You may have heard abdominoplasty referred to as a "tummy tuck." It is a surgical procedure that removes fat and skin from the abdominal area, as well as tightens the muscles, to make your stomach smaller and flatter. The results last for many years, especially if you are careful about diet and exercise.
If the excess fat you wish to eliminate is located only below the navel, the doctor may recommend a "mini tummy tuck," which is a less extensive version of abdominoplasty and allows for a shorter scar.
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Who Can Benefit From Abdominoplasty?
If exercise and diet are not reducing excess fat or loose skin around your abdomen, you may be a good candidate for abdominoplasty. This surgery is an excellent procedure to correct sagging abdominal muscles and loose skin that have been stretched by pregnancy, the aging process, or substantial weight loss.
If you also have excess fat around the hips or other areas of your body, you may be a good candidate for liposuction. However, liposuction alone does not treat loose skin and may actually make this problem worse. Patients with a small amount of excess fat (particularly around the hips) may decide to have liposuction at the same time as an abdominoplasty procedure. Many stretch marks can be removed during an abdominoplasty. The appearance of any remaining stretch marks is sometimes reduced, though remaining stretch marks may still be visible.
What is the Procedure Like?
You may have your surgery performed in the doctor's office or in the hospital. All patients are kept overnight for observation and safety, but most patients go home the day after surgery.
A complete abdominoplasty is performed under general anesthesia. Patients having mini-abdominoplasty may opt for general anesthesia and remain asleep for the procedure or may be under a local anesthetic with a sedative. In this case, the patient remains relaxed and just a bit drowsy, while the abdominal area will be numbed to prevent pain.
The incision is usually made in a horizontal line across the stomach above the pubic bone. The skin is lifted so that the abdominal muscles can be tightened, and any excess fat and skin are removed. Your navel may have to be moved in order to accommodate the alterations made during surgery, and if fat needs to be removed above the navel, an additional incision may have to be made. The skin is replaced and sutured, and the area is bandaged. A tube may be used for a short time to drain fluids from the incision area.
The surgery takes anywhere from one to four hours depending upon your individual circumstances. If it is performed as an outpatient procedure, you will be allowed to go home within a few hours of surgery, but you must have someone with you to drive you home. You will also need help around the house for a few days after the procedure.
What Can I Expect During Recovery?
While abdominoplasty can make your abdomen smaller, it will leave a scar that is permanent. This scar runs horizontally across the lowest part of the tummy, and it should fade substantially within a year after the procedure.
Swelling, bruising, numbness, and pain are common after abdominoplasty, but the doctor will give you a prescription for pain medication. You will be instructed to walk as soon as you can to promote blood circulation. Although you may find it difficult to stand fully upright immediately after surgery, you will be able to move more freely as time passes. You will also be asked to sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees for a period of time.
Some of your stitches can be removed within a week of surgery, while others may have to remain for two to three weeks. In many cases, most of the stitches will be absorbed by your body and will not need to be removed at all. You will have drains in place to help remove any excess fluid while you heal, and these drains can usually be removed one or two weeks after surgery. You may also be required to wear a special garment for support for a period of weeks after the surgery.
You will be able to return to work two to four weeks after your surgery, but it may take a few months before you feel completely normal and before you are able to see the final results of your surgery. The doctor will probably suggest a mild exercise regimen, which will assist the healing process.
What Are the Risks of Abdominoplasty?
Abdominoplasty is now a common surgery that is performed successfully by many surgeons throughout the world. However, if you wish to become pregnant, you may choose to postpone abdominoplasty until after you have finished having children.
Complications, such as infection or blood clots, are very rare and can be corrected with antibiotics or other treatments. Another rare complication is the collection of fluid under the abdominal skin. This can be easily removed but may require a few doctor visits to complete the process.
Smoking can impair the healing process, so the doctor will advise you to stop smoking for a period of time before and after the procedure.
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