Abdominoplasty, known more commonly as a “tummy tuck”, can dramatically reduce the size of the abdomen, and leave you with a flat, contoured stomach. This procedure corrects laxity of skin and muscles that often occur after pregnancy or with ageing by removing excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen and tightening the muscles of the abdominal wall.
Liposuction of the hips and flanks is often performed at the same time, which can transform the appearance of your midsection, an area of concern for many people.
Depending on the amount of loose skin and fat to be removed, an incision is either made above the pubic hairline alone (mini-abdominoplasty), or from hip to hip (full abdominoplasty or tummy tuck). In the former, the umbilicus can be moved a short distance without a scar, but in the latter there is also a scar around the umbilicus. The skin and fat between the pubic hair and the umbilicus is removed, and the muscles of the abdominal wall tightened, and the skin closed.
Tummy tuck surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic by Dr Charles Cope in Sydney and takes 2-3 hours, with patients staying in hospital for 3-4 days.
After surgery Avoid Activities and Sports
After surgery, you need to wear a compression garment for a few weeks, and avoid heavy activities and sport for 6 weeks. *Most people return to normal everyday activities and work after 3-4 weeks. The scars from surgery gradually fade and lighten in colour, although this may take a full year, with the scars usually not being visible in underwear or a swimming costume.
Patients who intend to lose a lot of weight should postpone the surgery until after their weight is stable, and the surgery is best left until after all pregnancies have finished, as weight loss and pregnancy can compromise the result by producing more loose skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Several variables make up the total cost of your tummy tuck surgery. These include the following:
This will depend on the surgeon’s skills and experience.
Your anaesthetist may charge by the hour or procedure.
Operating room fee
This may include the materials used during the surgery such as gloves, sutures, and other equipment.
The type of surgery
This will depend on whether you had a full or mini tummy tuck.
Length of hospital stay
Depending on your operation, you may be allowed to go home the next day or you may need to stay a few nights.
Extent of the surgery
The cost of your abdominoplasty surgery will depend on whether additional procedures are performed to achieve better results.
In most cases, tummy tuck surgery is not covered by Medicare or private health insurance because it is a cosmetic procedure. If it is medically necessary, such as to remove excess skin following weight loss to reduce the risk of infection and rashes, you may attract a Medicare number and your private insurance provider may cover some of the costs.
During your initial consultation, we will give you more insight into the cost of the surgery.
Tummy tuck surgery can be performed at any age up to about 70. If you are about to have children soon then you should wait until after pregnancy and breast feeding, as these often change your abdomen and change the result of an abdominoplasty – if you are young and this is many years away then this is not an issue. Many patients also have abdominoplasty after having children to correct changes that have occurred with pregnancy and breast feeding.
While people have abdominoplasty at any time of the year you need to wear a compression garment for at least a few weeks (sometimes 6-8 weeks) – this is more comfortable in the cooler winter months. It is also easier to disguise the garment under clothes during winter. However, people often organise abdominoplasty when they can best take time off work, at other times such as just before Christmas or in January if work is quiet then.
Many people have other procedures performed at the same time as tummy tuck, the commonest being liposuction of other areas such as love handles and thighs. Breast surgery is also common, either breast augmentation, breast lift (mastopexy) or breast reduction.
A full abdominoplasty removes all the loose skin on the lower abdomen (pubis to umbilicus), and tightens the muscle layer underneath, which is often significantly stretched after pregnancy and weight fluctuations.
Mini-abdominoplasty rather than full abdominoplasty only removes loose skin from the lower abdomen, often combined with liposuction. This has a much faster recovery (patients often return to work within 10 days rather than 3-4 weeks), but does not improve the contour of the abdomen as much as a full abdominoplasty. However, for patients with only a small amount of loose skin on the lower abdomen this is a good option. If you have loose skin on the upper abdomen then a full abdominoplasty is needed to correct it.
Providing your weight is stable and you do not become pregnant again the result of the operation is permanent. Even with weight fluctuations or pregnancy the amount of loose skin that develops is usually relatively minor, requiring only minor revisional surgery, rather than another abdominoplasty.
There are very specific criteria to qualify for a Medicare rebate for abdominoplasty after massive weight loss, which include a greater than 5% BMI (body mass index) weight loss and skin irritation from loose skin. If you qualify for this if you are insured your health fund may cover the hospital bed fee and theatre fee costs (depending on your level of insurance)
Abdominoplasty is performed under general anaesthetic in an accredited hospital, with patients staying in hospital 3 nights on average to recover.
It is normal for scars to be red, lumpy and obvious for 6-8 weeks after surgery. After this they gradually fade, with most people’s scars being white by one year, although uncommonly this process can take 2 or more years. The simplest way to help this process is to keep tape such as Micropore tape on the scars for the first 3 months or so. An alternative to this is to massage the scars. Uncommonly, scars stay red and thick for months, requiring other treatments such as steroid injections or vascular lasers to help them fade.
If you do not have loose skin liposuction (with only a few 5mm scars) can be used to reduce the amount of fat in the abdominal area. However, if you have loose skin to start off with then tummy tuck gives a far better result.
There are good skin-tightening devices such as SkinTyteTM and Ultraformer IIITM, which tightens the skin by heating collagen causing immediate collagen contraction, followed by progressive collagen remodelling and tightening over the 6 months following the treatment. These are simple office treatments with no downtime. However, these treatments do not remove all skin laxity (are not as good as surgery) and need multiple treatments, but are options if you are not ready for surgery.
During the two weeks after returning from hospital you need to rest and take things quietly at home, and you will need help to look after young children during this time. When you go home there will be waterproof dressings covering your abdomen, which normally stay on for a few weeks, allowing you to shower normally. You should wear your compression garment the whole time, which needs to be worn for at least a few weeks (and for some people 6-8 weeks). Most people return to office work 3-4 weeks after abdominoplasty, but if physical work is required it may be 6 weeks.
*Note results may vary from person to person