Abdominoplasty, the more formal name for a tummy tuck, is a cosmetic procedure that addresses a patient’s concerns with their mid and lower abdominal areas.
The procedure is very popular in the UK, whether on its own or as part of a Mummy Makeover whereby the patient has a breast augmentation as well as tummy tuck – the augmentation in part using grafted fat.
A common question though is whether abdominoplasty is major surgery, does the fact it is so commonplace imply it is a minor operation?
The Quick Answer
Abdominoplasty is major surgery, it involves general anaesthetic and then a procedure which typically takes several hours.
Recovery also takes some time, initially the patient is likely to have some pain and bruising, with the ongoing recovery then taking several months.
It is a procedure which can have clear, very visible benefits but it is not something to undertake lightly.
Why Abdominoplasty is Considered Major Surgery
Every aspect of abdominoplasty makes it major surgery – from the invasive nature of the procedure, to the length of time under anaesthetic to the recovery thereafter.
It is not a procedure with a high degree of risk – of course all surgery has some inherent risk – but any patient should not consider it under the mistaken impression it is a minor operation.
The tummy tuck sees the surgeon remove excess skin and fat and then tighten and close the wound. Depending on the extent of the surgery, it may be necessary to reposition the belly button to ensure a natural look.
Liposuction around the hips, flanks and pubic area can accompany the operation, this addressing the wider region.
There are essentially three different kinds of abdominoplasty – the traditional tummy tuck, partial (or mini) tummy tuck and extended abdominoplasty.
The traditional option is the most common – this suitable for people in good overall health but who have a considerable amount of loose skin around their abdomen.
The partial option, as you would expect, is for those with smaller amounts of excess skin – typically this is for people who are within 10% of their ideal body weight and only want to address the part of the naval that is below the abdomen.
The extended abdominoplasty is for those with more excess skin and fat than those undergoing the traditional procedure. It makes a more fundamental change to the patient’s figure, also altering the hip and lower back regions.
However, any prospective patient does not need to know which option is right for them, that would be for discussion with a surgeon. They can advise as to the different options, the results achievable and why they believe one of the options to be the most suitable given the patient’s aspirations.
Whichever option is suitable, the procedure will involve a large cut across the lower tummy – potentially from hip to hip for a full abdominoplasty. Skin will be separated from the abdominal wall and excess skin and fat removed.
It may be necessary to realign abdominal muscles and cut a new hole for the belly button.
The remaining skin is then pulled together and stitched in place.
The operation itself will last at least two hours and often up to five or six and an overnight stay will be required – for more major surgery a stay of several nights can be required.
Recovery also takes time. There will be initial pain and swelling, the patient will be unable to drive initially and must stay home for a period of time. A period off work will have to be factored in, typically four to six weeks, while it will also be several weeks before exercise can be undertaken.
Who is it suitable for?
Abdominoplasty may be major surgery, but it can also be truly life enhancing surgery for the right patients.
We are all prone to fat deposits in certain areas and for many of us, this is the stomach region. Once there, however hard we exercise, however well we control our diet, these stubborn pockets of fat remain.
This undesirable effect can come about as we get older, it can be because of metabolic changes, it is also common post-pregnancy. Whatever the cause, the solution is often abdominoplasty, a procedure that addresses a specific issue and rectifies it.
Results last and are long term, if the patient maintains a sensible diet and exercises there is no reason for them not to be permanent.
It is not a procedure for those who are obese, it tackles a specific area on an otherwise healthy person rather than addressing overall health.
It Starts With A Consultation
As with all cosmetic surgery, the process begins with an initial detailed consultation. This consultation will address whether the surgery is suitable for the prospective surgery, ensure that achievable results are detailed and answer any concerns.
It will be at this stage that the surgeon can outline the different options and offer opinion as to which is the most suitable, for instance whether a traditional tummy tuck or partial option is more suitable.
In other cases it will be determined that this form of surgery is not suitable, whether that is because of the patient’s overall health, or because the results they desire are not realistically attainable.
Patient satisfaction and care is the key consideration for all cosmetic surgeons, the consultation is a chance to ascertain whether surgery should be undertaken and if so which form. It is a partnership between patient and healthcare expert.
If you would like more information about abdominoplasty or are considering this form of surgery please contact us for an obligation-free consultation.
Anca Breahna is a renowned female surgeon who has held prestigious Fellowships and been consultant surgeon at world-leading institutions.
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