Procedure – A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure for removing extra skin and fat in the abdomen. A tummy tuck also involves tightening the rectus (“six-pack”) muscles that are often stretched out and bulging in women who have been pregnant. This results in a flatter and tighter tummy. Liposuction is often used in conjunction with a tummy tuck to blend the surrounding areas.
You may be a good candidate for a tummy tuck if you are healthy and your weight is relatively stable but have an excess amount of loose skin and fat in the lower abdomen. Typically, a patient with stretch marks will require a tummy tuck rather than liposuction to achieve ideal abdominal re-contouring. A tummy tuck can be particularly beneficial to women whose skin and muscles have been stretched during pregnancy and no further pregnancies are planned. It is also very helpful for men with sagging abdominal skin and fat.
Surgery and incisions – The operation itself takes 2-3 hours depending if liposuction is performed in conjunction with the tummy tuck procedure. Most surgeries are performed in an outpatient or inpatient operating suite, under twilight or general anesthesia. Dr. Brown will discuss all options that are right for you during your consultation. In most cases, the incision can be hidden in the panty-line. The length of the incision depends on how much extra skin has to be removed. It usually spans from one hip bone to the other. You will also have an incision around your belly-button, however this incision is also well hidden once it heals.
Preparing for surgery – Tell Dr. Brown about any medical problems you have, and any problems you may have had with surgery in the past. A history of bleeding problems, nausea with surgery and high blood pressure are all important to disclose to your surgeon, because these are risk factors for post-surgical bleeding. If you smoke, you will be asked to quit for a minimum of 4 weeks prior to surgery as well as 4 weeks after surgery. You will be told which medications to stop and which to take before surgery. If you get sick or have any health issues in the days before surgery, please notify the office at once in case we have to postpone your operation.
Can I go home the day of the surgery? – Most tummy tucks can be done safely as an outpatient, and most patients will be able to go home the same day. Some patients may prefer to spend a night in the hospital if they have young children at home or live alone and do not have any help at home.
After Surgery Care
What about swelling and bruising? – You will be sent home with 2-3 drains underneath the abdominal tissue that has to be elevated from the underlying muscles. These drains help prevent the collection of fluid that can hinder the healing process. They will be removed between 1-2 weeks after surgery. Swelling and bruising are normal signs of the healing process. They occur after any surgery to varying degrees. Swelling peaks at about 48 hours, and then rapidly decreases. By the end of the first few weeks, 50% of the swelling is gone. By 6-8 weeks, a majority of the swelling has diminished. By six months, almost all the swelling is gone. Any remaining swelling is almost not perceptible.
What restrictions are there? – You can shower the day after surgery, but you should not take a bath, use a hot-tub, or go swimming for at least two weeks. Most patients then begin to get back to their regular routine. Within 3-5 days, you will probably be ready to leave the house for short trips and light walks. More vigorous walking and mild stretching exercises can be resumed about two weeks after surgery. Strenuous activities should be avoided until 4-6 weeks after surgery. These are all general guidelines and Dr. Brown will tell you what you can and cannot do as you see him at your follow up appointments.
When can I travel? – Traveling after surgery (air travel, long distance car trips, train rides, etc) should not be done before you have had your first postoperative visit. Typically, this occurs 5-7 days after surgery for suture removal. Patients who are at high risk for developing a blood clot should not travel until instructed by their surgeon. Short car trips under 60 minutes can be done before the first visit. A good rule of thumb is when you are off the stronger pain medication and can get up without assistance you are ready to go for a short drive. You should not drive the car yourself, until Dr. Brown gives you clearance for this.
What if I have a problem? – When should I call the office? We always welcome calls from patients. If you have any concerns at any time, please feel free to contact our office. If it is an emergency, the answering service is available 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays.