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Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty can help flatten your tummy when all else has failed. The procedure involves removing extra fat and skin and tightening muscles in the abdominal wall.

Just keep in mind -- it is major surgery, so don't take it lightly. Depending on the extent of your procedure, you could end up with a very visible scar.

Tummy tuck surgery should be a last resort for people who have tried everything else, including diet and exercise. This procedure should not be used as an alternative to weight loss. Also, if you're a woman planning on having a family, it's best to wait until you're through bearing children before having a tummy tuck.

The Procedure: Two procedures can accomplish a tummy tuck depending on the complexity of your needs. A partial or mini abdominoplasty involves a short incision that allows the plastic surgeon to remove fat deposits below the navel and tighten the abdominal muscles.

A complete abdominoplasty is a much bigger procedure. It involves a larger incision across the abdomen, from hipbone to hipbone, and around the navel to allow the plastic surgeon to manipulate and contour the skin, tissues, and muscle. In addition, the navel will be lifted to a higher and more aesthetic position.

Liposuction is often performed along with a tummy tuck to remove excess fat.

A tummy tuck can be done as an outpatient or inpatient procedure depending on the degree of surgery and the patient.

Common Side Effects: As expected, you will have pain and swelling in the days following surgery. Your plastic surgeon can prescribe a painkiller if needed. Soreness may last for several weeks or months. You may also experience numbness, bruising, tightness, and overall tiredness during that period.

While your scars may fade slightly, they usually do not completely disappear. Your plastic surgeon may recommend certain creams or ointments to use to help with the scars.

Complications: Though they're uncommon, complications can include infection and bleeding under the skin flap. Fluid or blood collections can also occur, and if they do not resolve on their own, they may need to be drained. Blood clots can also occur and in rare instances may lead to a pulmonary embolus, a potentially life-threatening blood clot in the lungs. Tobacco users and those with poor circulation, diabetes, or heart, lung, or liver disease are more likely to have complications.

Insufficient healing is also rare but does occur. This could require a second surgery, meaning more scarring or loss of skin.

Recovery: Whether you're having a partial or complete tummy tuck, your incision site will be stitched and bandaged. You will need to follow all your plastic surgeon's instructions on how to care for the bandage in the days following surgery. Usually drains are placed and remain for up to two weeks. Your plastic surgeon will teach you how to care for these. The sutures are usually removed within two to three weeks. You must severely limit strenuous exercise for at least six weeks. An abdominal binder should be used at all times except when bathing for the first six weeks. You may need to take up to one month off of work after the surgery to ensure proper recovery. It may take months for some people to fully recover and feel like their normal selves.

Results: The cosmetic effects of a tummy tuck are typically long lasting as long as a balanced diet and exercise program are followed. In rare instances, redundant skin over the hip bones may need to be removed during an additional procedure.

Find out more about tummy tuck surgery.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Christopher K. Livingston, MD, assistant professor of plastic surgery, University of Texas Medical School, Houston. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)."

Liposuction (Abdominal)

Liposuction can help get rid of tummy fat when dieting and exercise aren't enough to do the trick. Liposuction involves having a suction device inserted into fatty areas between skin and muscle -- resulting in a smoother, improved body contour.

The best candidate for liposuction is a person of average or only slightly above average weight, in good health, with a localized area of fat that just won't go away.

The Procedure: Liposuction typically is done as an outpatient procedure; however, if a large volume of fat is being removed, hospitalization may be necessary.

Anesthesia usually requires a general application where surgery is done while you are sleeping.

The surgeon will first inject a solution of saline, a mild painkiller, and epinephrine, a drug that contracts blood vessels. It helps the surgeon remove the fat more easily, helps reduce blood loss, and provides pain relief during and after surgery.

After small incisions are made, the suction device is inserted into fatty areas between skin and muscle and fat is gently removed. The length of the procedure will vary with the amount of fat removed.

In ultrasound-assisted liposuction, you get an injection that contains a local anesthetic as well as a solution that causes the fatty area to swell slightly. A thin, tube-like ultrasonic probe is inserted beneath the skin through a small incision. The probe is maneuvered under the skin, emitting sound waves that cause fat cells to collapse and liquefy. The liquefied fat and anesthetic fluid are removed using gentle suction.

Common Side Effects: You should expect bruising, swelling, and soreness for at least a few weeks. However, every person's outcome will vary based on the volume of fat cells removed and body area involved.

Complications: Although rare, risks include infection and skin discoloration. As with any major surgery, there is a low risk of death.

Recovery: Under most circumstances, when liposuction is an outpatient procedure, recovery is fairly quick. Most people can return to work within a few days and to normal activities within about two weeks.

Results: If you gain weight after the procedure, fat can build up in the area again. To keep your new shape and weight, you must follow a proper diet and exercise plan.

Find out more about liposuction.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Christopher Livingston, MD, assistant professor of plastic surgery, University of Texas Medical School, Houston. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Liposuction."

Wound Repair

Burns, traumatic injuries, and any serious wound can benefit from reconstructive surgery. A skilled plastic surgeon can offer several procedures to improve your mobility, function, and the appearance of your wounds.

The Procedure: Depending on your injury, the surgeon will suggest various treatments. Among them:

  • Skin grafts: This is most often used for burn patients, when skin is removed from one area of the body and transplanted to another. Skin grafts are also used for breast or nose reconstruction procedures.
  • Microsurgery: This surgery involves sewing tiny blood vessels or nerves to reattach a severed finger, toe, ear, or lip. Microsurgery is also used to treat facial paralysis or reconstruct breasts.
  • Free flap procedure: Muscle, skin, or bone is transferred from one part of the body to another. The flap procedure is used for breast reconstruction or head-and-neck cancer surgery. This also involves microsurgery.
  • Tissue expansion: This procedure prompts your body to "grow" extra skin for use in breast reconstruction, scalp repair, or other procedures. A balloon expander inserted under the skin helps skin to stretch and grow, similar to a woman's skin during pregnancy.

Common Side Effects: The side effects will depend on the procedure used. Your doctor can discuss side effects in detail.

Complications: There is risk of infection at the surgical site.

Recovery: Healing from these procedures generally takes several months. Once you are released from the hospital, you will recuperate at home. It is important to follow your doctors' instructions regarding wound care and infection prevention.

Results: The results of reconstructive surgery will last your entire life. They will be affected by the changes of aging, but the basic structural changes will remain intact.

Find out more about plastic surgery for burns, traumatic injuries, and other wounds.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Jeffrey R. Marcus MD, assistant professor of surgery and pediatrics, Duke University School of Medicine. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Plastic Surgery for Burns, Traumatic Injuries and Other Wounds."

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