limited skin laxity is the only problem a “mini-abdominoplasty” can be undertaken with a relatively short low horizontal scar within the panty-line, allowing tightening of the skin in the lower part of the tummy.

More extensive procedures may require a longer transverse scar, allowing removal of loose skin and excess fat, and repair of the muscles if necessary. Often the umbilicus (tummy button) needs to be repositioned, resulting in a scar around its edges.

After the operation compression stockings and early mobilisation reduce the likelihood of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolus. Wounds generally heal well, but in some patients delayed wound healing is observed. Infection is an unusual complication. The tummy can feel quite numb in the weeks that follow surgery, and in some patients fluid accumulation in the surgical area (seroma) is seen.

How long will I need to stay in hospital?

Whilst a mini-abdominoplasty may require a night in hospital, a more extensive tummy tuck can require anything up to three or four nights in hospital and a gentle postoperative week or two for convalescence. Following surgery there is a programme of mobilisation and breathing exercises, with discharge from hospital when surgical drains have been removed. Mr Kirkpatrick will guide you depending on your own particular circumstances.

How long does it take to recover from abdominoplasty surgery?

Although there is some minor discomfort after mini-abdominoplasty surgery or liposuction, it is not usually painful. There may be some bruising and swelling of the lower tummy. This has most often settled after one week, when it should be possible to return to work. Larger tummy tuck procedures require more pain relief and less exertion post-operatively. Following a few gentle days at home you will be reviewed at the Consulting Suite, so that we can lighten dressings and inspect wounds. The majority of sutures used in tummy tuck are dissolving, but dressings can be required for two or three weeks. An abdominal corset is often recommended for comfort, support and to aid healing.

How long does abdominoplasty surgery last?

Abdominoplasty results are usually life long, although the tummy is not protected from the effects of ageing and of weight change. Mr Kirkpatrick will be able to guide you as to what you may expect to be achieved.