“I am very pleased with the results of my abdominoplasty and felt very at ease and confident with Dr. Hall-Findlay and her staff. She answered all my questions thoroughly and I never felt like she was in a rush. My care in the Mineral Springs Hospital was fabulous, from my arrival to my discharge.”
– From a review posted on RateMDs.com.
“To most of our patients, having an abdominoplasty means they can get back to buying clothes they like and look attractive in them. An abdominoplasty can give mothers the confidence to wear bathing suits and spend time swimming with their children. Our focus is to give you as natural a result as possible while taking into account your particular issues and desires. What is right for one woman may be very different from what someone else is trying to achieve. We can use our experience to give appropriate recommendations for your individual circumstances- information that is sometimes hard to figure out from the internet. We want to work with you to determine what’s best for you and how we can help you accomplish your goals.”
For women with excess skin in the abdominal area, an abdominoplasty may be a good option.
Abdominoplasty is often called a “tummy tuck,” but this name can be misleading because it may imply an easy recovery. It’s a major operation. In a full abdominoplasty, all of the skin between the belly button and the pubic area is removed. The skin above the belly button is lifted up and pulled down over the belly button, and a new opening or “button hole” is made for the belly button. In addition, the abdomen is shaped and flattened by tightening up the fascia (fabric around the muscles), and by treating the hips and pubic area with liposuction.
Abdominoplasty doesn’t tighten the skin of the hips or legs and it is definitely not a method of weight loss. It only helps contour on the front of the abdomen, though sometimes we add liposuction in the posterior hip/flank area if necessary. Occasionally a “circumferential body lift” is necessary if a woman has lost a large amount of weight and has loose tissue all the way around the torso.
A hallmark of our drain-free abdominoplasty technique is our use of quilting sutures instead of drains. The quilting sutures stick the re-draped skin back down to the abdominal wall and take some of the tension off the incision line. These stitches help prevent fluid accumulation, decrease swelling, and spread the tension evenly throughout the abdominal area. Quilting sutures demand more of our time and skill in the operating room, but we find our patients are more comfortable and often less swollen without drains. Scar formation is often more favorable, and with greater patient comfort, it’s “what’s right for the patient.”
Good candidates for abdominoplasty surgery are close to their ideal body weight, are in good health and have excess skin in the abdominal area. For optimal results patients should be finished having children and should have a relatively flat abdomen when they lie down .
Many of our patients are finished having children and feel that it is finally time for them to feel better about the way they look. An abdominoplasty can improve the way your clothes fit, including your bathing suit. The incision used to be angled upward to adapt to high-cut bathing suits but it is now placed in a much lower location.
You should have realistic expectations though. Removal of excess skin cannot improve the quality of the remaining skin. The incisions will leave a long, hip-to-hip scar and a scar around the navel. The scars will take a year to settle, and they will be permanent. Patients should ideally have finished having children since pregnancy can stretch the skin back out.
Being in good health, both physically and mentally, is required for optimal results, and it may be appropriate to wait until your situation is ideal. Your own schedule is an important consideration as you will need time to recover. After an abdominoplasty, it takes about four weeks to get back to normal activities of daily living and about two months to get back to a more active lifestyle. Patients will spend two to four nights in recovery at Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff.
Abdominoplasty Educational Video
Are there different types of abdominoplasty?
Yes, there are several different variations:
- Full abdominoplasty is what we do most commonly. This involves a hip-to-hip incision, full fascial tightening, and removal of the skin and fat from the belly button to the pubic area. The belly button is still your original belly button, but it is sewn into a new opening. Small amounts of liposuction are used to contour the ends of the incision and the pubic area if necessary.
- Mini-abdominoplasty involves a similar incision (sometimes slightly shorter), with removal of only some of the lower abdominal skin and no detachment of the belly button. This is a more limited operation that can benefit women who have a smaller amount of loose skin, well below the belly button.
- Fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty is occasionally done for women who have lost a large amount of weight and need tightening in both vertical and horizontal directions. This involves a long vertical incision in addition to the hip-to-hip incision, and ends up looking like a large “T.”
You’ll need a consultation in person to determine what technique is best for you.
How can I determine if I need an abdominoplasty or liposuction on my abdomen?
