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Everything You Wanted to Know About Abdominoplasty

 *Individual results vary, see disclaimer.

Losing weight can be challenging, and it’s something that we all struggle with from time to time. Of course, there’s no greater sense of accomplishment finally reaching a number on the scale that you’re incredibly happy with–especially when that drop on the scale happened to be quite significant.

If you’re like most people, you now feel happier, your confidence is improving and you’re gradually becoming more social after following your weight loss goals. While life now seems to be going in the right direction, there is just one thing, however, that you may feel is preventing you from being at your 100 percent best–and that’s your loose skin.

This problem is pretty common among patients who’ve lost a lot of weight, including those who’ve undergone bariatric surgery. Women who’ve given birth can also suffer loose, hanging skin and even muscle separation. For weight loss patients who want to fit into their clothing better, minimise discomfort and rashes caused by their extra skin, abdominoplasty can help. Mothers who want their post-pregnancy bodies back can benefit, too.

What is a Tummy Tuck?

Abdominoplasty is an excellent way to sculpt the figure and shape the body. The surgical procedure tightens the abdominal wall and removes any excess skin, in turn, leaving patients with a slimmer, firmer midsection. While the procedure helps shape and tone the abdominal area,  it is not a substitute for weight loss or exercise. Weight loss operations are called bariatric surgery and involves surgery on your stomach or bowel.

Candidates for abdominoplasty

Ideally, your weight should be stable before you have the surgery. If a significant amount of weight is lost after your surgery, this will lead to further loose skin. The best candidates for tummy tuck surgery are those at or close to weight they are comfortable with and it has remained stable, are non-smokers in good health and have realistic expectations about what the procedure can do for them. If any of the following statements below describe you, abdominoplasty may help you achieve the look you desire:

Z

You’ve suffered some type of trauma, tumour or structural defect to the abdomen which has impacted its shape and appearance.

Z

You exercise regularly and eat properly, yet not matter what, your stomach remains flabby.

Z

After losing a dramatic amount of weight, you are left with loose, hanging skin around your midsection that impacts mobility.

Z

Following pregnancy, your abdominal muscles are now stretched and you are left with extra sagging skin.

What abdominoplasty won’t do

For patients who opt to have tummy tuck surgery, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial. While abdominoplasty is essentially permanent, you need to maintain your weight and look after you body by eating healthy foods. If you gain weight, you will gain weight proportionally, and you don’t want to undo all the good work you have done.  Unlike bariatric surgery, abdominoplasty won’t prevent you from gaining future weight. If you are a woman who is considering future pregnancies, it is highly advised that your hold off on surgery until you are finished having children.

Different types of tummy tucks

Did you know that there are more than 20 different tummy tuck procedures used in the world of cosmetic surgery? Surprising, yet true. In fact, Dr Beldholm addresses many of them in this video here. When performing these procedures, Dr Beldholm makes every effort to place any incision as close to the patient’s pubic line as possible. That way any resulting scars can be easily hidden in the undergarment. Tummy tuck surgery has evolved over time. There are generally three categories of tummy tucks: standard abdominoplasty (Pitanguy’s Technique), abdominoplasty + traditional lipo, and abdominoplasty + VASER Lipo. They are explained in more detail below:

1. Standard Pitanguy’s Technique

This is the oldest method for performing tummy tuck surgery. While it has been modified many times since it was first introduced in the late 1960’s, it still remains very similar to the original procedure. It involves dissecting the abdominal flap all the way up to the patient’s rib area which cuts off the blood supply from the rectus sheath. When this happens, the abdominal flap becomes very delicate. This makes its dangerous to perform liposuction on the front part of the abdomen. Liposuction can be done on the top and sides only. This is not considered lipo-abdominoplasty, though. Following surgery, drains are used and normally stay in for one to two weeks due to the very high seroma rate. A patient’s hospital stay is generally around five days.

Dr Beldholm used to perform this operation when he started more than 10 years ago, but he was very disappointed in the recovery, cosmetic results and complications. As a result, he does not recommend this type of operation. How do you know if you are having this type of tummy tuck procedure? According to Dr Beldholm, the drains are the obvious giveaway. As the modern lipo-abdominoplasty and VASER lipo abdominoplasty do not use drains.

2. Lipo-Abdominoplasty

The concept of the lipo-abdominoplasty is radically different from the standard tummy tuck and incorporates liposuction to remove fat as well as dissect the tissues. This preserves blood supply and provides a significant improvement in the results and recovery time. The operation not only tightens the abdominal muscles and gets rid of loose, hanging skin of the tummy, but liposuction can also be used to remove extra fat from a patient’s entire abdomen, waist, back and even bra rolls. This creates a big improvement in overall body contour.

3. VASER Lipo Abdominoplasty

This is a progression from lipo-abdominoplasty. By replacing the standard liposculpture with an advanced liposuctioning technique known as VASER, there is less bruising, less discomfort and better preservation of blood flow. In Dr Beldholm’s experience, this method makes it possible to remove more fat and sculpt the abdomen better. That is why Dr Beldholm has dubbed this operation the “sculpt tummy tuck.” This operation makes it easier for Dr Beldholm to sculpt three dimensional contours on a patient’s abdomen. VASER lipo can also be used on a patient’s back, arms and thighs for an overall natural yet toned appearance.

