How is this procedure done?

Complete abdominoplasty is performed for those requiring maximum correction. A horizontal incision is made low on the abdomen at the level of the pubic hair. Excess skin and tissue is removed. Any hernias or weaknesses are repaired and the abdominal musculature is tightened with stitches. The belly button (umbilicus) is left in the same position on the abdominal wall but is brought out through a new skin opening.

Modified abdominoplasty is a more limited procedure on individuals requiring lesser corrections. There is no scar around the belly button (umbilicus) and other scars are usually shorter. Your surgeon will determine the appropriate procedure at the time of your preoperative consultation.

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How do I prepare for this procedure?

During your initial preoperative visit with your surgeon, be prepared to give a complete medical history including all your medications, allergies and previous surgeries. You will undergo a thorough physical examination and blood tests. If you are over age 50, an electrocardiogram may be taken. Photographs are important aids in planning and performing your tummy tuck. They become a permanent part of your patient record and are taken before and several months after your procedure.

During your consultation, you will be given specific directions to help you prepare for your procedure. Instructions generally include taking vitamins, cautions about taking certain medication and drinking alcohol, the shaving process and use of antibacterial soap. You must not eat or drink anything eight hours before your procedure. If you take daily medication, ask your surgeon if it is safe to take before your procedure. If you have any sores on your body, if you have a cold, sore throat or allergic condition, inform your surgeon so you may be examined prior to your procedure.

If you smoke, the likelihood of healing problems and other complications increases. Smokers must stop smoking completely at least two weeks prior to and two weeks after surgery. "Cutting down" is not enough. Complete cessation of smoking is mandatory.

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How long does the procedure take?

Operating time is generally two to three hours depending on the scope of your specific situation.

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What form of anesthesia is used?

You will require general anesthesia, given by an expert anesthesiologist M.D. (medical doctor). This will allow you to "sleep" throughout the entire procedure.

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Can I return home the same day?

Generally not. A complete abdominoplasty requires an overnight stay. However, a modified abdominoplasty can be done as an outpatient. In either case, it is necessary that you have someone pick you up after the procedure, take you home and stay with you for at least 24 hours.

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What precautions should I take during my recovery?

You will receive specific instructions to follow during your recovery including rest and sleeping positions, bathing and showering techniques, and exercises. It is imperative that you do not smoke for at least two weeks after your surgery in order to help the healing process.

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How long before I can return to normal activity?

Most people return to their usual activities within two weeks after the procedure. Strenuous sports and high levels of intense physical activity, however, are prohibited for six to eight weeks. Be sure to check with your surgeon.

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What are some of the complications that can occur with my procedure?

The most common complication is a collection of blood or serum (seromas) under the skin of the abdomen (hematoma). A suction drain is placed inside during your procedure and left for three days postoperative. Its removal is painless. Infection and incision healing problems, including loss of skin and excessive scarring, occurs less frequently. As with any surgical procedure, small nerves to the skin are interrupted during a tummy tuck. Portions of your abdomen will feel numb or have less feeling. Sensibility returns over several months but some diminished feeling may last indefinitely.

Following complete abdominoplasty, you can expect a horizontal scar low on the abdomen and a circular scar within the belly button (umbilicus). Limited abdominoplasty does not require a scar around the umbilicus. In some individuals, a different type or location of scar may be necessary because of particular body variations. If this is so in your case, your surgeon will inform you at the time of your consultation. Your scars will be red or pink for six months and gradually fade thereafter. The scars are rarely troublesome. Nevertheless, you should know that all scars are permanent and their height, width, and final color are not totally predictable.

Like any surgical procedure, other serious or even life threatening complications are possible. It is important to enter into your procedure aware not only of the benefits, but also of the possible complications. Talk to your surgeon about every question and concern you may have.

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What can I expect immediately after my procedure as well as later on?

When you "awaken" after your procedure, you most likely will experience some abdominal discomfort when the anesthesia wears off. Your surgeon will give you medication to relieve any discomfort. If you have had a complete abdominoplasty, you will remain in bed until the next morning. You will have a urinary catheter placed during your procedure while you are asleep; it will remain until the following morning. If you have had a limited abdominoplasty, you will not have a urinary catheter. You can expect some pain in the incision, but this is alleviated with medication and gradually subsides as you begin to walk and move about.

Swelling of the abdomen is normal following your tummy tuck. During the first week, your clothes may fit you more tightly and you may weigh more than before. Your stitches are painlessly removed seven days postoperative. The swelling subsides starting the second week after your tummy tuck, but some lower abdominal fullness persists.

You may expect to see about 50% of your total contour improvement at two weeks and about 75% at one month. It usually takes an additional two weeks for the last of the swelling to recede. Occasionally, individuals may see continued improvement up to six months after a tummy tuck, but changes beyond three months are usually subtle. You will be happiest with your tummy tuck if you understand that it will take several months for the appearance of your ideal new look.

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