Tummy Tucks: what is it and what are the risks and benefits?
Tummy tuck surgery is medically known as abdominoplasty and is a cosmetic procedure usually performed to make your middle firmer and thinner. That is achieved through the removal of excess fat and skin from the lower and middle abdomen. People who typically go through the procedure are those who either just had a child and want to remove sagging tissue or those looking to lose a significant amount of weight. There are many variations of the procedure and each have their individual risks and benefits. Here are four variations of procedures available.
Types of procedures
- Complete abdominoplasty
An incision stretching from hip to hip is made and another is made to separate the navel from skin around it. The incisions reveal the muscles and fascia, allowing them to be tightened. Liposuction is commonly used to refine the shape of the abdominal area. Excess fluids are drained and a dressing is applied.
- Partial abdominoplasty
A smaller incision is made to detach the skin and fat of the lower abdomen from the muscle fascia. The skin is then stretched to easily remove the excess skin. Liposuction is used to contour the area that was operated on and the flap is stitched back to where it belongs.
- High lateral tension abdominoplasty
This is, in simple terms, a more advanced complete abdominoplasty. In the original procedure, the muscles are tightened in a vertical manner. In the high lateral tension abdominoplasty, the muscles are tightened in the horizontal method. This results in a dramatically flat abdomen and a more defined waistline.
- Floating abdominoplasty
The procedure is also known as an extended mini abdominoplasty. It tightens and shapes with a smaller incision not around the belly button. The muscles are tightened and reshaped, followed by the tightening of the skin. The reason it is called a floating abdominoplasty is because the belly button is temporarily detached and ‘floats’ above the muscles.
As with any form of invasive surgery, there are risks involved. It is important that you do research or consult a surgeon so that you are not caught off guard as well as to weigh the risks and benefits. Tummy tucks are generally safe procedures, the majority of these risks can be avoided if you follow the instructions of your surgeon closely.
Risks to note
- Blood clots
These are rare but can be serious risks after the procedure. Patients are usually told to be mobile immediately after the surgery as this minimizes the risk of blood clots developing. Should a blood clot develop due to immobility, heart attacks or strokes are rare complications that may follow. This is dangerous as the clots may travel to the brain, lungs or heart. Should any of these rare complications occur, they would happen in the three weeks following the procedure.
- Skin necrosis
In the rare case of needing to fix a complication, an additional surgery may be done. Skin necrosis is one of these complications and the surgery done is a skin graft to replace the dead skin. Despite the complication being extremely rare, the people most at risk of this are the smokers. To prevent this, the use of nicotine and smoking must be ceased several weeks prior to and after the surgery to cleanse the body.
The scars post-procedure are permanent and quite astonishing in appearance. The length of it depends on the procedure that was done, the surgeon’s skills, how much skin was removed and the body’s innate ability to recover. The scar typically takes between nine months and a year to get lighter in colour and flatten out but sadly, it will never become invisible.
Benefits of the procedure
Improved posture and a more toned abdomen
One’s stomach muscles can become distended due to multiple pregnancies or extreme weight loss, and neither exercise nor dieting can help. The tummy tuck removes the excess skin and fat while tightening the weak abdominal muscles. These weak abdominal muscles are typically associated with ‘sway back’. With these newly strengthened muscles, the spine is better supported, the posture is improved as a result and some types of back pain are alleviated.
The reduction of stress urinary incontinence
This is a bladder control problem and some women develop this after a vaginal birth. It is associated with uncontrollable leakage that is caused by coughing, exercising, sneezing or laughter. It is usually treated without surgery but in more serious cases, a tummy tuck can help greatly.
The correction of ventral hernia
When the abdominal or intestinal tissue breaks through the abdominal wall, a ventral hernia occurs. This has several causes, including major weight loss and caesarean sections. The symptoms that indicate the need for a ventral hernia correction are similar to that of an abdominoplasty as both these surgeries strengthen weak abdominal muscles. However, no matter what the cause is, a weak abdominal wall will let a hernia form and once it forms, it is easy to happen again.