What is a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is the surgical equivalent of a facelift for your tummy. A new smoother and flatter finish is achieved by removing loose skin and excess fat from your lower abdomen.
There are two types of tummy tuck:
- Mini tummy tuck – where an "apron" of excess skin and fat is removed from your lower tummy.
- Full abdominoplasty – removes the "apron" of excess skin and fat from your lower tummy, tightens the muscles, stretching your skin to improve tone and overall look.
Although the purpose of a tummy tuck is usually to improve appearance, there is now some evidence that an increase in core strength or an improvement in back pain may also be benefits.
Who is a tummy tuck suitable for?
The reasons for thinking about a tummy tuck are entirely personal. Some of them may include:
- Wanting to get rid of a stubborn little hold-out of excess skin or fat that will not shift, no matter how much you diet or exercise.
- To tighten up loose muscle or skin tone that didn’t bounce back after pregnancy.
- Removing excess skin left over from weight loss.
- Increasing self-esteem by removing excess skin or fat that is uncomfortable or impacts on your life.
To gain the best outcome from a tummy tuck, it is best that you:
- Are feeling confident and comfortable that your weight is stable.
- Have already completed your family or have no plans for future pregnancies.
- Don’t smoke or have recently quit (smoking impacts recovery from this procedure).
Tummy tuck surgery explained
The first step is to make an appointment to see Dr McMillan.
You will meet Dr McMillan at Fernbrae House, Dunedin or in Invercargill to discuss your personal goals and talk though the different options. This is an important step; not only outlining your expectations but also developing your relationship with Dr McMillan as you work together to achieve your goals.
Tummy tucks can sometimes be done at the same time as other cosmetic procedures such as liposuction, breast augmentation or breast reduction. Discuss these options with Dr McMillan at the time of your consultation to decide if this is right for you.
Once you have decided on what needs to be done, a date will be booked for you at Mercy Hospital, Dunedin to have the surgery.
The procedure will involve having a general anaesthetic. Once you are asleep, a surgical cut will be made across your tummy, between your hips. The length of the cut will depend on whether you are having a mini or full abdominoplasty.
After gently cutting around your belly button to ensure it goes back in the right spot at the end of the operation, the skin of your tummy is carefully freed from the muscle layer.
If you are having any tightening of your muscles, or repair of hernias, that will happen at this point. Once this is done, your skin will be pulled down and sutured together to create the new firmer abdomen you have been looking for.
A new hole will be created for your belly button and it will be sewn in place.
A firm binder will be placed around your tummy, and your knees will be lifted by pillows to make sure there is very little strain on the surgery site. It is likely you will have small drains placed in your abdomen to remove any excess fluid over your hospital stay.
The length of stay in hospital and full recovery time differs between patients. Any drains will be removed prior to your departure from the hospital. In general, the binder will be your good friend for about 3 weeks after the surgery. Although movement will be essential during this time, there will be a limit to your bending, lifting and exercise for those first few weeks.
As the surgery site begins to heal your ability to move and exercise will increase.
Sleeping with your knees bent, either on your side or your back, will be important as you heal during this time.
It is expected that around 6 weeks after surgery most of the swelling will have gone down and you will have a good idea of what your new flatter, firmer tummy will look like.
The final results will be clearer 3 months after surgery.
You will have two scars from this procedure, around your belly button and across your tummy, between your hips. They will fade over time and the lower one will sit nicely below your bikini line.
Risks and complications
As with all surgical procedures, there are risks and potential complications. Dr McMillan will discuss all of these with you during your consultation and answer your questions.
As tummy tucks are not publicly funded, there is a cost. The exact figure will depend on a range of factors but generally the cost is between $15,000 and $16,000 including hospital and anaesthetic costs.