Abdominoplasty, known more commonly as a “tummy tuck,” is a major surgical procedure to remove excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdominal and to tighten the muscles of the abdomen wall. The procedure can dramatically reduce the appearance of a protruding abdomen. But bear in mind, it does produce a permanent scar, which, depending on the extent of the original problem and the surgery required to correct it, can extend from hip to hip.
The average cost of the Tummy Tuck procedure in the UK is £3500 to £4500.
BEFORE THE SURGERY
There are many things you can do to have your body in optimum condition before your surgery.
The best candidates for abdominoplasty are men or women who are in relatively good shape but are bothered by a large fat deposit or loose abdominal skin that won’t respond to diet or exercise. The surgery is particularly helpful to women who, through multiple pregnancies, have stretched their abdominal muscles and skin beyond the point where they can return to normal. Loss of skin elasticity in older patients, which frequently occurs with slight obesity, can also be improved.
Patients who intend to lose a lot of weight should postpone the surgery. Also, women who plan future pregnancies should wait, as vertical muscles in the abdomen that are tightened during surgery can separate again during pregnancy. If you have scarring from previous abdominal surgery, your doctor may recommend against abdominoplasty or may caution you that scars could be unusually prominent.
A complete abdominoplasty usually takes two to five hours, depending on the extent of work required. Partial abdominoplasty may take an hour or two. Most commonly, a long incision will be made from hipbone to hipbone, just above the pubic area. A second incision is made to free the navel from surrounding tissue.
With partial abdominoplasty, the incision is much shorter and the navel may not be moved, although it may be pulled into an unnatural shape as the skin is tightened and stitched. Next, the skin is separated from the abdominal wall all the way up to your ribs and a large skin flap is lifted to reveal the vertical muscles in your abdomen. These muscles are tightened by pulling them close together and stitching them into their new position. This provides a firmer abdominal wall and narrows the waistline. The skin flap is then stretched down and the extra skin is removed. A new hole is cut for your navel, which is then stitched in place.
Finally, the incisions will be stitched, dressings will be applied, and a temporary tube may be inserted to drain excess fluid from the surgical site. In partial abdominoplasty, the skin is separated only between the incision line and the navel. This skin flap is stretched down, the excess is removed, and the flap is stitched back into place. For the first few days, your abdomen will probably be swollen and you’re likely to feel some pain and discomfort which can be controlled by medication.
Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may be released within a few hours or you may have to remain hospitalized for two to three days. You will be given instructions for showering and changing your dressings. And though you may not be able to stand straight at first, you should start walking as soon as possible.
AFTER THE SURGERY
Surface stitches will be removed in five to seven days, and deeper sutures, with ends that protrude through the skin, will come out in two to three weeks. The dressing on your incision may be replaced by a support garment.
Your scars may actually appear to worsen during the first three to six months as they heal, but this is normal. Expect it to take nine months to a year before your scars flatten out and lighten in colour. While they’ll never disappear completely, abdominal scars will not show under most clothing.