The most commonly asked questions, answered
Tummy tuck: The operation
Tummy tuck: The operation
A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is a cosmetic surgery procedure that tightens up a flabby tummy that has lost muscle tone and skin elasticity. It is not a treatment for obesity – you need to be at a healthy weight before considering surgery. Men as well as women can benefit from a tummy tuck but more women have the procedure as it helps reshape the abdomen after multiple pregnancies.
Why consider a tummy tuck?
During pregnancy, a woman’s abdomen expands very quickly. This causes visible problems such a stretch marks but it also puts great strain on the abdominal muscles. Many women gain weight during pregnancy and can become overweight or obese as a result. The additional fat in the abdomen puts further strain on the skin and the muscles, resulting in a large and flabby tummy.
Losing weight reduces the fatty tissue but the skin does not recover as quickly. Women and men who have weight loss surgery and who lose weight rapidly can develop folds of saggy lose skin and may opt for a tummy tuck to increase their self confidence.
What is involved in a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck is a general name for abdominoplasty and this procedure can be done in different ways:
- A total abdominoplasty or full abdominoplasty involves an incision across the width of the abdomen from hip to hip. Two pieces of skin and fatty tissue are removed and the two edges of the skin that remain are stitched together. This leaves a scar, although many cosmetic surgeons keep the incision as low as possible, below the swimsuit line if they can.
- A mini abdominoplasty uses essentially the same technique but on a smaller scale to remove less excess skin.
- Endoscopic abdominoplasty is available for women whose pregnancy has weakened their abdominal muscles but who do not have excess fatty tissue or skin. The surgery to tighten the muscles is done under the skin, so the scars left from the incisions are much smaller.
What to expect after a tummy tuck
This is a major operation and can take between two and five hours to complete. It is always done under general anaesthetic and you will be in hospital for two to three days. Drains will be placed in the wound to let fluid out and you will not normally be allowed to go home until these have all been removed.
You will feel very sore and will be given pain relief in hospital. You may then need to take paracetamol or ibuprofen for the first few days at home. You should be mobile after your tummy tuck but you must not strain the abdominal muscles. Lifting or strenuous activity must be avoided for at least 6 weeks. It is best to have your post operative check up before starting an exercise programme, so that your cosmetic surgeon can make sure your muscles have healed.
What risks are involved in a tummy tuck?
With the major incision in a full abdominoplasty, there is always a risk of bleeding and infection but an experience cosmetic surgeon will have a very low complication rate. More minor complications can include:
- Build up of fluid under the skin. This can be drawn off by your cosmetic surgeon but may keep returning for several weeks. It will eventually subside and won’t affect how your tummy looks when everything has healed.
- Scarring. The incision is large and it may not be possible to make it low enough to hide under the swimsuit line. Some people develop more obvious scars that take longer to fade.
- Nerve damage: this can lead to a loss of feeling in the skin of the abdomen.
- An uneven result. This should not happen with an experienced surgeon but if the amount of tissue that needs to be removed is large, there is more of a chance that one side of the abdomen will be flatter than the other.
What does a tummy tuck cost?
Typical range in a UK private hospital or clinic is £4,575.00 – 6,600.00.
64 page PDF guide to cosmetic surgery
- Practical advice about what you need to do
- Learn about the benefits and risks
- Advice on choosing a surgeon and hospital