Abdominoplasty, Also Known As Abdominal Reduction

What is abdominoplasty?

Abdominoplasty, also known as abdominal reduction, or commonly

called a “tummy tuck”, is a surgical procedure to remove excess fat

and skin from the abdomen and to tighten the abdominal muscles,

thus improving the shape and appearance of the abdomen.

What are the reasons for having abdominoplasty?

There are a number of reasons why someone may choose to have

abdominoplasty. They include:

 Looseness of skin following weight loss

 Looseness of skin and weak abdominal wall muscles following


 Reduce excess skin following successful treatment for obesity

For more information about maintaining a healthy diet and weight, see

our separate factsheet.

What happens during abdominoplasty?

During an abdominoplasty excess fat and skin are removed and the

muscles of the abdomen are tightened. The operation is performed

under general anaesthetic.

Liposuction, which involves the removal of fat by suction through

small holes in the skin, may be carried out at the same time as

abdominoplasty. For further information on liposuction see our


What happens before abdominoplasty?

It is important to discuss with your surgeon just what you are

expecting to gain from the operation and what result you can

realistically expect. As the best results are obtained when people are

the correct weight for their height, part of your preparation for the

procedure may involve losing weight if you are overweight. If you take

the contracep-tive pill you will be asked to stop six weeks before

surgery, and use an alternative method of contraception. This is in

order to reduce the risk of blood clotting (thrombosis) after the

operation. Those who smoke run a greater risk of chest infection and

the healing of abdominal wounds in smokers may be slower. If you

smoke it is advisable to cut down for a week before surgery and to

stop smoking completely for three days immediately before the

operation. You should avoid taking Aspirin or medicine containing

Aspirin for two weeks before your operation as it can reduce natural

blood clotting after the operation.

What should I expect in hospital?

You will stay in hospital for about two to four days. Before the

operation the surgeon should explain in more detail what the

procedure involves and your risk of developing complications, such as

blood clots in the legs (DVT) or a chest infection.

Although not a complication as such, occasionally the scar may be

painful or the wound takes a long time to heal. You may also

experience some numbness in the lower part of the abdomen, but this

invariably reduces over the next six to twelve months following the


If you have any outstanding questions about the operation, this is a

good time to ask them. Once this has been completed you will be

asked to sign a consent form. You will not be allowed to eat for

around six hours before the operation. The surgeon may draw the

area of the operation on your abdomen and about an hour before you

are taken to the operating theatre you may be given a light sedative.

After the operation

It is likely that after the operation you will awaken to find you a a drip

in your arm. This is to provide you with fluid while you are not able to

eat and drink. There will also be a drainage tube inserted at each side

of your lower abdomen; these are to drain any blood or watery liquid

that collects from the operation site. The drains are usually removed

the day after surgery. You may experience moderate post-operative

pain for which you will be given painkillers in the form of tablets or


To reduce strain on your stitches you will be asked to keep your

knees and hips bent when you sleep at night for a few days. All the

stitches will dissolve beneath the skin except for those around the

navel, which are removed about ten days after surgery.

Recovering after abdominoplasty

In general healing can be slow, particularly in the central part of the

wound and sometimes dressings are needed for a few weeks. You

may experience some tightness around the wound, but this is more

common in patients who are overweight and who smoke.

Once you are mobile, you should try to walk a little each day. This,

together with the wearing of anti-thrombosis stockings will help help

prevent DVT and chest infection.

If you find getting around particularly painful or difficult talk to the

hospital or your doctor about obtaining effective pain relief. You may

also find wearing a support girdle will helpful.

Straining and stretching the wound when you first get home will

increase fluid accumulation and reduce healing and so should be


Most people are able return to work between two to four weeks after

the operation, but vigorous exercise is not recommended for at least

six weeks.

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