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Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

An abdominoplasty, commonly called a “tummy tuck. The treatment described here may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it’s important to follow you surgeon’s advice.

What is an abdominoplasty?

Standard abdominoplasty

Standard abdominoplasty

Abdominoplasty is an operation to remove excess fat and skin from your abdominal (tummy) area and tighten the tummy muscles. The aim is to produce a tighter, flatter stomach. 

The operation can help people who have been left with folds of skin after losing a lot of weight, either through diet and exercise or after successful surgery to treat obesity. 

Women who have stretched skin and muscles after pregnancy (and who don’t plan to have another baby) may also opt to have an abdominoplasty. 

The operation is not a treatment for weight control. If you intend to lose more weight, it is best to do so before having an abdominoplasty. 

Extended abdominoplasty the scar extends around the flanks onto the lower back.

Extended abdominoplasty the scar extends around the flanks onto the lower back.

Abdominoplasty is done under general anaesthesia, which means you will be asleep during the operation and will feel no pain. For more information, please see the separate Spire Healthcare patient information leaflet Having a general anaesthetic.

After abdominoplasty you will usually need to stay in hospital for one or two nights. 

Mini abdomminoplasty

Mini abdomminoplasty

The results of an abdominoplasty can be long-lasting. If you maintain a healthy weight, your skin shouldn’t stretch again and your new shape will last. If you put on weight, fatty bulges may appear. 

Your surgeon will explain how you can expect your stomach to look after having an abdominoplasty, and will discuss the associated risks and alternatives to the operation. 

Preparing for your operation

The hospital will send you a pre-admission questionnaire. Your answers help hospital staff to plan your care by taking into account your medical history and previous experience of hospital treatment. You will be asked to fill in this questionnaire and return it within three days. 

If you normally take medication (eg tablets for blood pressure), continue to take this as usually, unless your surgeon specifically tells you not to if you are unsure about taking your medication, please contact the hospital. 

Before you come into hospital, you will be asked to follow some instructions. 

  • Have a bath or shower at home on the day of your admission.
  • Remove any make-up, nail varnish and jewellery. Rings and earrings that you would prefer not to remove can usually be covered with sticky tape. 
  • Follow the fasting instructions in your admission confirmation letter. Typically, you must not eat or drink for about six hours before general anaesthesia. However, some anaesthetists allow occasional sips of water until two hours beforehand. 

When you arrive at the hospital, a nurse will explain how you will be cared for during your stay. He or she may do simple tests such as checking your heart rate and blood pressure, and testing your urine. You will have some photographs of your stomach taken. Your nurse will help you prepare for theatre. You will usually be asked to put on compression stockings to help prevent blood clots forming in the veins in your legs (deep vein thrombosis, DVT).

Your surgeon and anaesthetist will visit you before the operation. Your surgeon may draw on your tummy to mark the operation site. You may also be measured for an elastic garment to help reduce any swelling after the operation. 

Consent

If you are happy to proceed with the abdominoplasty, you will be asked to sign a consent form. This confirms that you have given permission for the procedure to go ahead. 

You need to know about the possible side-effects and complications of this operation before you give your consent. Please see the back of this leaflet for more information about these. 

About the operation

Once the anaesthetic has taken effect your surgeon makes incisions over your stomach and above your bikini line. There is also an incision to free your tummy button from the surrounding skin. Very stretched or torn muscles are pulled together and stitched in place. Your skin is then pulled down and the excess skin is removed. A new hole is cut for your tummy button. The incisions are closed using stitches. 

You may have a catheter (a tube) to drain urine from your bladder into a bag beside your bed. This means that you don’t have to get up to go to the toilet straight after the operation. 

The operation usually takes two to three hours. 

These are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects of a successful treatment. An example of a side-effect is feeling sick as a result of the anaesthetic. 

There will be some pain, and you will have swelling that may not completely settle for a few months. 

You will be left with a scar around your tummy button and a long scar along your bikini line which can usually be concealed by your underwear. 

Complications

This is when problems occur during or after the operation. Most people are not affected. The possible complications of any operation include excessive bleeding, infection or an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic. It’s also possible for a blood clot to develop in a vein in the legs (deep vein thrombosis, DVT).

Specific complications or abdominoplasty are uncommon but can include numbness over the lower part of the tummy (this is usually temporary but may be permanent) and poor healing, which may result in noticeable scars. 

The final position of your tummy button may be off centre, and there is a small risk of losing your tummy button completely. There is a small chance that a blood clot can form in the bleed vessels and move to the lungs. This is a pulmonary embolism and may be life-threatening. 

It is possible that you still won’t be satisfied with the appearance of your body after the operation.  The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.