- Tummy Tuck Surgery Details
- Recovering from Tummy Tuck
- Potential Complications
- Post-Operative Instructions
- Schedule a Consultation
A tummy tuck surgery can achieve the most dramatic body contouring results. A tummy tuck, or by its correct name, abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic surgery procedure designed to remove excess fat and skin from the abdomen area, while tightening abdominal muscles and recontouring the abdomen. Sometimes liposuction techniques are used in conjunction with tummy tuck surgery. This surgery is best for those individuals with looser abdominal skin (from weight loss or after pregnancy), and abdominal muscle laxity.
A mini tummy tuck is an option for some patients. This requires slightly shorter incisions and no work on the umbilicus. This mini-version is good for patients who have only lower fatty and skin excess below the belly button. The upper abdomen will not be changed much. Patients who are candidates for a mini tummy tuck are those who have never had a pregnancy, or at most one pregnancy.
At our modern cosmetic surgery Pittsburgh facility, Radiance, Dr. Lori Cherup provides consultations for potential Pittsburgh abdominoplasty patients to discuss which procedures best fit their needs. Thanks to Radiance Anesthesia Corporation’s staff experience and advanced techniques, 95 percent of our patients can have outpatient surgery and go home the same day.
How Is A Tummy Tuck Performed?
An abdominoplasty is performed under general anesthesia. You will undergo a bowel prep two days before the surgery that will empty your lower colon and make possible a tighter reconstruction. We do not want bowel gas getting in our way. An incision will be made above the pubic hairline extending towards the flanks, or sometimes extending slightly around the upper posterior gluteal area. The abdominal skin and fat will be elevated off the underlying muscle. The abdominal muscles (the rectus and the obliques) will be tightened together with sutures. This maneuver will recreate your waistline. The abdominal skin will be redraped and the excess will be removed. An incision will also be made around the belly button and the skin around it redraped and contoured to give the abdomen a flat, tight appearance. Two drains will exit your outer incisions and drain the fluid that would accumulate. A liposuction garment provides support. Dr. Cherup infuses a long-acting anesthetic into the incisions to provide you long-term pain relief.
Because tummy tuck surgery involves removal of the extra abdominal skin and tightening of the abdominal muscles, you will experience some difficulty standing up straight for a week or two. You should allow at least two weeks of no work activity. Sutures need to remain in place for two weeks. For the first week after surgery, you will be on the couch or in bed, getting up for meals and the bathroom. No house work. No child care. No work outside the home. You will be required to have drainage tubes that will stay in anywhere from five to 12 days. You will be taught how they function, do a dressing change daily, and record the drainage from the tubes.
Tummy tucks are probably the most uncomfortable operation we do. You will experience some pain for 10 to 20 days and will not feel like resuming sports or heavy exercise for at least four weeks. After the first two weeks, you may resume moderate walks for as long as tolerable. Too much initial activity can prolong swelling in the lower abdomen.
Risks and Complications after Abdominoplasty
Swelling — please read Dr. Cherup’s blog post, “Swelling After Abdominoplasty.”
Umbilical healing — can be delayed if your abdominal flap was thick and fat and your umbilical stalk was long.
Loss of skin sensation — is normal and expected, especially above your pubis. Fifty percent of the sensation will return within one year, and it may take up to two to four years for all the sensation to return. Few patients complain of this complication.
Skin loss — poor blood supply to the skin due to previous smoking, a fat skin flap, or infection can cause the skin above the pubis to die and form a scab. Dr. Cherup will treat it gently, eventually debride it, and revise the scar if necessary to give it good results.
Infection — can happen due to less-than-optimal wound care, prolonged need for drains, and if the skin flaps are particularly thick. If you develop an infection, Dr. Cherup will diagnose it with wound cultures, get you on the correct antibiotics and, if necessary, open and drain the area that is infected. In the end, the infection will be gone, and you will have a good result.
Postoperative Tummy Tuck Instructions and Positioning
Because tummy tuck surgery involves removing extra tissue, maintaining a good position for healing is extremely important. During the recovery period, you may find it more comfortable to place a pillow or two under your knees while in bed. The tightness will gradually disappear as you heal and progressively use more of your body muscles. The optimal position for the first three days is your head propped up with two pillows, your trunk fairly flat, and your legs slightly elevated. We would expect you to get up and walk every two hours. This is important to reduce the danger of blood clots after tummy tuck surgery.
We will place gauze, tape, and a liposuction garment around your tummy immediately after the surgery to provide some gentle pressure, to give you stability, and to reduce the swelling. If you are a larger woman or man, or Dr. Cherup is concerned about increased support, she may also put an elastic binder on your tummy. We do not want the binder to interfere with circulation to the skin, which could cause blistering or skin loss. You may remove it occasionally for laundering and to give your skin a break. Many patients like wearing the binder for several weeks after the tummy tuck surgery and some choose to wear it for several months. The liposuction garment will be worn for at least three weeks. Once Dr. Cherup changes your dressings, it is very important to wash your garments every day. Let your own comfort and the amount of swelling you experience guide you. We want you as comfortable as possible without swelling.
Drains and Drain Care
Dr. Cherup will probably place two drains into the surgical area at the time of your tummy tuck surgery. These drains evacuate the fluid that accumulates after tummy tuck surgery and enable you to heal faster. When the drain is first put in place, the bulb at the end of each tube will be compressed to create gentle suction. As the fluid collects in the bulb, it will expand, and will need to be emptied. Secure the bulb of the drain to your clothing or to the binder with a safety pin. Dr. Cherup prefers that you empty the drains regularly every eight hours, and it is especially important to record the right versus left drainage amounts in cc’s. Empty the bulb by opening the plug at the top and pouring out the contents. Make sure to look at the level before you pour it out. Do not attempt to remove the bulb from the tubing, as this could break the sterility inside the tubing and cause you to have an infection. Squeeze the bulb to recompress it, and put the plug back into the hole at the top. If the bulb fills rapidly after emptying it, or if you need to empty it more than three times a day, please call our main office at (412) 220-8181 and let Dr. Cherup know of this situation. Dr. Cherup or her nurses usually remove the drains anywhere from five to 12 days after tummy tuck surgery. When the fluid begins to turn a clear straw color, you know that it is about time to remove the drains.
Dr. Cherup will remove the sutures around the belly button and in your lower abdomen anywhere from 12 to 14 days after the tummy tuck surgery. Removing the sutures does not hurt.
Learn More about Tummy Tuck
For more information about tummy tuck and how it can help improve the contour of your abdomen, please call Dr. Cherup at (412) 220-8181 or (877) 441-0639.