What are the risks associated with tummy tucks?

Tummy tucks are a common procedure performed on many people annually. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that all surgical procedures carry some risk, and tummy tucks have some particular risks. Infections are rare and minor if they do come up. Serious infections are very rare but more likely in smokers, diabetics or the obese. Following the surgeon’s recommendations before and after surgery will greatly reduce risk of complications.

What do I need to have in mind before deciding on a tummy tuck?

Tummy tucks cannot replace dieting and should not be undergone to produce the effects of dieting. For people who are overweight, the associated risks are higher. Before you decide on getting a tummy tuck you should carefully consider your desired results and expectations from the surgery and discuss them openly and honestly with the surgeon. You should keep in mind that the surgery will probably improve your appearance and your self-esteem but will not alter your appearance entirely. If you have weight to lose, it is best to be as close to your ideal weight as possible before undergoing the surgery. Tummy tucks should also be postponed until after any planned pregnancies. The ideal candidates for tummy tucks are individuals who are in fairly good shape but cannot get rid of excess fat and loose skin around their abdomen despite dieting and exercise.

How do I prepare for a tummy tuck?

If you feel that a tummy tuck may be beneficial to you, you should both research the topic well and speak openly with your surgeon. It is important to prepare well for the initial interview by having considered and delineated the reasons for wanting the surgery. It is also important to have realistic expectations regarding the outcome. During the interview, you must prepare yourself for the surgeon to be honest about your options and what you can expect from the surgery. It is also essential during this interview that you give the surgeon a basic medical history and information regarding your use of tobacco, alcohol and health supplements. If you are a smoker, it is recommended that you quit six weeks prior to the surgery and not start up again until three weeks after the surgery. Sunbathing and dieting are to be avoided in the days leading up to the surgery. These activities adversely affect your ability to recover fully and quickly. If you get the flu or a fever prior to the surgery, it is best to reschedule until you’ve made a full recovery. You should arrange for someone to pick you up after the surgery and help you at home for a few days after the surgery. You will be required to wear a special compression garment after the surgery which the surgeon will explain in more detail during the interview.

Where is the surgery performed?

The surgery is performed at St. Jósefsspítali Hospital in nearby Hafnarfjördur. You will be admitted for one to two days after the surgery.

Will I require anaesthesia?

Tummy tucks are performed under general anaesthesia. The anaesthetic is administered by an anaesthesiologist who is present during the surgery until a few hours after you have woken up. Anaesthesia has improved greatly in recent years, resulting in safer surgeries with shorter recovery times and decreased likelihood of nausea.

What happens during the surgery?

Usually the surgeon makes a long incision across the abdomen just above the pubic area from one hip bone to the other. Another incision is made around the naval in order to position it correctly after the skin has been tightened. The surgeon separates the skin from the abdominal wall up to the rib cage in order to expose the abdominal muscles. These muscles are then tightened if necessary and stitched together. This stage of the surgery makes the abdomen flatter and the waist smaller. Next, excess skin is removed. An incision is made to be placed over the naval after the skin has been tightened and lowered. The incisions are then stitched and bandaged. In smaller procedures, only the skin on the lower abdomen is removed and the second incision around the naval is not required.

How long does the surgery take?

Tummy tucks can vary in size and scope but usually take two and a half to four hours. Smaller procedures take an hour and a half to two hours. You are monitored for the first few hours after waking up from the anaesthesia and then moved to a hospital room.

How will I feel immediately following the surgery?

For a few days after the surgery, your abdomen will most likely be swollen and you feel some pain and discomfort. The pain can be managed with pain medication prescribed by the surgeon. The surgeon will give you general instructions such as how to shower, how to keep the wounds clean and when to change the bandages. It is important that you get up and walk around as soon as you can although you may not be able to stand upright at first. Absorbable sutures are used everywhere except around the naval. The bandages are changed prior to discharge from the hospital, which is usuallyone or two days after the surgery. The surgeon performs a check-up three to six days after the procedure and then removes the sutures surrounding the naval ten to twelve days after the surgery. The surgeon will continue to monitor your progress.

How long will it take to fully recover?

After a serious procedure such as a tummy tuck, it can take weeks or even months to recover fully. If you are in good health and were in good physical shape with fairly strong abdominal muscles at the time of the surgery, your recovery should be rather swift. It is not uncommon that people are back at work within two to three weeks after the surgery. The surgeon will recommend some exercises that will speed up your recovery. The wounds will be visible and swollen in the first five to six weeks. After which they will look the same for a few months, where the scars are a bit paler and wider. A few months after the surgery the scars become much less noticable although they will never disappear completely.

What expectations can I have regarding the change to my appearance?

Usually tummy tuck surgery is successful, especially if you have loose abdominal muscles and considerable amounts of excess skin. If you follow the surgeon’s recommendations regarding diet and exercise, the effects of the surgery will last for a long time. If your expectations prior to the surgery are realistic and you accept the fact that permanent scarring is a reality then you are likely to be very satisfied with the surgery.