Cosmetic surgery of the abdomen

Alternative names
Abdominal wall surgery; Tummy tuck; Abdominoplasty

Definition
Abdominal wall surgery is optional surgery to treat flabby, stretched-out abdominal muscles and skin to improve appearance. Excessive fatty tissue and loose skin are removed from the middle and lower sections of the abdomen and the abdominal muscles may be tightened. Note that this is a different procedure than liposuction.

Description

Cosmetic repair of the abdomen can be helpful in improving appearance, especially after massive weight gain and loss. Abdominoplasty can help flatten the lower abdomen and tighten stretched skin.

The patient is admitted to the hospital and the surgery is performed in the operating room. General anesthesia is used to keep the patient deep asleep and pain-free. An incision is made across the abdomen, just above the pubic area.

Excess skin and fat are removed from the abdominal wall, from the pubic area to the rib cage, around the umbilicus and the abdominal muscles are tightened. The incision is stitched (sutured) closed. Excess skin and fat can also be removed from the arms and legs.

Small flat tubes (drains) may be inserted and used for a few days to allow fluid to drain out of the incisions. A firm elastic dressing is applied to the abdomen.

Indications

Abdominoplasty is used to treat extremely loose and flabby abdominal skin and muscle, usually following massive weight gain and loss. Abdominoplasty can be helpful when:

     
  • Diet and exercise have not corrected severe muscle weakness (which may occur after multiple pregnancies), or  
  • The skin and muscle cannot regain its normal tone (which can occur with massive obesity in young people and slight obesity in older people)

Abdominoplasty is not used as a substitute for weight reduction.

Risks

The risks of bleeding and infection are present for all surgeries. Additional risks of blood clots and infection also exist.

Expectations after surgery

The patient can expect to feel some pain and discomfort for several days after surgery, which can be managed with pain medications. Resting with the legs and hips bent (flexed) will reduce pressure (tension) on the abdomen during the recommended 1 to 3 day hospital stay.

Convalescence

An elastic support (much like a girdle) worn over the abdomen for 2 to 3 weeks provides extra abdominal support while healing. Strenuous activity and straining should be avoided for 4 weeks.

The scars will become lighter in color and flatter during the next 3 to 6 months.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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