Procedure description: Tummy tucks, or abdominoplasty, can help reduce the appearance of loose, fat and flabby skin around the abdomen by tightening stomach muscles and strengthening the abdominal walls. The surgery removes diet- and exercise-resistant fat and tightens sagging skin that has lost its elasticity.
Length of procedure: The tummy tuck generally takes about 2 to 4 hours, depending on the extent of the repair. A partial abdominoplasty takes about 1 or 2 hours. Candidates for the partial procedure are patients whose excess skin and abdominal fat is, for the most part, below the belly button. The incisions for partial abdominoplasty are sometimes shorter.
Recovery: This procedure is most often outpatient and therefore patients return home the same day to begin their recovery. After surgery, patients experience swelling, (which can last a few weeks) pain, and discomfort (which will last for the first few days and can be combated with medication). There is usually little or no bruising; however, numbness may persist as long as 12 months. Mild exercise such as walking and appropriate diet can shorten the recovery time and help the body heal more quickly. After about 3 days, you may begin light activities. At this point, the post-surgical gauze dressing may be replaced by a new abdominal supporter. Down time from work can range from 3 to 4 days to 2 weeks or more. Your scars may appear to worsen during the first few months, but this is normal. It may take up to 18 months before your scars flatten out and lighten in color.
Risks: As with any major surgery, the possibility of infection and an adverse reaction to the anesthetic are always present. The most common complications associated with this procedure include infection, bleeding and scarring. Other, less common complications include skin death; hematoma (collection of blood), seroma (fluid buildup); skin stretch-back, or a mild recurrence of skin laxity; belly button death; excessive scarring; excessive bleeding; DVT (deep venous thrombosis) and ruptured stitches. Tummy tucks result in extensive scarring, and patients should talk with their surgeons about this side effect before going ahead with the procedure. Smokers tend to be at a 10-fold increased risk for side effects from surgery, especially procedures such as a tummy tuck.
Results: As long as you keep your weight relatively constant, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and follow your surgeon’s instructions about how and when to resume physical activity, the long-term results from a tummy tuck are generally excellent.
Unless you gain or lose a significant amount of weight or become pregnant, your abdomen should remain firmer and flatter for many years. However, gravity and the effects of aging will eventually take their toll. If, after a period of years, you again become dissatisfied with the appearance of your abdomen, you may choose to undergo a second procedure to restore a more youthful body contour.
Estimated cost: Price will range between $6,000 and $10,000 when anesthesia and facility fees are included.