flawless.org is a not for profit advice website

Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty

Photo credit: staras / Shutterstock 

What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic procedure to improve the shape of a person’s abdomen due to excess skin and fat. Not to be confused with liposuction another type of cosmetic surgery on the stomach with the objective to change the appearance of your midsection.

Both procedures, performed by plastic surgeons, claim to make your stomach appear flatter, tighter and smaller. Liposuction removes small fat deposits in the body found on the hips, thighs, bottom or stomach, whereas a tummy tuck removes excess fat and skin.

If you're thinking of going ahead, just like other cosmetic procedures, a tummy tuck is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Make sure you have carried out thorough research of the procedure, including the cost and any side effects that may occur. It is important to take time to reflect on your decision before going ahead, as it is a major surgical procedure that requires weeks to heal, to patients should take this into account as it will affect working – particularly if you have an active job.

Read on to find out more information on abdominoplasty.

Why get a tummy tuck?

There are a variety of reasons that someone may want to get a tummy tuck. Some of the most common reasons include:

What is the tummy tuck procedure?

The main aim of the procedure is to remove excess fat and skin on the stomach, whilst simultaneously tightening the abdominal muscles to improve the shape of your abdomen. This is caused through substantial weight loss or a pregnancy. In this circumstance, the excess skin cannot be removed through exercise, so many people decide to go under the knife to create a more ‘toned’ stomach.

Please note that tummy tuck surgery isn’t a treatment to help you lose or control your weight and won’t stop you from gaining weight in the future either.

There are two types of tummy tuck you can have: a mini tummy tuck, or a full tummy tuck. Generally, both are carried out under a general anaesthetic. But, what is the difference between a tummy tuck and a mini tummy tuck?

Mini tummy tuck

A mini tummy tuck involves making a large incision across the lower tummy, below the belly button. The surgeon starts by removing the excess fat and skin and stitching the remaining skin back together.

 

Photo credit: EniaB / Shutterstock

Full tummy tuck

On the other hand, a full tummy tuck is far more evasive surgery. The operation entails making a large incision across the lower stomach from hip-to-hip (just above the public area). A second incision is made around the belly button too, and work begins to free the belly button from the tissue that surrounds it. 

After this, the skin is then separated from the abdomen, and work to realign the abdominal muscles begins. The surgeon will then remove all of the excess fat from the stomach, and the loose skin that is causing you trouble. Next, a new hole for the belly button is created and the rest of the remaining skin is stitched into its new position.

You may be wondering what to expect from a tummy tuck: the procedure length depends entirely on the individual. Typically, a tummy tuck can take between two and five hours. Be aware that most people must stay in hospital for a few nights afterwards, as movement may be limited, and you can have pain relief.

What results can you expect from tummy tuck surgery?

The results of a tummy tuck may be initially concealed by swelling around your abdomen and not being able to stand fully upright until internal healing is complete. However, after two weeks, you should be able to see a pronounced difference in your shape. Your abdominal area should look and feel flatter, firmer and contoured, to fit in proportion to your body type and weight.

But unfortunately, the procedure will leave you with a permanent scar due to the large incision that is made along your stomach by your surgeon. Despite the fact the scar usually heals well, for some people it may take up to 18 months or two years for the scar to fade and to reap the full tummy tuck results.

If you put on weight in between having your tummy tuck, your abdominal tissue can stretch and change shape. If this occurs, get in touch with your surgeon and get a tummy tuck revision, to restore the results from the original procedure.

What are the side effects of a tummy tuck?

As with any medical procedure, some people can expect to experience some side effects. For the abdominoplasty procedure, you would be left with a scar running across your lower stomach or around your belly button, depending on the type of tummy tuck you had.

You will also have to wear a pressure garment over your stomach area, which is usually a corset or tummy control pants. This can be restricting, so may impact your routine for six weeks after the operation.

In addition, it can be common to experience any of the following:

 [Illustration photo credit: corbac40 / Shutterstock]

Whilst the procedure tends to be highly successful, there are various complications that can occur which you must consider before going ahead. This should be made very clear to you by your surgeon during your consultation, as well as how they can be treated if any problems occurred.

As abdominoplasty is a major operation, you must be prepared for the procedure and long recovery period it entails. For example, a tummy tuck can occasionally result in any of the following:

As with any operation, there is a small risk of excessive bleeding, developing a blood clot, contracting an infection or having an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic – although this is rare.

What is the recovery time for a tummy tuck?

