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Are Tummy Tucks Safe?

When pregnancy or weight loss leaves you with excess skin around your stomach, a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty may be the best solution for tightening, flattening, and restoring your abdomen.

A full tummy tuck, performed under general anesthesia, tightens abdominal wall muscles and removes excess skin. It requires a horizontal incision between the pubic bone and the belly button. The upper abdominal skin is pulled down over the muscle area to enable the removal of the excess skin.  A new belly button is created when the two remaining skin sections are pulled together and the incisions are closed.

Are tummy tucks safe?

With the right hands, a tummy tuck is a very safe procedure. As a commonly performed procedure since the 1890s, surgeons have it down to a science and have learned how to get the best results with minimal risk.

Although, as with any surgery, abdominoplasty has some potential risks to be aware of. Tummy tuck risks include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection 
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Fat necrosis
  • Numbness
  • Cardiac or pulmonary complications
  • Fluid accumulation (seroma)
  • Skin discoloration
  • Possible need for revision surgery

To lower your risk of experiencing any of these complications, you may be asked to prepare for your tummy tuck surgery by:

  • Getting a medical evaluation or lab tests
  • Adjusting your medication regimen
  • Avoiding anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, which can cause bleeding
  • Quitting smoking

How has the safety of tummy tucks improved over time?

Tummy tucks are much safer today than when initially developed in the late 1800s due to tool improvement and techniques and a deeper understanding of how to customize the procedure to the individual patient. Surgery safety has increased significantly because modern surgeons know the best methods and techniques for achieving better results, reducing recovery times, and minimizing scarring.

Gone are the days when the tummy tuck led to a loss of the belly button. Modern abdominoplasty has come a long way since the nineteenth-century version of the procedure that was simply a horizontal line cut across the entire stomach. Some of the most notable advancements in tummy tucks since the surgery first surfaced include:

  • They are now drain-free in most practices, reducing the risk of fluid building up and promoting a smoother recovery.
  • They can safely be combined with other procedures as part of a mommy makeover, eliminating the requirement for patients to undergo anesthesia multiple times and allowing patients to experience just one recovery period.
  • For patients who need only minimal improvements in their abdominal wall because they haven’t undergone pregnancy, the mini tummy tuck, or partial abdominoplasty, is now an option, including a smaller incision to tighten only the excess skin below the belly button.
  • Surgeons no longer have to take risks to highlight abdominal contours from tummy tucks alone.  The Introduction of liposuction as part of a tummy tuck helps to create more sculpted, smoother results.

Learn more about the history of tummy tucks.

Who is not a candidate for a tummy tuck?

The best candidates for a tummy tuck are concerned about skin laxity around their stomach and weakened abdominal muscles. If your concerns are mostly related to excess fat deposits, they cannot be addressed safely with abdominoplasty alone. Liposuction is the best option for targeting excess fat in the abdominal area. The tummy tuck tightens the muscles and skin around it.

You may not be an ideal candidate for a tummy tuck if you:

  • Plan to have children in the future
  • View surgery as a weight loss solution
  • Are not at a weight you are confident that you can maintain after surgery

What happens if I gain weight after a tummy tuck?

Small weight fluctuations most likely won’t affect your tummy tuck results, but if you gain over 15 pounds, you risk stretching the skin around your stomach and shifting your abdominal muscles out of place. 

Tummy tuck results should be permanent. Don’t stress too much about your weight after a tummy tuck. Aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle by staying active and eating the right foods to avoid losing the results. You should try to wait until you have finished having children to have your abdominoplasty to prevent the need for revision surgery in the future.

What is recovery like after a tummy tuck?

To aid with healing following your tummy tuck, you may be required to wear a compression garment. Numbness of the skin on your stomach is quite normal, and the feeling slowly returns over several weeks. Your stomach will feel sore and swollen for about a week after surgery. As a procedure with a more lengthy recovery, the average period before tummy tuck patients start to feel normal again is about eight weeks.

The type of tummy tuck you get significantly impacts your downtime. For example, if you get a mini tummy tuck, your recovery may be much shorter and less painful than an extended tummy tuck, which can involve the flanks and lower back. Scarring after a tummy tuck procedure usually fades within a few months. 

To avoid blood clots, you should adjust your mobility habits for the first few days after your tummy tuck, including resting at an angle. Dr. Liland and his team will work closely with you to help prepare you for recovery and ensure you heal as seamlessly as possible. 

The result of a tummy can be a massive confidence booster, so be patient and give your body time to heal. You should arrange for someone to drive you home and provide support for at least the first few days following your abdominoplasty.

If you’re in Dallas and considering a tummy tuck, Dr. David Liland is a board-certified plastic surgeon with experience producing long-term, exceptional tummy tuck results. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your goals and options.