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|Abdominoplasty - Tummy Tuck|
‘Tummy tuck’ cosmetic surgery for a flatter stomach.
Abdominal reduction surgery, known as abdominoplasty or the tummy tuck, is a major surgical procedure with the purpose of producing a smoother, flatter stomach. It is a well-established procedure, with specialist surgeries existing in the UK since the 1890s.
By tightening the skin downwards, the stomach will appear flatter and the abdominal muscles will be firmer. This will involve leaving a permanent scar, which, depending on the extent of the cosmetic surgery, can extend from hip to hip. This would be just above the pubic area, and can be hidden by clothes, even swimwear. However, if you wish the surgeon to reduce your waist as well, there is the option of removing skin vertically, which would leave more noticeable vertical scarring on the stomach.
Are you the right candidate for a tummy tuck?
The ideal tummy tuck patients are men and women who are the correct weight for their height with otherwise immovable fat deposits and excess skin. People should not, therefore, consider undergoing a tummy tuck to lose weight. The best means to achieve this is by regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet. Fat and skin that cannot be shifted by diet or exercise can occur after substantial weight loss or after multiple pregnancies where the abdominal muscles and skin have been over-stretched. If you are a woman considering pregnancy at some point in the future you should not go ahead with an abdominoplasty as the abdominal muscles that are tightened during surgery may separate again during pregnancy. After shedding the 4 stone in weight she had put on during her pregnancy, one would-be tummy tuck patient says she was left “with a huge pouch of loose skin around my stomach.” She decided plastic surgery may be the answer, “I went to my GP who said that I was a good candidate for a tummy tuck.” Your suitability for surgery and your individual pre-op preparation will be discussed during your initial consultation with the surgeon. Key issues are your weight (you should not be overweight), whether you smoke (smokers run a greater risk of chest infection and healing of the abdominal wound is usually poorer than with non-smokers), and if you are taking any medications, vitamins or other drugs (the contraceptive pill, for example, should be stopped at least six weeks before surgery to reduce the risk of thrombosis).
What the procedure involves
There are two types of tummy tuck operation available – partial, or mini, abdominoplasty, which can take up to two hours, and full abdominoplasty, which can take up to five hours. Both operations usually take place under a general anaesthetic. One patient said after her partial abdominoplasty, “All tummy tucks aren’t equal. My partial, abdominoplasty was much less invasive and required less recovery time than if I’d had the full abdominoplasty."
During a full tummy tuck, the surgeon makes an incision just above the pubic area, from hip to hip across the lower abdomen. A second incision is made to detach the navel from the surrounding tissue and the skin is separated from the abdominal wall up to the rib cage area. The abdominal muscles are tightened by pulling them downwards and together (if waistline narrowing is required) and then stitching them into their new position; deposits of fat are removed using Liposuction and excess skin is excised. The navel is stitched into a newly made hole and the remaining skin is pulled down and stitched along the line of the initial incision. Dressings will be applied, and occasionally a temporary tube is inserted to drain excess fluid from the surgical site. In a partial tummy tuck, the incision is much shorter and the navel may not be detached from surrounding tissue. The skin is separated from the abdominal wall only as far up the body as the navel. The superfluous skin is removed, and the remaining skin pulled downwards and stitched back into place.
The recovery process
After the operation, you will be required to stay in hospital at least overnight. You’ll need to be taken home and have someone on hand to take care of you for at least 48 hours afterwards (arrange this in advance!). Once home, you’ll have to stay off work for no less than two weeks to rest and allow the body to heal. Steer clear of any heavy lifting and exercise for a month. The sutures will be removed at around 10 days, and a supportive compression garment (‘corset’) will need to be worn for up to 4 weeks to reduce any swelling and alleviate discomfort. There are a number of compression garments that you can use. They come in different sizes, some have zips, some have Velcro and some tie. You can also use different compression garments for each stage of recovery – that is, greater support for the initial healing process, and lighter support after that. Numbness and tightness can occur in the abdominal area at first, causing some patients to have difficulty standing up straight, but this will gradually ease. “With the help of medication,” as one fully-recovered patient describes, “you should not feel pain, but some tenderness is possible. It takes about a year before your abdomen feels soft and natural.” Over the first six months you may be surprised to notice that the appearance of scars seems to worsen. Don’t worry, after around nine months they begin to flatten out and fade. The speed of your recovery after the operation will be largely determined by your physical condition before the operation. If you’re in good physical shape with strong abdominal muscles you will make a much faster recover from abdominoplasty than if you’re physical condition is not so good.
Risks (including the financial ones!)
If a tummy tuck is something that you are considering, you can discuss all of the issues mentioned here in greater depth during a consultation with a cosmetic surgeon. The cost of the procedure varies according to the extent of the surgery required. As a guide, the cost of a partial abdominoplasty can range from £2,000 to £5,000, and the cost of a full abdominoplasty can be anything from £4,000 to £6,000. As with any surgical procedure, there are potential complications associated with a tummy tuck. However, thousands of abdominoplasties are carried out each year, and, as long as yours is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon and you fully comply with all pre and post operation advice, the outcome should, in all probability, be a success.
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