Which procedure is right for me?

Because no two patients are alike, not all tummy tucks are created equally either, of course. During your consultations with Dr Beldholm, he will recommend the type of tummy tuck procedure that he believes will help you achieve an aesthetically-pleasing look that allows you to feel more confident and comfortable in your body. Some of the common tummy tucks Dr Beldholm performs include:

1. Mini Tummy Tuck

This technique solely addresses the abdomen below the navel. It targets the small “pooch” that many women get—especially those who’ve had a C-section and suffer from skin hanging over the scar. During the procedure, extensive VASER liposculpture is performed on the full abdomen and sides in order to tighten the lower abdomen. The scar is usually found in the underwear line extending from hip to hip. The navel is not repositioned during this technique. The good news is that the recovery is usually very quick and can be performed as a day stay operation. Full recovery generally takes about two to four weeks post-surgery.

2. Full Tummy Tuck

This is the most common abdominoplasty that Dr Beldholm performs. This procedure is ideal for patients who seek to flatten their abdomen both above and below the navel. It treats loose skin on the entire stomach as well as muscle separation and excess fat.

3. Extended VASER Lipo-Abdominoplasty

For patients who prefer a more sculpted or athletic look, this procedure may be ideal. The main difference between the extended and the full sculpt tummy tuck, is the extent of the lower abdominal skin resection, extending around the hips. This is an extended VASER liposculpture tummy tuck that involves: repositioning the navel, tightening the rectus abdominis muscles, extensive VASER liposuction of the tummy and sides, tightening and removal of excess skin. The incision extends around the sides of the abdomen. The recovery is similar to the standard sculpt tummy tuck.

4. Belt Lipectomy (Lower Body Lift)

This procedure is ideal for patients who’ve lost a significant amount of weight through bariatric surgery. It can address those unsightly bulges in the hips and “skin rolls” in the lower abdomen and back that often remain after a patient reaches his or her weight loss goals. The operation involves a circumferential removal of loose hanging skin and fat from around the waist or “belt line” of the patient.

The cost of the surgery

Prices for tummy tuck surgery can vary greatly among specialist plastic surgeons in Australia. Besides surgeon fees, other costs associated with the procedure can include: medical tests, hospital or surgical facility costs, anaesthesia fees, LED light treatments, post-surgery compression garments, etc. When it comes to understanding the total costs associated with certain cosmetic procedures, Dr Beldholm knows that his patients don’t like surprises. That why his prices are very transparent, and patients can find more information on them here.

The health risks

As with any major surgery, there are risks involved. According to one study, in a five-year period, major complications only occurred in four percent of patients undergoing abdominoplasty. Complications can include: persistent pain, hematomas, blood clots, infections, cardiac and pulmonary complications, unsightly scarring, unusual changes in skin sensation, asymmetry, prolonged swelling, skin discolouration, anesthesia risks, etc.  In extremely rare cases, death may even occur.

What to expect before surgery

Before ever going under the knife, you will meet one-on-one with Dr Beldholm. This is your opportunity to discuss your goals, your concerns and any question you might have. Dr Beldholm will be more than happy to answer them. His goal, afterall, is to make sure you’re well informed about the surgery and that you are ultimately comfortable with moving forward. Prior to surgery, Dr Beldholm will need to know your complete medical history and be made aware of any health problems you have dealt with or are currently dealing with. He will also need to know any medication you are taking or have taken and any allergies you may have. To minimise any risks during surgery, Dr Beldholm may require that you have some blood tests, x-rays or ECGs performed. This is to make sure you are completely healthy before your tummy tuck.

Preparing for surgery

Before your tummy tuck, you will also need to stop taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements like ginkgo, ginseng and St John’s Wort since they can increase bleeding. Failing to do this could result in complications inside the operating room. You will spend a portion of your recovery–especially the first few weeks–at home. Therefore, plan accordingly by preparing a “recovery area” before your surgery.  Make sure you have pillows, ice packs, a thermometer and your phone close by at all times. The day of surgery make sure you have someone like a spouse, relative or friend drive you to and from surgery and stay with you for at least 24 hours after you return home.

What to expect after a tummy tuck

After surgery, you will likely experience some heavy discomfort–especially the following day. Early in your recovery, you will also likely experience some swelling and have difficulty fully standing upright until internal healing is complete. It is, however, very important to get out of bed and do breathing exercises to assist with the recovery. Dr Beldholm may also prescribe medication to cope with the pain. To minimise swelling and to support your abdomen as it heals, you will be wrapped in bandages and will wear a compression garment. Small, thin tubes may also be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect. (The VASER lipo-abdominoplasty does not require drains.) The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Within 7 to 14 days, you should be standing tall and start to notice your much slimmer profile. Depending on how physically demanding your job is, you may be able to return to work after two to four weeks. Your results, of course, will continue to approve over time.  To make sure the healing process is going smoothly, expect to have follow up appointments with Dr Beldholm, too.

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