A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is an operation to remove excess skin and fat from around your tummy. There are many different types of tummy tuck.
The procedure can remove certain unwanted scars and stretch marks too, and can also tighten your tummy muscles.
You might have this operation if you have lots of excess skin and fat after losing a lot of weight or after pregnancy. Or you might just want to have a flatter tummy. It’s not a suitable operation if you’re overweight, or as a ‘quick fix’ to try and lose weight.
How to get a tummy tuck
You won’t usually be able to get a tummy tuck on the NHS or under insurance as it’s classed as a cosmetic procedure. You’ll usually need to pay to have it done privately. You can find a private consultant on our website.
Sometimes, tummy tuck might be carried out as part of another procedure on the NHS. For instance, as part of a breast reconstruction. Even though you’ll usually need to have it done privately, it’s still important to let your GP know you’re thinking about having a tummy tuck.
Preparing for a tummy tuck
You’ll have an initial consultation with a surgeon to assess whether tummy tuck is suitable for you. They will go through exactly what to expect, including the benefits and possible risks.
It’s important that you’re as healthy as possible before having a tummy tuck. You should be at, or close to your ideal weight, and your weight should be steady. If you smoke or use other forms of nicotine, you’ll be asked to stop, usually at least six weeks before the surgery. Nicotine has a negative effect on wound healing, and smoking significantly increases the risk of other complications too.
You’ll have a tummy tuck under general anaesthesia (meaning you’ll be asleep). Follow instructions from your hospital about whether you need to stop eating or drinking beforehand.
You’ll usually stay in hospital for around two nights after a tummy tuck, so be sure to make any necessary preparations. You won’t be able to drive for a minimum of 2 weeks after the operation, so arrange for someone to take you home.
What happens during tummy tuck surgery?
In a standard tummy tuck, your surgeon will make a large incision from one side of your abdomen to the other, just under your bikini line, and then up to just above your belly button. The muscles above and below your belly button will be tightened. Excess skin and fat from your belly button down to your bikini line are then cut away, and the remaining skin and tissue pulled down and fixed into position with stitches. A new opening is created for your belly button in your skin.
The operation can be adapted depending on your circumstances. For instance, you can have a ‘mini tummy tuck’, which involves a smaller cut just at your bikini line, and removing less skin and fat. An extended tummy tuck can remove excess skin and fat from above your hips and around your lower back. Tummy tuck can also be combined with other techniques, such as liposuction to remove extra fat.
Recovery and what to expect after your tummy tuck
You’ll need to stay in hospital for a couple of days to recover after a tummy tuck. Your tummy is likely to feel tight and sore, but you’ll be given painkillers to help manage this.
You should be mobile from day one, and feel well enough to do light activities within a couple of weeks. You’ll be able to do many routine day-to-day activities by around six weeks, but may need to avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting for even longer. You’re likely to need some time off work to recover too. You usually won’t be able to drive for at least two weeks after surgery – often longer. Don’t drive until you feel safe to do so and you’re comfortable wearing a seatbelt.
It can take a couple of weeks for pain to subside, and you may continue having occasional aches for several months as your body recovers. Swelling and tightness can take up to 12 weeks to resolve. You may be given a support garment to wear for several weeks after the procedure. Tummy tuck scars gradually fade over time, and the results from your procedure may continue to improve over 12 to 18 months.
Complications of tummy tuck
All surgical procedures carry some risk of complications. Here are some of the most common complications associated with tummy tuck.
- Complications involving the wound – for instance, infection, delayed healing and the wound not closing properly.
- Blood or fluid collecting in the surrounding tissues after the operation.
- Changes to sensation in your lower abdomen – in some cases this can be permanent.
- Problems with scars - they may get red and lumpy rather than fading over time.
More serious complications include bleeding during or after the surgery, allergic reactions to the anaesthetic and blood clots developing in your legs or lungs. It’s also possible for some areas of skin, or your belly button to die, due to lack of blood supply.
You’ll be given information on what to look out for and what to do if you develop any complications. Your doctor can also tell you how likely they are to affect you.
Pregnancy and tummy tuck
It’s better to delay having this operation if you’re planning any more pregnancies. Although a tummy tuck shouldn’t have any negative effect on any pregnancy itself, the pregnancy might undo any benefits you’ve gained from the procedure. Having previous abdominal surgery can also make a caesarean (c-section) more difficult, should you need one. Your doctor may want to monitor you more closely if you do get pregnant.
If you want a tummy tuck after a caesarean, you’ll usually need to wait to recover from your pregnancy and c-section first. You should also be back to your normal weight.
Tummy tuck costs and fees
As a cosmetic procedure, you’ll usually need to self-fund your tummy tuck.
Typically, an initial consultation with the surgeon will cost between £150 and £250, depending on where you live. If you move forwards with the procedure, you’ll be offered one of the following.
- An all-inclusive ‘package price’, where you know the full costs before undergoing treatment. Not all consultants and hospitals offer this.
- A ‘fee-per-service’ deal, where you receive different invoices from the surgeon, the anaesthetist and the hospital. You often won’t know the full costs until you receive the invoices.
For more information, you can read our guide on self-pay.
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