Eisenhower Army Medical Center
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Plastic Surgery Service

Phone: (706) 787-1164
(706) 787-0835
Fax: (706) 787-2597
0730 - 1600 M-F

If You're Considering Abdominoplasty...
Abdominoplasty, known more commonly as a "tummy tucks" is a major surgical procedure to remove excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen and to tighten the muscles of the abdominal wall. The procedure can dramatically reduce the appearance of a protruding abdomen. But bear in mind, it does produce a permanent scar - which, depending on the extent of the original problem and the surgery required to correct it, can extend from hip to hip. If you're considering abdominoplasty, this brochure will give you a basic understanding of the procedure - when it can help, how it's performed, and what results you can expect. It can't answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on the individual patient and the surgeon. Please ask your surgeon about anything you don't understand.
The best candidates for abdominoplasty
The best candidates for abdominoplasty are men or women who are in relatively good shape but are bothered by a large fat deposit or loose abdominal skin that won't respond to diet or exercise. It is not a treatment for obesity and we expect candidates to weigh less than 110% of the Army maximum for their height and age. The surgery is particularly helpful to women who, through multiple pregnancies, have stretched their abdominal muscles and skin beyond the point where they can return to normal. Loss of skin elasticity in older patients, which frequently occurs with slight obesity, can also be improved.
Patients who intend to lose a lot of weight should postpone the surgery Also, women who plan future pregnancies should wait, as vertical muscles in the abdomen that are tightened during surgery can separate again during pregnancy. If you have scarring from previous abdominal surgery, your doctor may recommend against abdominoplasty or may caution you that scars could be unusually prominent.
Under Department of Defense rules, we will also have to determine whether your procedure is primarily cosmetic or reconstructive. If it is primarily cosmetic, there may be a charge for the procedure and other restrictions may apply.
Abdominoplasty can change your appearance and your self-confidence, but it won't necessarily change your looks to match your ideal, or cause other people to treat you differently. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
All surgery carries some uncertainty and risk
Thousands of abdominoplastics are performed successfully each year. When done by a qualified plastic surgeon who is trained in body contouring, the results are generally quite positive. Nevertheless, there are always risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure.
Postoperative complications such as infection and blood clots are rare, but can occur. Infection can be treated with drainage and antibiotics, but will prolong your hospital stay and will usually result in increased scarring. You can minimize the risk of blood clots by moving around as soon after the surgery as possible.
Poor healing, which results in conspicuous scars, may necessitate a second operation. Smokers are advised to stop, as smoking may increase the risk of complications and delay healing. Previous abdominal surgery may also increase your chances for poor wound healing.
You can reduce your risk of complications by closely following your surgeon's instructions before and after the an unnatural shape as the skin is tightened and stitched.
Next, the surgeon separates the skin from the abdominal wall all the way up to your ribs and lifts a large skin flap to reveal the vertical muscles in your abdomen. These muscles are tightened by pulling them close together and stitching them into their new position. This provides a firmer abdominal wall and narrows the waistline.
The skin flap is then stretched down and the extra skin is removed. A new hole is cut for your navel, which is then stitched in place. Finally, the incisions will be stitched, dressings will be applied, and a temporary tube may be inserted to drain excess fluid from the surgical site.
In partial abdominoplasty, the skin is separated only between the incision line and the navel. This skin flap is stretched down, the excess is removed and the flap is stitched back into place. The abdominal muscles usually cannot be tightened in this procedure.
After your surgery
For the first few days, your abdomen will probably be swollen and you're likely to feel some pain and discomfort which can be controlled by medication. Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may be released within a few hours or you may have to remain hospitalized for two to three days.
Your doctor will give you instructions for showering and changing your dressings. And though you may not be able to stand straight at first, you should start walking as soon as possible.
Getting back to normal
It may take you weeks or months to feel like your old self again. If you start out in top physical condition with strong abdominal muscles, recovery from abdominoplasty will be much faster. Some people return to work after two weeks, while others take three or four weeks to rest and recuperate.
Exercise will help you heal better. Even people who have never exercised before should begin an exercise program to reduce swelling, lower the chance of blood clots, and tone muscles. Vigorous exercise, however, should be avoided until it can be done comfortably.
If you are on active duty, you can expect to receive two weeks of convalescent leave after which you will return to duty with limitations. Normally active duty personnel are ready to resume physical fitness training 4-6 weeks after surgery and may expect to require 4-6 weeks of reconditioning to regain pre-surgical ability.
Your scars may appear to worsen during the first three to six months as they heal, but this is normal. Expect it to take nine months to a year before your scars flatten out and lighten in color. While they'll never disappear completely, abdominal scars will not show under most clothing, even under bathing suits.
Your new look
Abdominoplasty, whether partial or complete, produces excellent results for patients with weakened abdominal muscles or excess skin. In most cases, the results are long lasting, if you follow a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
If you're realistic in your expectations and prepared for the consequences of a permanent scar and a lengthy recovery period, abdominoplasty may be just the answer for you.
If an operation is performed on you or someone in your family, it is important that you be followed by our physicians for a period of time post-operatively. We understand that many of our patients travel quite a distance to be seen here at Eisenhower, but this follow-up is essential in order for us to provide the best possible care.