Why tummy tuck?
During pregnancy, the expansion of the uterus stretches the muscles and skin of the abdominal wall. This stretching can be caused by excess fat (visceral or subcutaneous) as well. After dramatic weight loss or post-pregnancy, the stretched tissues may not return to its original shape, especially when these muscles are not exercised, giving a loose “flabby” appearance. The muscle groups most prone to this is the rectus abdominis (the vertical abdominal muscle group, also known as the “six-pack”), where stretching usually occurs the aponeurosis (the white tissue connecting 2 muscle groups together, also known as “fascia”). The medical term for this condition is “rectus diastasis”.
In these cases, tummy tuck can surgically tighten the muscles and remove excess skin and fat, effectively “tucking in” the tummy and flattening the abdomen.
There are many types of abdominoplasty procedures, with 2 types being the most common: Full tummy tuck and mini tummy tuck.
Full tummy tuck
In a fully tummy tuck, the entire abdominal wall is involved. The surgeon will make an incision along the pelvic line, just above the pubic area. A second incision is made around the navel to detach it from the surrounding skin. The skin is then lifted off the abdominal wall and excess fat is removed as required. The gap in the rectus abdominis muscle is then stitched up and tightened as necessary. After which, the skin is pulled over to cover the muscles and excess skin is trimmed away. A third incision will be made for the navel before sutures are used to close the incisions.
Mini tummy tuck
In mini tummy tuck, only the lower abdomen below the navel is operated on. A similar, but shorter incision will be made at the pelvic line just above the pubic area as well. No incision will be made for the navel as it should not move during mini tummy tuck. Excess fat removal and stitching of the rectus abdominis muscles is carried out only on the lower abdomen. The skin is then pulled over and excess skin is trimmed away before the incision is sutured.
In both tummy tuck procedures, some additional incisions will be made under the main incision for fluid drainage tubes to be inserted.
Local or general anaesthesia will be administered for the procedure as required. After the surgery, the patient may be asked to remain at the clinic for a few hours for monitoring, and to allow the anaesthesia to wear off.
As with all surgical procedures, there are risks to be considered. The following are some of the risks and possible complications associated with abdominoplasty:
- Inflammation and infection
- Complications with anaesthesia
- Asymmetric or unsatisfactory results
- Temporary or permanent numbness, persistent pain and soreness due to disturbed nerves.
- Pieces of loose fat or blood clots can break away and become lodged in blood vessels, clogging them. These fat particles may also migrate to the lungs, brain and other vital organs, severely damaging them. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate surgery.
Most, if not all of these complications can be avoided with good surgical technique and post-surgery care. Hence, it is important to approach a reputable and experienced plastic surgeon.