Maybe you’ve just gone through pregnancy, delivering your pride and joy, but you’re not so ecstatic about what it’s done to your stomach. Or maybe you’ve just done an amazing job of losing weight, but you’re wishing the effects would show a little more.
Nowadays, tummy tucks are more common and safer to perform than a few decades ago. Plus, new research is showing the surgery could have more purpose than cosmetic shaping after all.
Let’s take a closer look.
What’s a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck (or abdominoplasty) is a surgery that helps to contour the appearance of your stomach—you likely already knew that much.
What you might not know is what’s involved. Surgeons achieve their results by using a combination of liposuction, excess skin removal and abdominal muscle correction.
The combination leaves the stomach looking leaner, tighter and more firmly supported by the muscles underneath.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, nearly 130,000 people underwent abdominoplasty in 2017. That number is up from previous years, meaning that more people are getting curious about the surgery and its possible benefits.
Social pressure aside, you should know the full scope of what you’re getting into.
First off, a full tummy tuck is a somewhat invasive procedure. Even still, doctors’ new approach to the procedure allows patients to have it done under local anesthesia, says the International Society of Cosmetogynecology.
The surgeon makes a large incision in the bikini line and a smaller one at the belly button. In this way, the doctor can easily access all three problem areas (skin, fat and abdominals), fixing any issues there.
Once these problems are addressed, the surgeon will need to reposition the belly button and finish out the surgery.
Yep, that means you may have a belly button with a different shape and location than before.
If you’re one of the lucky people who only have small concerns, you might be eligible for the less-invasive mini tummy tuck. But you’ll have to talk to your doctor about that choice.
Tummy tuck surgery won’t give you a perfect tummy, if that’s what you’re looking for. It also doesn’t replace the natural toning and sculpting that happens with proper exercise and weight control.
Still, the ASPS realizes that exercise and weight loss can only go so far in your abdominal appearance.
The ASPS also warns, however, that you should look into this option only with realistic expectations. For example, you should never view the surgery as a replacement for weight loss.
In fact, if you’re considering significant weight loss, you should get to and stabilize your ideal weight before surgery. That way, you can keep the full toning of your tummy tuck without diminishing its results later.
Also, realize that tummy tucks aren’t for everyone. The ASPS mentions that you should be physically healthy, a non-smoker and at a stable weight to be considered.
A consultation with the surgeon will help you understand whether you fit the criteria or not. The surgeon should also be able to give you a good idea of what to expect as the end result.
Are Tummy Tucks Safe?
Now comes the most important question. Is the surgery safe?
While safety does depend somewhat on your own physical health, this elective surgery has improved its safety recently.
The International Society of Cosmetogynecology explains that newer methods aren’t as invasive in the abdominal area as before. This change has improved the results and side effects of the procedure.
Still, a tummy tuck is surgery and comes with several risks you should be aware of.
First, you have the normal risks associated with any surgery, such as infection, excessive bleeding, reactions to anesthesia and post-surgical pain.
According to ASPS, other risks include:
- An unfavorable cosmetic result
- Excess fluid buildup
- Skin discoloration
- Tissue death
- Serious reactions, such as cardiac or pulmonary events
Your doctor will help you weigh these risks against the possible results. If you’re in good health and find that the benefits outweigh the risks, you’re likely a good candidate.
A New Postpartum Benefit
Need more convincing about the possible benefit of this surgery?
One study recently published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery shows that abdominoplasty may have more than just cosmetic effects.1 It may actually help improve back pain and incontinence.
The study covered over 200 patients from multiple centers and used validated questionnaires to find out information from patients.
For back pain, the Oswestry Disability Index was used. For incontinence, the International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire was used.
Researchers administered the questionnaires both 6 weeks and 6 months after operation. Then, to find their results, they scored the patients based on the questionnaires given.
For the first time in tummy tuck history, researchers actually found a correlation between the surgery and decreased back pain and incontinence.
Take a look at the results:
Before operation, the average score for back pain was nearly 22 percent. At 6 weeks, that number dropped drastically to 8 percent and even further—3 percent—after 6 months.
For incontinence, the average score before operation was 6.5. Both at 6 weeks and 6 months, that score also fell to 1.6.
Why would this surgery help patients improve? Researchers think that reduced back pain most likely results from correcting the abdominal separation, adding more support to the back.
The reduced incontinence may have to do with increased tension on the bladder system that improves continence, but this result is not fully understood.
Of course, you should note limitations to the study. Patients were not randomized since surgeons gave the procedures they felt were best for each patient.
Also, researchers did not have a control group in this study. They simply compared the results with patients’ symptoms before operation.
Still, these drastic results should pique interest in the future about the positive effects of this surgery.
Tummy tucks are becoming safer and more common for people to consider. Until now, people have used it for cosmetic reasons. In the future, though, more people may weigh in the added benefits of less back pain and incontinence into their decision about the surgery.