Abdominoplasty – also known as a tummy tuck – might seem like a quick-fix for a floppy stomach. But it’s still major surgery with risks and a long recovery time. It also can’t work miracles. That’s why it’s important to try diet and exercise first to trim your midsection. A tummy tuck should not be confused with gastric bypass surgery. For that, the goal is to cause dramatic weight loss by reducing one’s appetite.
During abdominoplasty, excess skin and fat is removed from the middle and lower abdomen. The muscles of the abdominal wall are also tightened. The resulting flat stomach comes with a price of a permanent scar, often from hipbone to hipbone.
The best candidates for this surgery are men and women who are in good physical shape but have large fat deposits or loose skin that won’t go away with diet or exercise. Medical insurance usually does not cover any of the cost of this surgery.
What to expect from surgery and recovery
An abdominoplasty usually is performed in an outpatient surgery center or in a hospital. General anesthesia is used. The procedure takes two to five hours, depending on the amount and location of fat and loose skin.
After surgery, your stomach will be swollen. You may have discomfort and pain, which can be managed with medication. Depending on the extent of surgery, you may be sent home after a few hours or you may stay overnight in the hospital or surgery center.
Your doctor will probably place a compression garment around your abdomen to cover the dressings on your incision and keep the swelling down. And though it will be hard to stand straight at first, you should try to walk as soon as you are allowed to. This will lower your risk of life-threatening blood clots.
Many patients need three to four weeks of rest before they can return to normal activity.
Long-term effects and risks
Because nerve endings are cut during the operation, your abdomen may be numb in spots. Sensation may return in weeks or months, or not at all. Scars may look worse during the first three to six months of healing. Some people develop keloids, or an overgrowth of scar tissue. These can be painful and unsightly. Shielding scars from sun exposure for the first year may improve the odds that they will fade over time.
Like any surgery, abdominoplasties come with serious risks of complications. These include infection, blood clots and allergic reactions to anesthesia. If you smoke, it is important to tell your doctor before your surgery. It is likely that you will be told to stop smoking before surgery. Smoking can interfere with your body’s healing process, and can increase the risk of complications during surgery.
Your new look
The results of abdominoplasty may be long-lasting, especially if you follow a healthy diet and exercise routine. Before you proceed with a tummy tuck, make sure you are realistic about your expectations. Also, be prepared to have a permanent scar and a lengthy recovery period.