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What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck (also known as abdominoplasty) is an operation to remove unwanted fat and skin from your lower abdomen, and tighten your stomach muscles. It is not used as a method of losing weight, as the fat would simply return after the operation if permanent changes are not made to your diet and exercise programme.

A tummy tuck can bring very good long-term results, especially when undertaken in conjunction with a long-lasting plan of healthy eating and regular exercise.

This article is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.


Who has it?

A tummy tuck is not recommended for extremely overweight people, women who may become pregnant in the future, or people wanting to lose weight.

Tummy tuck surgery can be really helpful for people with:

  • Loose, sagging skin around their abdomen due to pregnancy or sudden weight loss
  • Abdominal muscle weakness causing problems such as chronic back ache

A tummy tuck is suitable for both men and women, and can give you a flatter, tighter stomach reducing the appearance of stretch marks, blemishes, scars, and even tattoos – although the latter are not the primary motivations for having a tummy tuck operation.

If your tummy tuck is carried out for aesthetic reasons, it is considered to be cosmetic surgery. If you need to undergo the procedure to combat health problems it could be considered ‘reconstructive surgery’ and may be covered by your private health insurance.

What is involved in the surgery?

There are three types of tummy tuck surgery, the standard tummy tuck, the mini tummy tuck, and the extended tummy tuck. All are performed under general anaesthetic, with the length of time taken for the procedure dependant on which type of tummy tuck you require. Your surgeon will discuss which procedure is the most suitable for you.

1. The standard tummy tuck

During this operation, the surgeon will make an incision in your lower abdomen from hip to hip. The naval is then removed from the stomach, and the skin is separated from the abdominal wall. Your stomach muscles will then be pulled together and stitched into a new position to give you a tighter, flatter middle. Excess fat is removed, and spare skin trimmed away. A new hole is cut for your navel which is then sewn back on in the right place. The incision is closed with sutures along the line of the original cut. You will have two scars – one around your belly button, and one longer one lower down at the bikini line, which can usually be hidden successfully underneath underwear.

In total, the tummy tuck operation takes about two to three hours, but you will need to stay at least one night in hospital. You should avoid doing exercise and lifting heavy objects for a month after the procedure and will probably need about two weeks off work to recover. Stitches will be taken out after about ten days and you’ll be advised to wear a support garment for a few weeks to help give the best result.

2. Mini tummy tuck

The mini tummy tuck is exactly the same as the standard tummy tuck except you don’t need the navel repositioned. The mini tummy tuck is best suited for people with less extensive problems.

During the operation the surgeon will make an incision from hip to hip in the bikini line area, separate the skin from the abdominal wall, and remove any excess fat and skin. The remaining skin is then pulled down and sealed with sutures leaving a flatter, smoother abdomen.

3. Extended tummy tuck

The extended tummy tuck follows the same procedure as the standard tummy tuck while additionally removing excess skin and fat from your sides and back. Problems areas such as “love handles” and sagging skin around your flanks and back are removed. You will have the standard scars across your lower abdomen from hip to hip, and around your naval, with some extra scars around your sides.

The extended tummy tuck is most commonly required by people who have experienced substantial weight loss and are left with a great deal of sagging skin all around their middle.

Conclusion

The tummy tuck operations can significantly improve the lifestyle and self-confidence of those suffering from baggy, loose skin in the stomach and hip region, but it is an operation performed under general anaesthetic which has some risks associated with it (as do all operations). However, a tummy tuck is a fairly routine operation, regularly performed all over the world, and considered generally safe. In order to decide if the operation is right for you, you should weigh up the risks against the benefits of gaining a flatter, tighter stomach.

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