Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

The abdominoplasty, also referred to as a tummy tuck or abdominal reduction, is surgery to remove excess skin and fat from the abdominal region, stitch together the tummy muscles if they have remained separated following childbirth and perhaps improve the appearance of stretch marks or other scarring. The procedure is tailored to meet the needs of the individual.

In the standard abdominoplasty or tummy tuck, an incision is made in the abdomen from hip bone to hip bone. A section of skin and fat is removed, but the navel is preserved. The muscles may be tightened. The skin on the upper abdomen is undermined and stretched down, to be reattached to the original incision. A hole is cut in the skin to allow the navel to be reattached into its correct position. This process is illustrated in the figures below.

abdominoplasty incision fat and skin removal
Fig 1: Original Incision Fig 2: Excision of excess fat and skin.
tightening muscles final scars
Fig 3: Tightening muscles Fig 4: Position of final scars

In a mini abdominoplasty, a smaller section of skin and fat is removed. Both procedures can be combined with liposuction to remove additional fat from the abdominal wall.

Who would be a good candidate for this surgery?

This surgery is suitable for anyone who feels that they have excess skin and fat in the abdominal region. However, it should not be seen as a way of losing weight if you are obese. Indeed, many surgeons will not perform the procedure if you are more than 15% above your ideal weight.

Typical candidates are women after child birth, or men or women after a large weight loss where they are left with excess skin that cannot be tightened by any other means. The abdominoplasty procedure does not specifically treat stretch marks, although the surgery itself will physically remove many of them and those that remain are stretched out so that they appear less obvious.

What about scarring and other effects?

You will be left with scars around your navel and across your abdomen from hip bone to hip bone, but it can be sited on your bikini line. The scar around your navel is likely to fade to become barely noticeable. The other scar may fade well or may stay noticeable, it varies from patient to patient. You may also be left with a small but permanently numb area in the middle region of your lower abdomen.

Some women experience a swelling above the scar which settles down after a few months, but may need to be drained by your surgeon (this is a very minor procedure that he can perform in his office, which involves putting a needle into your abdomen and withdrawing excess fluid. Your abdomen will be numb at this stage so this procedure is painless.)

What are the risks?

An abdominoplasty is considered to be a major operation and you will need to spend at least two nights in hospital. It is also quite painful when you come round as your muscles have been stitched together, so it will hurt to cough or laugh. However, adequate pain relief will be provided.

The risks themselves include the standard risks of a general anaesthetic (deep vein thrombosis, chest infection), together with poor healing, infection and necrosis (death of the skin). The risk of complications is higher in smokers, diabetics and those who are overweight prior to surgery.

Typical before and after photos

tummy tuck before and after

Are there any alternatives?

You could take a look at some tummy tuck jeans - jeans which shape your tummy to give you the appearance of having had a tummy tuck. Sadly, the effect only lasts whilst you're wearing them. Nevertheless, they are a good idea, very flattering, and much cheaper than surgery.