Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)
In 2004, cosmetic surgeons performed more than 150,000 abdominoplasties (commonly known as the "tummy tuck"), according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Abdominoplasty is a major surgical procedure in which surgeons remove excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen and tighten abdominal muscles. The procedure can dramatically flatten a protruding abdomen.
The surgery can be performed either in an outpatient surgical center or in a hospital. Depending on the case, a two- or three-day stay in the hospital may be required. A mini tummy tuck could even be done as an outpatient procedure. General anesthesia (or, for minimal work, local) combined with a sedative may be used. The surgery lasts two to five hours, depending on the work required. The surgeon will usually make a long incision from hip bone to hip bone, just above the pubic area. A second incision is made to remove the navel from surrounding tissue. The surgeon separates and lifts the skin from the abdominal wall all the way up to the ribs. These vertical muscles are tightened by pulling and stitching them together. This produces a firmer abdominal wall and narrower waistline. The doctor then stretches the skin flap downward and extra skin is removed. A new hole is cut for the navel, which is stitched in place. The larger incision is stitched in place, and a temporary tube may be inserted to drain excess fluid.
Abdominoplasty can be combined with liposuction to remove fat deposits from the hips to create a more satisfying contour. In some cases, liposuction alone may produce the best results.
If fat deposits are limited to the area below the navel, you may be a candidate for a partial abdominoplasty (or "mini tummy tuck"), which can be performed on an outpatient basis. During this procedure, which lasts an hour or two, the skin is separated only between the incision site and the navel. The skin flap is stretched down, the excess is removed, and the flap is sutured in place.
Pain Level/Recovery Time: For the first few days, patients usually experience swelling and discomfort. Pain may be controlled with medication. You will receive instructions about showering and changing your dressings. Though standing may be difficult at first, you should start walking as soon as possible. Surface stitches or staples will be removed within a week, while deeper stitches simply get absorbed.
Recovery may take weeks or months. If you start out in good shape with strong abdominal muscles, healing will be much faster. Some people can return to work after two weeks, while others take three or four weeks to return to their usual routine. Mild to moderate exercise helps reduce swelling, lowers the chances of blood clots, and tones muscles. Vigorous exercise should be avoided until the patient feels she can do it comfortably.
Patients are usually left with a permanent scar that can extend from hip to hip, usually in an area hidden by underwear or bikinis. The scar may appear to worsen during the first three to six months, but this is a normal part of healing. It may take from nine months to a year for the scar to flatten out and fade in color. With diet and exercise, the positive results of abdominoplasty may last for years.
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