Abdominoplasty, popularly known as tummy tuck, is a cosmetic surgical procedure used to firm up abdomen by tightening muscles and fascia and removing extra skin and fat layer in the area.

Who are the people undertaking abdominoplasty or tummy tuck?

Persons from two distinct groups of people are more likely than others to take up this procedure.

The first group comprises child bearing women. To have the progenies, the child bearing women make many sacrifices, one of which is degradation of their own bodies. Due to multiple pregnancies, sometimes even due to single pregnancy, the women’s abdominal areas get stretched loosening the muscle, fascia, fat and skin. This creates significant discomfort in moving about and degrades the area aesthetically.

The other group is made of heavy weight or obese people. Many of these people lose massive weight by dieting and exercise, thanks to their willpower, and as a consequence, are left with loose and hanging skin. This occurs due to the skin being initially stretched much beyond its elastic limit due to fat accumulation and then being unable to adjust to the new body contour after the weight loss.

With aging, people tend to develop loose abdominal muscles and skin also.

In all the above cases, dieting and exercise are helpful to lose weight, but cannot remove the excess skin in the lower abdomen that can bulge significantly. The solution lies in physically tightening the layers of the muscles, contouring the waist, hips and abdomen, followed by excision of the excess skin, otherwise called a Lipo-abdominoplasty. In fact, this is the best procedure to achieve the best results.

The present day culture of looking good, promoted by fashion and bill board models, TV and movie stars and competition in the work place, have been driving both men and women to look young and fit.

People are going in large numbers for liposuction for fat removal from pockets in the abdomens, thighs, flanks, buttocks etc (liposuction was the most performed cosmetic surgery in America in 2011 as per one survey) and trying to have well sculpted bodies. In many of these cases, after losing the fat, people find themselves with loose skin which they may need tightened through abdominoplasty.

A full abdominoplasty is used to tighten the skin in the entire abdomen and an incision is usually made from one hip to the other just above the pubic area under general anesthesia. The navel is made free from the adjacent skin and fat tissues.

The skin and the fat layers are then lifted and the underlying muscles and fascia tightened by applying sutures. The skin and fat layers are then pulled and the extra skin and fat are cut out before draping them back in position. Performing liposuction and contouring of the waist, hips and upper abdomen can be performed at the same time and is usually the preferred option for most people.

The incision is closed with drain pipes in position to drain out the inner fluids. Sometimes, liposuction is applied in the transition zone to have a smoother contour there.

There are other versions also, named

(i) Mini- abdominolplasty- where a smaller area is treated resulting in using a smaller incision,

ii) Extended abdominolplasty- comprising full abdominoplasty combined with lateral thigh lifts.,

(iii) High lateral tension tummy tacks- A newertechnique tightening horizontally in addition to the conventional vertical tightening of the skin and tissue layers.

(iv) Circumferential abdominoplasty– Also known as belt lipectomy or body lift, it is an extended procedure with incision round the body, covering full abdomen, thighs and buttocks, done for people with massive weight loss.

Full recovery period from a full abdominoplaty may be as long as two to six months with the return to work period being about one to three weeks after the procedure depending on the type of work performed.

Wearing a compression garment or a support abdominal binder is required to control swelling and retain the condition of the treated area of the skin.

Like in any surgery, there are certain risks in this procedure, despite it being quite safe. The risks relate to anesthesia, blood clots, hematoma, seroma, skin necrosis i.e skin death. The best way to reduce these anesthetic risks is to performed the procedure while one is awake, otherwise called Awake abdominoplasty. There are physicians who specialize in this procedure, such as Robert L. True, MD in Colleyville, TX

There may also be risks of stroke, cardiac and pulmonary mal-functions. The best way to minimize these risks is to seek out the surgeon’s advice on pre- and post-operation precautions to be taken by the patient and following the same fully. These potential risks are very rare, especially if the Awake method is utilized, according to Dr. True.

Complications, though rare, do occur and if these happen post surgery at home, like chest pain, shortness of breath or bleeding and others, the patients must immediately seek medical attention including contacting their surgeons.

Post surgery studies indicate that the overall patient satisfaction level remains high. According to several surgeons who perform the surgery, there is increasing people’s interest in obtaining the abdominoplasties.

The cost of abdominoplasty surgery varies widely depending on many factors, including which particular type of abdominoplasty is performed among several types,  the geographical location, and qualification and experience of the surgeon. With all these variables in play, a rough estimate of the total cost would be $7,000 to $ 10,000.

The best course open for a patient is to consult a few surgeons who can come up with accurate estimates after examining the patient and determining what type of abdominoplasty procedure would be best for him or her.