The abdominal wall is made up of muscles and fascia, the tissue that holds muscles and organs together. Abdominoplasty—more popularly known as a tummy tuck—removes excess skin and fat and tightens the muscles of the abdominal wall. Stretch marks on the stomach can also be reduced a bit with a tummy tuck.
- Tummy tucks are popular amongst people who have a lot of loose tissue and skin around the stomach area after pregnancy or significant weight loss.
- Tummy tucks are usually performed in hospital under a general anaesthesic and can take between 1 and 3 hours to complete.
- Most people can expect to return to work a week after surgery.
- Full recovery from a tummy tuck can take between three to six months
Tummy tucks are popular amongst people who have a lot of loose tissue and skin around the stomach area after pregnancy or after significant weight loss. This is a procedure most commonly performed on women.
Tummy tucks are often performed together with other cosmetic procedures, such as thigh and buttock lifts and liposuction. When these three treatments are performed together it is known as a body lift. When a tummy tuck is combined with a breast reduction or breast lift, together with liposuction, these combination treatments are popularly known as a “mummy makeover”.
Reasons for choosing to have a tummy tuck
You are a good candidate for a tummy tuck procedure if you have
- Sagging or excessive abdominal skin as a result of pregnancy or weight loss.
- A high level of fatty deposits around your stomach area.
- A protruding abdomen.
- Separated or weakened abdominal muscles, leaving you with a flabby abdomen.
- Stretch marks below the naval.
This procedure not only reduces excess skin and tightens the muscles but makes the waist smaller as well.
What to expect
A tummy tuck is usually performed in hospital under a general anesthetic and can take between 1 and 3 hours to complete, depending on the extent of work needed. You may go home on the same day, unless your surgeon wants you to stay in hospital to be monitored overnight. A one or two night stay in hospital is normal for this procedure.
One incision is made across the lower abdomen just above the pubic bone, and a second incision is made at the navel. Excess skin is removed, the abdominal muscles tightened and the area stitched back together.
Your stomach area may feel tight immediately after surgery. You may also feel some discomfort when you move around, but this can be managed with pain medication. You will need to limit your levels of activity for at least six weeks to minimise pressure on the incision sites and allow your abdomen area to heal. Sometimes drains are placed around the incision sites for up to a week to help remove excess fluids.
Most people can expect to get back to work 2 – 3 weeks after surgery. You may need to wear a supportive compression garment during this time to minimise bruising and swelling and to provide support to the healing tissues.
Tummy tuck scars are usually close to the pubic area and well hidden under a bikini. Their appearance depends on how your skin heals, the extent of skin removed and the specific surgical technique used.
Full recovery from a tummy tuck can take between three to six months. You can expect your scars to lighten within nine months of surgery. Discuss with your surgeon how others have managed to camouflage their scars, and ask as well about other available scar treatments.
Before and after surgery
Before your surgery, make sure to have everything you need for a comfortable stay at home during the recovery process.
In addition to following the general steps that can speed up healing after surgery, there are important things you may be asked to do to ensure success following your tummy tuck. These include:
- Rest and allow your body to heal after surgery. Follow your doctor’s orders and avoid strenuous activities during the recovery period.
- Wear a supportive abdominal binder or use a compression garment to help minimise bruising and swelling for a week following surgery, if your doctor advises it.
Possible risks and complications
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved in tummy tuck surgery. You should be fully aware of these before you elect to have the procedure.
Make sure you familiarise yourself with the list of complications that could arise as a result of any surgery.
Compared to many cosmetic surgical procedures where small incisions are made, a tummy tuck requires a longer incision, increasing the level of risk during and after surgery, especially in relation to bleeding and infection.
The best way to reduce your risk is to find a fully qualified surgeon with formal training in abdominoplasty who has performed the procedure many times.
Specific complications that may occur after a tummy tuck include:
- Tissue loss – There is the possibility of tissue loss along the horizontal incision, which might delay the healing process.
- Gathering of fluids – After surgery fluids may collect under the skin. This can be removed in a painless way, but will mean several visits to the surgeon’s office. Sometimes drainage tubes are inserted to solve this problem.
Just as you would discuss potential benefits before surgery, it is always advisable to ask your surgeon to address the potential risks as they apply to you.
You may come across terms like “full” or “complete” abdominoplasty and “mini” or “partial” abdominoplasty, also known as mini tummy tucks. In a full abdominoplasty, two incisions are made—one from hip to hip above the pubic area and the other near the naval. The skin detached in this manner reveals muscles and other connecting tissue, which will be tightened using sutures. A mini tummy tuck does the same thing, but through a much smaller incision and in a smaller area. Usually liposuction is also part of the process for both types of abdominoplasty to remove excess fat from the area.
You might also come across terms such as “extended” abdominoplasty, “high lateral tension” abdominoplasty and “circumferential” abdominoplasty. An extended abdominoplasty combines a tummy tuck with a thigh lift, resulting in a smaller waistline as well as smaller thighs. A high lateral tension abdominoplasty uses an advanced technique to tighten muscles both horizontally and vertically, which makes for a flatter abdomen and better-defined waist. In conventional abdominoplasty, the muscles are only tightened along the vertical line (top to bottom). In circumferential abdominoplasty, this procedure is combined with a buttock lift, and the incision runs all around the body. It is best suited for those who have lost a lot of weight.
Rough costs involved
For detailed costs regarding tummy tuck surgery, see our article What Does A Tummy Tuck Cost in Australia?
A complete tummy tuck with liposuction can cost anywhere between $9,000 and $29,000 (AUD). This includes the surgeon’s and assistant surgeon’s fees, anaesthetist’s fees, facilities and operating theatre costs and cost of follow up visits.
The cost of a tummy tuck will vary depending on the surgeon, the facilities used and the exact procedure. Your surgeon will help you estimate potential costs after a consultation.
Some Australian private health insurers may help pay for the hospital bed and theatre fees. Getting a doctor’s referral may enable you to make a claim on these costs.
You should expect the costs to be higher if you are having combined procedures at the same time.
This information is correct as of 2020.