Liposuction is a good option for women who have good skin tone, are at or very close to ideal body weight, and have no “overhang” of the lower abdominal skin, yet are dissatisfied with carrying extra fat or a “pooch” in the abdomen. Liposuction can thin the layer of fat under the skin, but will not tighten up skin.
If you dislike your abdomen because of loose skin, stretch marks, loose or separated abdominal muscles (rectus diastasis), or feel like you still “look pregnant,” you’re probably a better candidate for abdominoplasty. Liposuction is often used for extra contouring along with an abdominoplasty, but it can’t correct loose skin or stretch marks by itself. Many of us who have had babies have some loose abdominal skin and stretch marks, and these are usually best addressed with abdominoplasty.
If I smoke, can I still have abdominoplasty?
Because smoking can significantly affect your ability to heal due to altered blood supply, we will not do abdominoplasties on active smokers. You will need to quit smoking in order to be a safe candidate for surgery.
Is abdominoplasty part of a “Mommy Makeover”?
Yes, abdominoplasty is often part of a “Mommy Makeover.” We don’t promote the use of the term “Mommy Makeover,” at least in part because the term is too non-specific. However, we do offer all of the usual components of Mommy Makeover in combination and as stand-alone procedures. Mommy Makeover refers to combinations of cosmetic breast and abdominal surgery such as abdominoplasty, liposuction, breast augmentation and lift, which aim to reverse some of the changes that happen to women’s bodies after pregnancy and childbirth. Each Mommy Makeover needs to be carefully tailored to the specific needs and desires of the Mommy who is the patient!
Is it safe to combine other procedures with abdominoplasty?
In very healthy women, we commonly combine cosmetic breast and abdomen procedures. We endeavour to keep operative times under 5 hours whenever possible. The risk of developing blood clots in the legs (DVT) is higher in longer procedures with longer recovery times. We often prescribe a mild blood thinner for a short time after abdominoplasty in order to prevent blood clots from developing.
What other risks are associated with abdominoplasty?
As with any surgery, bleeding and infection are risks, although they happen quite infrequently. If blood supply to the remaining skin and the belly button are not good, there can be healing problems with these areas. Fluid can collect under the skin (seroma), requiring drainage with a needle. Numbness on the skin of the abdomen is expected after surgery, but can be permanent in spots. Scars usually fade well with time, but occasionally can be raised, red, uneven, bumpy, or itchy, even in the longer term.
Will I need a drain?
One of the advances that we have made in our abdominoplasty technique has been the elimination of drains in most cases. While many surgeons do use drains (and that is perfectly acceptable), we prefer instead to use “quilting” or “progressive tension” sutures. It takes a bit more time and effort in the operating room to place these extra sutures, but they allow us to fasten the abdominal skin back down to the underlying fascia without placing a drain. The result is less swelling, fewer seromas, less tension on the incision, and happier patients!
Will I need to stay in the hospital?
While it is very common for abdominoplasty patients to go home on the day of surgery, we typically do our abdominoplasties at Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff, where our patients can stay overnight with nursing help for 1-3 nights. By the time you are discharged, you will be more mobile and able to travel home more comfortably.
What type of pain control will I need?
We can often place a nerve block in the abdominal wall during surgery, and this can be quite effective for pain control the first day. We also prescribe a variety of pain medications designed to keep you comfortable.
What will my abdominoplasty recovery be like?
Some discomfort and overall fatigue is to be expected for several weeks after abdominoplasty. When you first go home, you may feel most comfortable bent at the waist, in a recliner, or propped up a bit in bed. We encourage getting up to stretch your legs and do deep breathing every couple of hours. You can shower right away. Pass off household chores and childcare at first- you need time to recover. We provide compression garments (similar to “Spanx”) that help minimize swelling and suggest you wear them most of the time for the first few weeks. You can go for short walks as soon as you feel up to it, but exercise that raises your heart rate and blood pressure should wait for at least 3 weeks, and heavy lifting should wait for 6 weeks.
Many women are surprised to learn how long the swelling can stick around after abdominoplasty. It can take 3-4 months for most of the swelling to go away, and a year or more for complete recovery including swelling and fading of scars.
When can I return to work after abdominoplasty?
We generally suggest 3 weeks off work, and possibly longer if you have a very strenuous job. Heavy lifting should be avoided for about 6 weeks while the muscle tightening has time to heal.