Although the recovery time for a tummy tuck isn’t major, you would need to take around four to six weeks off work and any physical activity. This varies depending on the individual, as some people can take as little as two to three weeks off. It is crucial to listen to your body and to not rush back to work if you are not ready – especially if your job involves heavy-lifting or is active.

All in all, it takes around six weeks to fully recover from the operation, and it may take a few weeks before you see the full effect begin to take shape. During this time, you must take it easy and avoid any high-impact or strenuous activity, as well as keeping your knees bent whilst in bed, to avoid any strain on your stitches.

After a few weeks, you will have to return to your surgeon for a wound check to see whether the stiches are healing well. At the six-week mark, you should be able to remove your pressure garment (corset or tummy control pants) and return to most of your normal everyday activities.

What is the recovery time for a mini tummy tuck?
While the recovery period is usually shorter for a mini-tummy tuck, around two weeks instead of four, you will still need to avoid strenuous activity for at least six weeks afterwards. Bear in mind that recovery time is a common disadvantage of many cosmetic surgery procedures.

How much does a tummy tuck cost in the UK?

In the UK, it costs between £4,500 to £6,000 to have an abdominoplasty procedure. However, the price is often increased further when you include any consultations or follow-up care with your surgeon before or after the procedure takes place.

You may be wondering “can you get a tummy tuck on the NHS?”. Unfortunately, abdominoplasty is regarded as a cosmetic surgery procedure, so it is not something the NHS covers.  

NHS England says: “cosmetic surgery, including, abdominoplasty is rare in the NHS. In rare circumstances, Clinical Commissioning Groups may decide to commission cosmetic surgery. In each circumstance, there would need to be a very strong clinical case for how it would improve a patient’s health, including significant psychological factors.”

As a result, you will have to consult a plastic surgeon and pay for the operation yourself.

Abdominoplasty isn’t just for women. Contrary to popular belief, the tummy tuck procedure costs exactly the same for both men and women alike. Here are some financial options that will help in funding your tummy tuck. 

How to find the right surgeon?

Photo credit: Art_Photo / Shutterstock 

You may be wondering where to get a tummy tuck, if you can’t go to the NHS. If you are looking for a tummy tuck in England, you should begin by checking the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website for treatment centres.

All independent clinics and hospitals that provide cosmetic surgery in England must be registered with the CQC, which publishes inspection reports and performance ratings to help people choose care. If somewhere is not registered with the CQC, you should avoid their services – even if they are cheap – as they may end up doing more harm than good.

You should also research the tummy tuck surgeon who is going to carry out your surgery. Like clinics must be registered with the CQC, all doctors must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). Here, you can inspect the doctor’s practice history before going ahead and booking a consultation for the procedure.

In addition, you may also want to look at:

Frequently asked questions about abdominoplasty

No – this is not a procedure for someone who is overweight. If you have a BMI of 25 to 29 (which generally indicates you may be overweight), a surgeon may advise you to lose weight to be within 20-30 pounds of your healthy weight range before having surgery. You can find out if you are overweight using this simple BMI calculator.  

If your weight is healthy, it is unlikely a surgeon will be happy to carry out the procedure on you. You may be wondering how do I tighten loose skin without a tummy tuck? There are a number of exercises you can do to tone your stomach, such as doing an ab workout frequently. You can find workout routines online and via YouTube and do them from the comfort of your own home.   

No. As the operation is cosmetic surgery, it is not something the NHS covers. However, if you choose to have a panniculectomy operation it may be covered, as does not tighten the abdominal muscles for a better appearance, disqualifying it as a cosmetic procedure.

It can be deemed medically necessary to have an operation if your health is affected. For example, if your stomach hangs below your pubis, you are getting recurrent rashes, or it is interfering with daily living. In this instance, you may be able to have a panniculectomy operation, which is similar to abdominoplasty, but doesn’t tighten abdominal muscles.

A surgeon may also do this procedure if it is part of another operation that you may need, such as hernia repair.

If you have had a tummy tuck and are not happy with the results, or you think the procedure wasn't carried out properly, you should take up the matter with the surgeon who treated you. Alternatively, if you have concerns about your care, you should contact the CQC or even make a complaint to the GMC.

It is advisable to wait at least six months after your procedure before you think about having a baby. This ensures you have fully recovered from the surgery.

If you are delivering your baby via C-section, it may seem like a great idea to have a tummy tuck immediately after. However, this is not the case. You can wait between 3 to 6 months, but it is advised to wait longer to allow for optimal wound healing.