Abdominoplasty or "tummy tuck" is a cosmetic plastic surgery procedure used to correct loose or sagging abdomen. The surgery involves the removal of excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen as well as tightening the abdominal wall.
Individuals who have gained weight suffer from excess fat, whereas those who have lost weight suffer from excess skin. Massive weight loss or pregnancy can also weaken the abdominal wall. The procedure is common for both men and women.
Types of Abdominoplasty Procedures
Abdominoplasty operations vary in scope and can be subdivided into categories. The technique selected depends on amount of correction needed as well as the plastic surgeon's preference.
Depending on the extent of the surgery, a full abdominoplasty can take 1 to 5 hours. A partial abdminoplasty (Mini-Tuck Abdominoplasty) can be completed between 1 to 2 hours.
A full (or complete) abdominoplasty involves:
- An incision is made from hip to hip just above the pubic area.
- Another incision is made to around the umbilicus (navel) to free it from the surrounding skin.
- The skin and fat are then separated from the abdominal wall to reveal the muscles and fascia to be tightened. The muscle fascia wall is tightened with sutures.
- The hip is then flexed to allow the skin to stretch downwards. The excess skin and fat are then removed.
- The existing belly button stalk is brought out through a new hole and sutured into place.
- Sometimes, liposuction is then performed to refine the transition zones of the abdominal sculpture.
A partial (or mini) abdominoplasty differs from a full abdominoplasty in that:
- A smaller incision is made.
- The skin and fat of the lower abdomen are detached from the abdominal wall in a more limited fashion--usually only up to the umbilicus. The skin is stretched down and excess skin removed.
- Sometimes the lower portion of the abdominal muscle fascia wall is tightened.
An extended abdominoplasty is a complete abdominoplasty with extensions into the thighs (front) and/or flanks (sides).
An abdominoplasty can be combined with other procedures such as breast reduction, breast augmentation, breast lift, thigh lifts, lower body lift, and liposuction.
After surgery, a dressing or compression garment is applied and any excess fluid from the surgical site is drained via a suction device. Depending on the extent of surgery, recovery can range from one to four weeks. During the recovery period, heavy straining and lifting should be avoided.
Risks and Complications
As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur during or after the abdominoplasty procedure. While rare, risks include hematoma, seroma, infection, wound healing problems, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism.