Aiming to improve the shape of the tummy area, by removing excess skin that can't be toned through exercise, makes tummy tucks a popular choice particularly after pregnancy or significant weight loss.
But it’s not a quick fix for losing weight.
At Spire Parkway Private Hospital, Solihull, Cosmetic Surgeon, Mrs Effie Katerinaki regularly performs this procedure – it’s not just something for the rich and famous.
Here Mrs Katerinaki answers some common questions about tummy tucks.
Q: What is a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) and what it does the operation consist of?
A: An tummy tuck is a cosmetic procedure which removes excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen and tightens the abdominal wall muscles (if required) to restore a flatter and more firm abdomen.
The procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic, with an overnight stay in hospital.
Q: Are there different types of abdominoplasty?
A full (also known as classic) abdominoplasty is required when there is excess skin above and below the belly button, the full length of the abdominal wall. With this procedure one horizontal or U-shape incision is made above the pubic area and a second incision around the belly button, to remove excess skin and tighten the muscles. Full abdominoplasties present the most natural-looking outcome and can produce a much firmer abdomen.
A mini abdominoplasty involves less extensive incisions compared to a full abdominoplasty and is intended to improve only the lower abdomen, below the patient's belly button. This makes the procedure ideal for people who want to remove a "pooch", tiny bulge or stretch marks in the lower abdominal region only. The abdominal muscles can be tightened through a single low horizontal incision and the belly button is not disturbed.
The extended abdominoplasty is considered when the goals of the procedure are to address the abdomen while simultaneously targeting the flanks and hips. To perform this procedure, the surgeon extends the horizontal incision more laterally as well as often incorporating a longer, vertical incision, which enables excess skin from the upper and lower abdominal region as well as the flanks to be removed, whilst tightening the abdominal wall. This procedure is often ideal for those patients who have had multiple pregnancies or have lost a lot of weight, either through diet and exercise or through weight loss surgery.
Q: What is the recovery time?
A: After an abdominoplasty procedure you will be advised to rest with your hips and knees bent to minimise tension on the repair. For the first week after surgery, you can anticipate some soreness and discomfort, so it is recommended you rest and limit your activity.
The wounds are sutured with dissolvable stitches and you will wear a contoured elastic garment for extra support around the abdomen. This is usually required for four to six weeks. Returning to normal activities usually takes two to three weeks, but this can vary depending on your pre-operative physical condition. Strenuous activity including sports will not be possible for the next six weeks, especially when the abdominal muscles have been tightened.
Q: Are there additional procedures I can have at the same time as an abdominoplasty?
A: In a procedure called lipo-abdominoplasty, liposuction is combined with the abdominoplasty operation in order to enhance the contouring of the abdomen. This procedure and its benefits can be discussed with the surgeon during the pre-operative consultation.
In addition to the abdominoplasty, some ladies choose to have extra procedures to reshape their breasts, either in the form of breast reduction, uplift (mastopexy) or breast augmentation. Such combinations of procedures are often referred to as “mummy makeover” surgery.
Q: Are there risks to having a tummy tuck?
Abdominoplasty is a large operation but is relatively safe. However, as with any surgery, there are certain risks and potential complications associated with it. Many of these are uncommon but need to be mentioned.
Risks include bleeding, infection of the wound, delayed healing requiring dressings (especially in the central part of the scar or around the umbilicus), skin numbness, fluid collections under the skin of the abdomen requiring aspiration in the clinic (seroma), blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolism) and thickening of the scar.
Q: Will I be left with large scars?
A: Scarring will depend on the type of abdominoplasty performed as well as the length, location and number of incisions made.
Women who have previously undergone a caesarean section may find that their existing scars are incorporated into the abdominoplasty scar. Scars do not disappear completely, and the scar from this procedure can take several months to a full year to fade.
To reduce scarring, it is imperative for patients to avoid subjecting the surgical incision to excessive motion or force during the healing period.
Q: Is an abdominoplasty a weight loss procedure?
A: No, an abdominoplasty is not a weight loss procedure.
People who intend to lose weight through lifestyle changes and diet should postpone the surgery until closer to their ideal weight. You should be as near as possible to your ideal body weight when you go ahead with the operation in order to get the best possible cosmetic result and minimise your post-operative risks as much as possible.
If you are overweight you will be advised to diet and exercise prior to undergoing the procedure.
Q: Can I have a baby after having a tummy tuck?
A: Yes, you can have a baby after an abdominoplasty, but a further pregnancy will stretch the skin again, although possibly not to the same degree.
Many ladies choose to have an abdominoplasty when they have completed their family and their body weight is stable.
Q: Are the results permanent?
A: The beneficial effects of the operation will last; however, the effects will be maintained better if the patient keeps exercising their abdominal muscles and maintains a stable weight.
Q: How quickly could I have a consultation, and how much would it cost?
A: It depends on the availability of the consultant you wanted to see, but we pride ourselves on getting you fast access to diagnosis and you can often get a consultation within 24 to 48 hours. Mrs Katerinaki offers free mini consultations and an initial consultation with her costs £120.
Q: If I need surgery, how quickly could I have it?
A: We have no waiting lists at Spire Parkway, but again it depends on the availability of the consultant you wanted, but as a guide, and subject to your pre-operation assessment, between one and two weeks.
Q: I don’t have health insurance, can I self-pay?
A: Yes, you can. Our self-pay team can talk you through this and explain the finance options that are available, should you wish to explore them. Call 0121 704 5530, or click here to submit an enquiry online.