A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure wherein excess skin and fat is removed from the belly area, and lax abdominal muscles are tightened, resulting in a flat stomach area and reduction of stretch marks. With a full tummy tuck, the navel is typically repositioned, although with a mini tummy tuck, only the lower abdomen is tightened and the navel is not moved. Abdominoplasty can bring good results to people who have excess hanging abdominal skin and fat, but there are also several risks and disadvantages.
Abdominoplasty requires a long incision across the lower abdomen, just above the pubic area, and severe scarring may occur around the belly button as well. Usually the scar is low enough for a bathing suit to cover, but because of the size of the incision, the scar will always be visible when unclothed. Some people are more prone to scarring than others and the scar may be very prominent. In addition, the repositioned belly button often looks unnatural after a tummy tuck.
One of the biggest concerns with a tummy tuck procedure is the high risk of developing blood clots, which can result in a pulmonary embolism. Because it is a long and invasive surgical procedure, lasting from one to five hours, tummy tuck patients also run the risk of bleeding under the skin, fluid collection under the skin and/or anesthesia-related complications.
Recovery after a tummy tuck is long and difficult. The patient cannot climb stairs for several days after surgery, which may result in a delay returning home. Recovery can take four to six weeks, during which the patient is unable to lift anything or exert herself. In addition, the patient will be unable to drive for up to two weeks post-surgery. The need for pain medication can delay driving and a return to work or other normal activity, and a caregiver may be necessary for awhile, especially for care of the abdominal drains that will be in place after the surgery.
The cost of a tummy tuck is very high, especially compared to abdominal liposuction, which is about half as much. The length and complex nature of the procedure drives up the cost as does recovery time. As of late 2010, a tummy tuck typically costs in the range of $6,000 to $10,000 and is virtually never covered by health insurance. Any complications or assistance with recovery will drive the cost even higher.