Abdominoplasty or commonly known as tummy tuck surgery is a procedure that involves removal of excess fat and skin. In majority of cases, it restores separated or weakened muscles thus creating an abdominal characteristic that is firmer and smoother – hence a flat, well-toned abdomen.
Achieving this kind of abdomen is tough through exercise alone and even precise weight control. At times, when the fat around the tummy becomes overly excessive, exercise and weight control would not be enough. Tummy tuck surgery is therefore a way to treat flabby abdomen.
It is important to note the things that the tummy tuck cannot do before considering this option and it includes –
- Tummy tuck is not a replacement for weight loss regimen or a suitable exercise program
- Technically tummy tuck is permanent but it is dependent on different variables such as fluctuations in weight and future pregnancies
- The procedure cannot make stretch marks disappear even though it could improve the physical appearance of the marks if they are located in areas where excess fat and skin are removed.
Abdominoplasty or tummy tuck surgery is indicated to obese persons who have tried other methods of weight loss but failed. As mentioned, however, it is not a replacement for appropriate weight loss regimen therefore must only be sought after everything has been carefully thought over. If you plan on losing substantial weight, you should postpone tummy tuck surgery after you’ve reached your goals otherwise the procedure will only result to dissatisfaction.
In individuals who have normal body weight, this procedure is also recommended. This is probably because there is disproportion of their sagging and protruding tummy to their weight.
Common causes of sagging tummy despite having normal body weight include –
- Fluctuation in weight
- Previous surgery
The procedure’s indication follows a set of criteria. Ideally, patients who are within normal body weight limits, no future plans for pregnancy and have moderate laxity of muscle, excess skin and fat are candidates. However, people who seek this procedure after a significant weight loss follow a different set of criteria often determined or evaluated for a different procedure called belt lipectomy rather than getting abdominoplasty done.
Types of Abdominoplasty and What to Expect
Currently, there are two types of tummy tuck surgery, which includes –
- Complete abdominoplasty – the removal of excess skin and tightening of underlying muscles across the entire surface area of the abdomen including the belly button
- Partial abdominoplasty – involves removal of excess skin below the belly button and tightening of the muscles in the lower abdomen only.
The procedure is done under general anesthesia and it takes up to three hours although this depends on how extensive is the surgery.
When complete abdominoplasty is performed, it involves a cut through the abdomen, removal of fat and skin and followed by tightening of the muscles underneath before closure of the incision. The belly button will be repositioned and closure of the wound is done either through stitches, clips or tape.
After the procedure, there will be a fluid drainage tube on the wound to prevent fluid accumulation. You can expect some bruising and swelling on the abdominal area. You may also experience numbness between the belly button and the wound, pain and discomfort.
It is safe to anticipate that you would not be able to stand up straight immediately after surgery and there will be a tugging sensation felt right around your tummy. All of these are normal experiences after the procedure – this is because your body is still adjusting to the tightness around the stomach.
Length of Hospital Stay
Depending on the extent of the procedure, the expected length of hospital stay is two days. This is after you are already cleared by your surgeon from any immediate complications that may extend your hospital stay for a little longer.
Prior to discharge, you need to have –
- Stable observable conditions
- Controlled pain
- Normal food and beverage consumption
- Ability to walk normally and attend to daily living as would be expected
- No signs of infections and complications
Once all of these are cleared then you can have a clean bill of health and may go home.
The recovery time differs patient to patient in the similar way that the extent of the procedure would also differ considerably. How extensive the procedure is will affect the recovery period including fast wound healing.
Generally, it will take around six weeks before patients can resume normal daily activities. According to studies, patients who are physically fit and healthy prior to the procedure recover faster than those who are not as fit. Lethargy, post-operatively, can last one or perhaps even more.
Pain is subjective and can differ significantly for each patient. You may experience slight pain or discomfort especially at the site of incision as would be expected from any open wound. It will eventually settle and is often managed by taking oral pain reliever, which is prescribed by your physician upon discharge.
Proper wound care is encouraged though you may notice some swelling or bruising that would last within the first two or three months immediately following surgery. Don’t be alarmed when the scar color will deepen rather than fade within the same period as this is also normal. In some cases, the color change will take for as long as a year.
If you want faster recovery, proper preparation before your surgery is strongly advised. Nonetheless, exercise can greatly augment your recovery and lessen the adjustment time. You may begin walking as your primary exercise program and gradually increasing the activity each week. You should at least walk 30 minutes on majority of the days after six weeks post-surgery.
It is strongly advised that you should not begin any strenuous or heavy lifting activities within the first six weeks. If you must carry a significant amount of load, make sure that you use both hands, keep a neutral posture and keep the load close to your body as possible to lessen the burden on your abdominal muscles. You must not subject your body to heavy items as this will stress out your muscles.
Are there any risks?
As with any form of surgical procedures, abdominoplasty or tummy tuck surgery has its own set of risks and complications, as well. The safety of the procedure is rather a subjective as well as an objective topic. It generally boils down to how healthy you are prior to the procedure and how well you follow doctor’s orders and specific instructions regarding the care of your wound and diet.
Specifically, the risk includes the following –
- Bleeding and hematoma
- Reactions to Anesthetics
- Numbing sensation between the belly button and wound
- Skin or fat necrosis particularly at the site where the incision has been made
If you are a smoker, it would be best that you abstain from smoking at least six weeks prior to the surgical procedure including nicotine patches. This is because smoking can increase the risk of having poor wound healing, infection and bleeding.
However, the risks generally depend on your overall well-being before, during and after the surgical procedure as well as how extensive tummy tuck is done.
Qualities of a Good Abdominoplasty Surgeon
Since you are going to entrust your body to your physician, it is only right that you choose a good abdominoplasty surgeon. What are the qualities you need to look for in your physician?
A good abdominoplasty surgeon has it ALL including –
- Good bedside manner
- Has good clinical eye
- Explains everything there is to know about the procedure and leave nothing out
- Cutting-edge with knowledge of the latest advancements in abdominoplasty
- Good reputation and experience
Your attending physician must be a critical thinker and should apply his/her knowledge properly as well as incorporate new techniques to the procedure. There is a big difference between knowing what the procedure is and doing exactly what needs to be done to obtain great results. Also, the physician must have the ability to anticipate unforeseen events and react accordingly with calm demeanor and deft skills.
Above all, your physician must be compassionate and a good listener. A physician can be good clinically, has excellent surgical skills and has an intelligent, amazing mind but without emotion and active listening skills will make this same doctor dull and inappropriate for delicate cases such as abdominoplasty.
How much does abdominoplasty cost in Australia?
The entire cost of abdominoplasty or tummy tuck in Australia involves a number of factor such as the surgeon’s professional fee, the assistant surgeon’s fee, the anesthesiologist’s fee, cost of hospital stay and operating room costs, follow-up visits post-operatively and the cost of any supporting equipment needed for the surgically treated abdomen.
In Australia, the total cost of a complete tummy tuck procedure runs between $6,000 to $10,000 AUD. If your private insurance will not cover your hospital stay, you may have out of pocket expenses that run around $2,500 to $4,500 AUD just for the hospital costs. Considering the cost of the procedure, patients are therefore advised to give it careful thought to avoid unnecessary hassles in the future.