Extreme slimming, pregnancies, ageing or surgeries can weaken the abdominal wall, resulting in a so-called ‘overhang’. The abdomen can be corrected by means of plastic surgery. In medical terms, this surgery is called abdominoplasty.
Shortly before admittance for an abdominoplasty, your general health will be checked and a blood test will be performed. If you use any medication, you will need to notify your physician. Specific medication (such as aspirin, APC, etc.) cannot be used a number of days before the surgery. Moreover, you will need to stop smoking at least six weeks in advance, because smoking narrows the blood vessels, which could result in problems with wound healing. If you are overweight it is wise to shed your excess weight before the surgery. The results will be better and the risk of infections will be reduced.
An abdominoplasty is performed under general anaesthesia or with the help of an epidural. You need to stay at the hospital for three to six days. The surgery itself will take about two hours. During the surgery, the doctor will separate the abdominal wall from the underlying muscle layer down to the ribcage and the sternum. The belly button will be kept in place by cutting around it. Then, the plastic surgeon will pull the skin tight and remove any excess skin and subdermal fat tissue. If your abdominal muscles have been stretched, then these are immediately reinforced. In order for the belly button to protrude again, a hole is made in the skin. Subsequently, the belly button will be stitched into this hole. During the surgery, the surgeon will place a number of drains (thin hoses) so the wound exudate can leave the body. These drains need to remain in place until almost no exudate is formed. This usually takes two days. The scars of an abdominoplasty are located around the belly button and largely within the bikini line.
Options and expectations
If you are considering an abdominoplasty, then it is important to have realistic expectations. The result of an abdominoplasty is a flatter belly, but you should not expect perfection. Moreover, the surgery will leave scars that will always remain somewhat visible. Another consequence of an abdominoplasty is that the skin underneath the belly button will be temporarily, and occasionally permanently, numb. This will not give any problems. Over the years, the area that is numb can reduce in size.
After an abdominoplasty
If, during an abdominoplasty, your abdominal muscles have been reinforced as well, you will need to remain in bed for at least one the day after the surgery. The first six weeks after the surgery, you cannot do any heavy lifting or pushing. If an abdominal muscle correction was not necessary, then you can get out of bed the day after the surgery. Generally, an abdominoplasty is not painful. In order for the abdominal wall to attach itself properly, you will need to wear a supporting girdle or pants for one to four weeks. The full recovery period of an abdominoplasty is about four to six weeks. After this period, all normal movements are possible and you will also be able to exercise again. The stitches will be removed about two weeks after the surgery. If during the recovery period you experience abnormal pain, swelling or fever, you are strongly advised to contact your plastic surgeon.
Risks and complications
An abdominoplasty has the same risks as any other surgery. The wound can get infected, but this rarely happens. People with too much subdermal fat tissue have an increased risk of infection. For this reason, it is important to have a body weight that is as normal as possible before the surgery. It is possible for postoperative haemorrhaging to occur in some cases. If this should occur, additional surgery is a required during which the surgeon will close the haemorrhaging blood vessel. A belated complication of abdominoplasty could be excess skin near the hips. This will usually diminish over time. Sometimes, it is necessary to remove these ‘dog’s ears’. This is usually possible by means of local anaesthetic at the hospital’s outpatient clinic.
An abdominoplasty is a cosmetic procedure and will generally not be covered by your health insurance. You will need to pay for the surgery yourself. An abdominoplasty is quite an expensive procedure, as it takes place under general anaesthetic and requires a few days of hospitalisation. The plastic surgeon will give you a statement of the costs in advance.