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Abdominoplasty or "tummy tuck" is a cosmetic surgery procedure used to make the abdomen thinner and more firm. The surgery involves the removal of excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen in order to tighten the muscle and fascia of the abdominal wall. This type of surgery is usually sought by patients with loose or sagging tissues after pregnancy or major weight loss.

The tummy tuck procedure is particularly popular with new mums and with those women who have lost a significant amount of weight (with or without a Bariatric Surgery) and have been left with excess, loose skin. The surgery is carried out under general anaesthetic and is used to remove any excess skin and fatty tissue, reshape the area and create a slimmer, smoother and tighter abdominal area.

Feeling self-conscious about your figure can make it really difficult to be confident in yourself and can even stop you wearing outfits you'd love to look good in. Having a firm, flat stomach can make a huge difference to the way you feel and when it's not possible to achieve this through diet and exercise alone, Tummy Tuck surgery can be the right option.

Losing a significant amount of weight is a fantastic achievement. But often there is a downside. Once you’ve lost the fat from your tummy, you can be left with folds of loose skin and a lack of muscle tone that gives your abdomen a ‘saggy’ appearance.

Pregnancy is another cause of loose, sagging skin on the tummy for many women. Again, the stretched skin won’t return to its pre-pregnancy state and your muscles may be weakened too.

The benefits of abdominoplasty

A tummy tuck – or abdominoplasty – is a surgical procedure that takes away excess loose skin and tightens the muscles up. It can even remove stretch marks. The result is a slimmer, firmer tummy that you’ll be happy to show off with confidence.

Tummy tuck - what the procedure involves

Abdominoplasty takes around three hours under general anaesthetic and you’ll need to stay in for at least two nights after surgery. Your surgeon will make a long incision into your abdomen running above your pubic area in a curved shape. There will also be a second incision to remove your belly button. Your surgeon will then pull your tummy muscles back together and stitch them in place. Excess fat is removed and your belly button repositioned. Excess skin is then removed, the remaining skin is pulled into place and the incisions closed with stitches.

After surgery:

Your tummy will be sore and swollen after surgery and you’ll be fitted with a tight-fitting support garment. This will help with the healing process, though you will have bruising and swelling for a few weeks. When the garment is removed you’ll see an immediate improvement, though it may take a few more months for your tummy to settle completely into its new toned, taut state.

Side effects, risks and complications:

Abdominoplasty carries certain risks that may be serious or life-threatening. When making the decision to undergo such a procedure it is recommended to compare the benefits with the potential risks and complications. Hence, all patients must be informed on all the risks they are exposing themselves to. Severe complications occur however in rare cases and these include blood clots, thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications or infection. If complications occur, they usually delay the healing process. In rare cases, another surgery is needed to fix a potential complication. Skin necrosis is one of the complications that may require another procedure as the dead skin must be replaced by a skin graft. Although necrosis is extremely rare, smokers have an increased risk to develop skin necrosis. One of the more common problems after an abdominoplasty is collection of fluid under the skin after the drains have been removed. A surgeon can aspirate the fluid with a needle. The drainage stops within a month and does not affect the final results.

The scars resulting from abdominoplasty are long, brutal in appearance, and permanent. The size of the scar depends on the amount of skin that has been cut off, the techniques used for the surgery, the surgeon's skills, and the body's ability to recover. Although this scar will never become invisible, it is usually placed under the swimsuit line so it is covered by clothes. It normally takes nine months to a year before scars flatten out and lighten in colour.

Possible risks of abdominoplasty include:

(1) Bleeding
(2) Fluid accumulation
(3) Poor wound healing
(4) Skin loss
(5) Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
(6) Anaesthesia complications
(7) Skin discoloration and/or prolonged swelling
(8) Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
(9) Major wound separation
(10) Asymmetry
(11) Recurrent looseness of skin
(12) Pain, which may persist
(13) Persistent swelling in the legs
(14) Nerve damage
(15) Possibility of revisional surgery
(16) Haematoma (may occur in 3 to 4% of cases)
(17) Keloid (heavy scar)
(18) Seroma
(19) Suture rupture
(20) Swelling
(21) Visible scar