Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty

So you look after yourself, exercise reasonably often and watch your diet – but do you find with advancing years you are unhappy with your tummy’s appearance. Have you had children and been left with a flabby tummy and stretch marks or perhaps lost some weight which has made things worse in terms of loose abdominal skin.

tummy tuck - Dr Drielsma expert body contouring surgeon


An Abdominoplasty or tummy tuck is an operation to surgically address the problems or symptoms associated with a an overstretched tummy skin and stretch marks as well as improve the appearance and contour of the abdomen. Abdominoplasty is more commonly known as a tummy tuck. The procedure is performed to remove excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen in order to tighten and improve the abdomens muscle wall and function as well as appearance and comfort of the abdomen.

The best candidates for abdominoplasty or tummy tuck are women (or men) who are concerned by abdominal loose skin and fat deposits that have not improved after diet or exercise. This procedure is particularly helpful for women that have stretched and excess abdominal skin after childbirth. Health problems associated with stretched abdominal muscle wall and skin include back pain, rashes under skin folds of the lower tummy, exercise intolerance and urinary incontinence. These symptoms are typically improved or cured with abdominoplasty.

Tummy Tuck

If you are planning to lose a large amount of weight or become pregnant a tummy tuck is best performed after this.

Through an incision of the lower abdomen, excess skin and fat from the pubic area up to the belly button is mobilised and removed. The skin of the upper tummy is then stretched down to the suprapubic area (the level where a caesarian scar would normally sit) and stitched closed. The umbilicus or belly button is then brought out again through a new hole. Extra tension is placed in the midline of the upper tummy to give a “six pack ” look and the abdominal muscles are tightened by stitching stretched muscles together to give a flatter tummy and better waistline. Tummy tuck is often combined with liposuction to the hips, outer and inner thighs to better refine the figure.

Abdominoplasty is done under general anaesthetic and takes around 3 hours of surgery (4.5 hours if combined with liposuction). Two to three days in hospital is usually required an return to work in about three weeks is usual.

Thousands of abdominoplasties are performed each year and results are very gratifying with patients being very happy with results.

Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty FAQ

How is the procedure performed?

An incision is made across the lower abdomen, extending out to the hips. Skin and fat are elevated up to the rib cage. Excess skin and fat are removed and upper abdominal skin is stretched down to the lower abdomen. A new opening is made for the navel which is re-sitted in its normal position level.

Abdominoplasty surgery is performed under general anesthetic and takes approximately three hours. A device called a pain buster is used to minimize discomfort along the abdominal wound line during the hospital stay. Usually two nights / days are required in hospital.

After the surgery a garment is worn to provide support to the abdomen. This garment is ordered and fitted prior to the operation. It is worn for 6 weeks following surgery. Early mobilisation with walking etc is encouraged. Stitches are all absorbable.

When can I return to normal activities?

Usually 2 to 3 weeks are required off work although some people require a longer recovery period. Gentle exercises can be commenced after 3-4 weeks, however, vigorous exercise should be avoided for 6-8 weeks. It may take 2-3 months before returning to completely normal activity.

Are there any risks?

As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of complications. Surgery and anesthesia are very safe and it is most unlikely you will experience any difficulty. However, there are areas of potential problems you need to understand before proceeding with your surgery. You can reduce your risk of complications by closely following instructions before and after surgery.

Bleeding: Bleeding can be problematical in about 2% of cases. It is possible in cases bleeding that return to the operating theater will be necessary and sometimes blood transfusion is required.

Infection: If infection occurs it will usually become evident within one week of surgery and may delay the healing process or result in the development of scar tissue. This may require treatment with antibiotics. In the unlikely event of infection, the ultimate result of the surgery may be adversely affected.

Anesthesia: The surgery is done under a general anesthetic and the anesthetist will be discussing the possible discomforts following anesthesia. Modern anesthesia is very safe and risks very rare. Any questions you have regarding your anesthetic would be best answered by the anesthetist at the time of surgery.

Scarring: All surgery carries risks and every incision leaves a scar. Scars do however fade remarkably well over a one to two year period and become much less noticeable. The scar of abdominoplasty is never invisible but is placed in a position that is inconspicuous when wearing most clothing or swimming costumes.

The scars will often look red and lumpy at about three months after surgery as they heal but this is normal and will settle over the following 3-6 months. It takes 12-18 months before the scars mature completely, flatten out and lighten in colour.

Sensation: Areas of your lower abdomen may be numb for up to six months as bruised nerves are recovering. Some minor residual permanent alteration in sensation may occur.

Fluid Collection: A seroma is a collection of fluid under the skin and fat. If this occurs it may take a few weeks to absorb. Wearing the pressure garment will help reduce this risk.

Circulation: Although rare, there is a risk of clotting in the veins of the legs. Such a thrombosis may rarely be complicated by pulmonary embolism ( a clot going to the lung). The risk of this is about one in 500 and is increased with use of the oral contraceptive pill. All possible precautions are taken to minimize the risks of thrombosis including use of leg compression devices during surgery, use of TED stockings and blood thinning injections while in hospital.

Important points to remember before proceeding with surgery:

There can be no absolute guarantee with any surgery. In the hands of any experienced surgeon, a secondary operation to correct a minor irregularity may be needed. Should there be any questions regarding abdominoplasty, be sure they are answered in advance by Dr Drielsma Well meaning friends are not a good source of information. Find out everything before the operation – a well informed patient is a happy one.

The best candidates for cosmetic surgery are those who want to enhance or improve their appearance, not those who seek perfection. You will be satisfied with the results of surgery if you have realistic expectations. It is important that you make the decision to proceed with surgery for yourself, not anyone else.