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Despite a good diet, exercise and a fit lifestyle, many people find it difficult to achieve the toned look or good figure they want.  If your stomach is not as tight or flat as you would like it to be because of pregnancy, weight gain or loss, bariatric surgery or for other reasons, a tummy tuck may be the solution.

The aim

To achieve a tighter, flatter stomach excess fat and skin are removed from the abdomen.  The abdominal muscles can also be tightened and will feel and look firmer.  The operation may also reduce the appearance of stretch marks and other scars on your stomach.

The operation

There are two types of abdominoplasty: a full and a mini abdominoplasty.

A mini-abdominoplasty is appropriate for small degrees of skin laxity or stretch marks below the umbilicus (navel).  An incision is made just above the pubic hair extending towards the hip bone on either side.  An oval shaped section of skin and the underlying excess fat are removed and the wound closed with buried dissolvable sutures.  The position of the umbilicus is not altered.

A full abdominoplasty is useful when skin is much looser both below and above the umbilicus.  The operation is similar to that for the mini-abdominoplasty except that the lower abdominal incision is longer, the area of skin and fat removed is larger and the umbilicus needs to be re-sited.

These operations take between two to three hours under a general anaesthetic and are often carried out in conjunction with liposuction to improve the overall contour of the abdomen.


Abdominoplasty is not a substitute for weight loss and you may be asked to lose weight before surgery.  This helps to minimise the risk of poor wound healing after the operation.  You should also stop taking the oral contraceptive pill for six weeks before surgery to reduce the risk of blood clotting and/or give up or cut down on smoking to reduce the risk of chest infection and to speed up wound healing.


The operation will require one to two nights in hospital and you will need to take two to four weeks off work to recover.  Drains are removed from the lower part of the abdomen before you leave hospital and a firm pressure garment will be provided, which you will need to wear for four to six weeks after the operation to reduce swelling.

Sutures will be trimmed after about a week and you should not lift any heavy weights or exercise vigorously for one month after the operation.

Common risks

Initially, you may find it hard to stand up straight and the stitches may pull. These symptoms should disappear with time.

Your lower abdominal area may feel numb for up to six months.

Scars will be permanent, but will usually become finer and less apparent within a year. They will be below the bikini line and, if you have full abdominoplasty around the belly button.

Occasionally, fluid collects beneath the lower abdominal scar.  This is called a seroma and usually settles by itself, but it may need to be drained using a needle and syringe in the out-patient clinic.

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