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How painful is a tummy tuck?

16th August 2017

What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck - or abdominoplasty - is a form of cosmetic surgery designed to improve the shape and look of your tummy, or abdomen.

The procedure sculpts and reshapes the stomach area through the removal of excess skin and fat, whilst simultaneously tightening the underlying muscles.

In some cases, we may also perform liposuction alongside the abdominoplasty procedure for optimum results.

Is a tummy tuck right for me?

Those who have given birth, lost a lot of weight or who can’t shrink any excess skin through diet and exercise may benefit from a tummy tuck.

If you are overweight, a tummy tuck is not likely to be a viable choice for you, but this would be discussed at your consultation. As a rule, we advise that your weight prior to the procedure should be within a 10% - 15% range of your ideal weight.

 If you intend to have a baby in the near future, you should postpone the procedure until your family is complete.

What does the tummy tuck procedure involve?

A full tummy tuck involves:

  • Making a large incision across the lower abdomen, from hip to hip

  • Making a small incision to release your belly button from the tissue that surrounds it

  • Separating the skin from the abdominal wall

  • Realigning your abdominal muscles

  • Removing any excess fat and skin

  • Creating a new hole for the belly button, and stitching this back in place

  • Drawing together any remaining skin and stitching it in place

How long does a tummy tuck take?

The procedure itself typically takes between two and five hours, under general anaesthesia. You will then need to stay in the clinic overnight.

How painful is the procedure?

As with any surgical procedure, how painful you find a tummy tuck will depend on your own personal pain threshold.

There will be some discomfort after a tummy tuck, with the worst discomfort experienced within the first week. On a scale of 1 - 10, pain is often estimated at around a 6-7 for the the first few days to a week, reducing to around a 3 - 4 in the second week.  This would, of course, depend on the individual.

You will be fitted with a post-operative pressure garment, which should help to manage the pain in conjunction with the pain relief medication we provide.

What does the aftercare involve?

You would leave hospital with dressings and a pressure garment - similar to a corset - on your stomach, which encourages your skin to heal properly and reduce any swelling.

You would need someone to drive you home and stay with you for the following 24 hours after the procedure.

How long does it take to recover from a tummy tuck?

Once you’re at home, you will need to rest for 10 - 14 days, in order to recuperate fully. You will then need to take at least four weeks off work, whilst avoiding exercise and any strenuous activity.

You should also avoid driving for at least 4 weeks after the procedure and try to ensure you keep your knees bent whilst you sleep, to avoid putting any unnecessary strain on your stitches.

Typically, full recovery should take around 6 weeks, but it may take up to 9 months so see the full results of the procedure.  

Are there any side effects?

An abdominoplasty is a major surgical procedure, so there are some potential side effects to be aware of:

  • You will be left with a scar running across your lower tummy

  • If you had a full abdominoplasty, you would have a scar around your belly button

  • Your scars are likely to appear red and raised for the first few weeks after the procedure

  • Bruising

  • Pain

  • Temporary numbness

  • Temporary swelling around the scar

  • You may find it difficult to stand up straight as you may feel like your stomach is being pulled  

What should I do if I have any problems after my tummy tuck?

Any cosmetic procedure has associated risks and sometimes the results may not be what you expected.

If you do have any concerns, or you experience severe pain or other unexpected symptoms or side effects, please get in touch with us straight away.


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The Hospital of St. John & St. Elizabeth
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