Tummy tuck is an immensely popular surgical option that many people in the UK choose to undergo after significant weight loss, and is a particularly popular choice among women following pregnancy. Distinguished consultant plastic surgeon Mr Adam Sierakowski explains the best options available on the market today, and what to expect while preparing for the procedure.
What is a tummy tuck, and how is it performed nowadays?
Tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is an operation performed in order to remove excess skin and fat from the abdominal area.
There are various different types of tummy tuck surgeries available, depending on how much skin and fat needs to be removed. Some patients may opt for a mini tummy tuck, which consists of the removal of a small ellipse of skin from the lower part of the tummy, while others may choose a fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty, which involves removing a large vertical wedge, as well as a horizontal wedge in patients who have a lot of loose skin.
There is no universal tummy tuck option; there is a sort of spectrum of operations that can be performed. When thinking about an abdominoplasty, many people think about removing the skin and fat between the tummy button and the pubic area, which results in a scar from hip to hip, usually alongside a small star around the tummy button. This type of operation is typically referred to as a standard tummy tuck.
In modern medicine, many of these operations are performed in conjunction with agile liposuction, and sometimes with a skin-tightening device as well.
What specific criteria do patients wishing to undergo this procedure have to meet?
For patients having tummy tuck surgery, I would say the number one thing they must do is stop smoking.
As is the case with any plastic or cosmetic surgery, surgeons do not like operating on patients who are smokers because this interferes greatly with wound healing and can cause serious complications. Due to this, anyone considering tummy tuck surgery should not smoke for at least six weeks before surgery.
Additionally, it is crucial that those who wish to undergo tummy tuck surgery should maintain a stable weight before surgery. They should not go on an “eating binge” with the mindset that they are going to have all their tummy fat removed. It is crucial for patients to realise that tummy tuck surgery is only going to remove the skin and fat above the muscles.
If a candidate has a lot of fat around the organs internally, this will affect abdominal contour, and it is not something that a plastic surgeon can reach by doing the surgery. This means that in order to get the best results from surgery, prospective candidates should avoid smoking and maintain a stable weight pre-operatively, alongside a healthy balanced diet.
What should I do to prepare for my tummy tuck in the weeks/months leading up to it?
As previously mentioned, in terms of preparing for the surgery, candidates should maintain a healthy balanced diet to get their body in a position where the healing potential is maximised, with a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. As surgeons, we recommend that patients have a BMI of around 30 or below because patients with a high BMI are prone to more complications.
It is also important to plan for recovery before undergoing the operation. For example, patients with children will need to arrange child care and ask a family member or friend to assist and care for them during the first couple of weeks following surgery. Additionally, it is recommended that the patient takes some time off work following surgery.
How long does it take to fully recover? Should I follow a strict diet afterwards?
There are several stages of recovery following tummy tuck surgery. Patients will be required to stay in the hospital for a few days after the operation. They will feel some post-operative pain for a few days and find it difficult to move and do things due to pain for weeks afterwards, therefore they will require a few weeks off work. The amount of time required off work depends on what the patient’s job is, however, most patients will require three to four weeks off.
They can return to more manual labour and the gym around six weeks following the surgery. It will take around six months for the patients to fully recover in terms of swelling and for the scars to settle down.
There are various stages to go through the surgery and that's where we as surgeons come in to support patients, to reassure them if they have any problems, questions or concerns. It is essential for patients to note that undergoing a tummy tuck is a long-term process and it will take time for things to settle down.
If you are considering tummy tuck surgery and would like to arrange a consultation with Mr Sierakowski, do not hesitate to do so by visiting his Top Doctors profile today.