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Self-confidence and self-esteem are critical to our sense of well-being. When you are unhappy with an aspect of your appearance, it can cloud the way you think of yourself. Changing even a relatively small part of your body to be more in line with your self-image can have a disproportionately large impact on your life.

A bulging tummy, whether it’s due to excessive weight gain, following pregnancy, or from weakened abdominal muscles, is a problem for many women. Unfortunately, it is a condition that usually fails to respond to even strict diet or vigorous exercise programs. This is because the skin and underlying muscles have been over-stretched, far beyond their capacity to return to the way they once looked or functioned.

Imagine then, being able to wear a bikini or low-cut jeans and not feel embarrassed. By removing the damaged skin and surgically tightening the gapping muscles it is possible to get back that flat tummy. The procedure is called an abdominoplasty or “tummy tuck.”

About the Procedure

Abdominoplasty, more commonly known as a “tummy tuck,” is a surgical procedure to remove excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen and tighten the muscles of the abdominal wall. Abdominoplasty should not be considered a substitute for weight loss. The purpose of the surgery is to improve the contour of the body by flattening and narrowing the abdomen.

Some surgeons perform abdominoplasty in an outpatient surgical center, but most prefer a hospital setting where you can recover overnight. An abdominoplasty usually takes two to five hours, depending on the extent of work required. An extensive incision is used which runs across the lower abdomen. The separated muscles are tightened by pulling them close together; then the muscles are sutured into their new position, and the excess skin and fat is removed. This provides a firmer abdominal wall and narrows the waistline. Usually temporary drains are inserted to eliminate fluid buildup before the incisions are closed. Firm elastic bandages are then applied to support the area.

Recovery and Healing

For the first few days following surgery, your abdomen will likely be swollen and feel tight. This will dissipate within a few weeks. You will feel some pain and discomfort that can be controlled by medication. Your doctor will give you instructions for showering and changing your dressings.

At first you may not be able to stand up straight without feeling a tugging sensation, but you should start walking as soon as possible. Though initially you will be stooped over, you will soon be able to straighten up completely as your body accommodates to your newly tightened abdomen.

Surface stitches or staples will be removed in five to seven days and lighter bandages will then be applied. These bandages are soon replaced with an abdominal support garment, which is worn for several weeks. During this time, you must refrain from heavy lifting, straining or over-activity. Your doctor will let you know when to resume your normal activities based on the extent of surgery and your progress. If drains are used, they will remain in place until there is little drainage.

It may take weeks or months to feel like your old self again. If you start out in excellent physical condition, recovery will be much faster. Some people return to work after two weeks, while others may take three to four weeks or even longer to recuperate.

Risks

The amount of improvement is individual and depends upon the extent of surgery and the patient’s skin tone, body build, and healing process. Post-operative complications such as infection and blood clots are rare, but can occur. The greatest tradeoff for obtaining a flat abdomen is the resulting scar, which is extensive, though mostly hidden in the bikini line.