Abdominoplasty, or a “tummy tuck,” is designed to correct a protruding abdomen resulting from weak abdominal muscles, weight gain or pregnancy. Obesity causes the skin to lose its elasticity. These conditions may not respond well to diet or exercise if the skin and underlying muscles have been stretched.
Abdominoplasty is performed using general anesthesia or “tumescent” local anesthesia. You may be given medication beforehand so you will feel relaxed. The surgery may take 2-5 hours, depending on your overall condition. You may be released after a few hours, or you may require a couple days of hospitalization.
The procedure is most commonly performed by making a U-shaped incision below one hipbone, across the pubic area and under the other hipbone. A second incision is made around the navel. The skin is then separated from the abdominal wall and lifted up to the hipbone, exposing loose tissue covering the abdominal muscle.
Loose, stretched out muscles are tightened with sutures, and excess skin and fat are removed. The skin is lowered over the abdomen and the navel is reconstructed. The incisions are then sutured together. Drains are often inserted to eliminate fluid buildup, and firm elastic bandages are applied to the area.
You may experience some discomfort immediately following surgery that can be controlled with pain pills. Some swelling is normal. You will be given special instructions for showering and changing your dressings until the surface stitches are removed in 5-7 days. You may also be required to wear a support garment.
The speed of recovery depends on your physical condition prior to surgery; those with stronger abdominal muscles usually recover faster. Allow at least 2-4 weeks to recuperate before returning to work.
Some scarring is also normal. It often takes 9-12 months before the scars begin to fade.
Though the recovery period is longer than that of other cosmetic procedures, the rewards are great for a patient previously distressed by a protruding abdomen. Those who follow a proper exercise routine and healthy diet will benefit from abdominoplasty the most.