Benefits and Risks of a Tummy Tuck

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A tummy tuck might sound like a simple procedure, but it is major surgery. The medical term for a tummy tuck is abdominoplasty. It combines cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon removes excess fat and skin. The surgeon may also use stitches to tighten the stomach muscles. You can get some benefits from a tummy tuck. But, it’s important to consider the risks that come with this surgery. 

Identify the Benefits

The purpose of a tummy tuck is to remove extra fat and skin from your belly and to repair loose belly muscles. The result can be a flatter, smoother and firmer belly. Most people choose to have a tummy tuck to look better and to feel better about the way they look. If you are having a tummy tuck for this reason, make sure you are doing it for yourself—not to make someone else feel better about you. 

You may also benefit from a tummy tuck if you have an abdominal hernia or an apron of fat called a panniculus. An abdominal hernia can occur when the intestine pokes through a weak spot in your belly muscles. This can be uncomfortable. It may also be dangerous if the contents of the intestine get trapped. This is called a strangulated hernia. A panniculus hanging down over your lower belly can be a source of skin infection and irritation.

Understand the Risks

Your chances of having a complication from a tummy tuck are low. Still, the risk is higher than with other types of cosmetic surgeries. Three big complications to talk with your doctor about are bleeding, infection, and deep vein thrombosis. Studies show that bleeding and infection are the most common problems. 

All types of abdominal surgery increase the risk that a blood clot may form in one of the deep veins of your leg. This is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The main danger of DVT is the blood clot can break loose and travel to your heart or lungs. Ask your surgeon about this risk and what you can do to lower the risk. 

Other possible risks for tummy tuck include: 

  • Fluid buildup under the belly skin
  • Poor or slow healing of the wound
  • Numbness or color changes of the belly skin
  • Scarring
  • A poor result, requiring additional surgery
  • Pain that continues after recovery from surgery

Getting the Best Results 

You can increase the benefits and reduce the risks of a tummy tuck by going over everything in advance with your surgeon. Ask what your surgeon will do to prevent or minimize the risks. Also, ask what you can do to reduce your risks. 

Here are some tips:

  • If you are a smoker, quit smoking before surgery. Not smoking after surgery will also help with recovery.

  • If you have diabetes, make sure your diabetes is in good control before surgery.

  • If you are pregnant, postpone your surgery until after your pregnancy.

  • A tummy tuck is not a substitute for weight loss and exercise. Try to get your weight under control before surgery.

  • Tell your surgeon about all the medications and herbal supplements you take. You may be able to reduce your risk of bleeding by stopping some of these medications before your operation.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 25
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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