How Dangerous Is A Tummy Tuck
Women who are self-conscious about their appearance may have considered having cosmetic surgery in the past, most often for breast augmentation or liposuction. But now there’s another procedure that has women talking: the so-called “tummy tuck.” The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that more than 100,000 Americans had the operation in 2012, up from less than 50,000 in 2000. It’s also one of the fastest growing types of plastic surgeries in the country.
A tummy tuck is not actually a true tuck; it’s a surgical technique used to correct excessive skin, fat and muscle on the abdomen, flanks and hips. This can be done through several different incisions, but they’re all designed to remove excess fat and tighten loose skin. In some cases, the surgeon will even lift internal organs (like the stomach) out of the body cavity and reposition them into a new position as part of the overall procedure.
There are two main reasons why someone might want to consider having this procedure. First, many people who undergo this surgery look at themselves in the mirror and see saggy, droopy skin. Second, those with large amounts of extra skin and fat around the waist could benefit from improved aesthetics and possibly weight loss.
But like any other type of major surgery, a tummy tuck poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia. What else should you know before deciding if this procedure is right for you? Read on to find out.
Is Your BMI Too High For A Tummy Tuck?
The first thing you need to decide when considering having a tummy tuck is whether your health insurance covers it. While most plans do cover certain cosmetic procedures such as botox injections and facial fillers, only a few pay for abdominoplasty — the medical term for a tummy tuck. You’ll need to check with your insurance company or employer to find out.
If you qualify, the next question you need to ask yourself is how healthy you really are. As discussed, a tummy tuck is associated with a significant amount of blood loss during and after the procedure. That means that once you’ve been sedated, you won’t be able to drive home by yourself. So if you don’t feel well enough to leave the hospital, then you probably shouldn’t go under the knife.
Your doctor should evaluate your overall health and discuss potential complications with you. If he doesn’t warn you about risks, then consider finding another physician. And remember, no matter what your age, your general health isn’t just limited to your heart health. There’s plenty wrong with your kidneys too. Make sure your surgeon understands your overall condition and take his advice seriously.
Even though the surgical risks are high, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get a tummy tuck. Just make sure you choose a qualified surgeon who specializes in performing these operations and has experience dealing with complex cases. He should also have advanced training in general surgery, which would include extensive knowledge about repairing damaged tissue, removing scar tissue and closing the abdominal wall.
Most importantly, he should work closely with your plastic surgeon to ensure the best outcome possible. Take notes during your consultation and keep copies of everything you send him in advance. Ask questions until you understand every aspect of your planned surgery, including any specific medications you may be taking. Be aware that doctors sometimes change their minds about operating on patients after receiving information from third parties like family members. Before agreeing to anything, speak directly with your surgeon and insist that you understand exactly what’s going to happen.
What Are Some Risks Of Having A Tummy Tuck?
Bleeding and Infection
One of the biggest concerns related to having a tummy tuck is blood loss. During the procedure, the surgeon makes small cuts in the abdominal muscles to allow access to the belly button. Then he removes the belly button, stitches together the cut ends of the abdominal muscles and sutures the remaining skin back onto itself. All the while, he’s working inside your body without being able to control where the blood goes. The fact that blood vessels are usually hidden beneath layers of fatty tissue only complicates matters even further.
Blood loss during and after the procedure can cause serious problems, especially in older adults. Women over 65 years old are much more likely to suffer from blood loss following a tummy tuck than younger ones. Older men are also more prone to bleed excessively, although the exact reason why remains unclear [sources: Motegi et al., Arnow]. To help prevent blood loss, surgeons typically place drains near the wound sites to catch the blood. They also use absorbent gauze pads and sponges instead of regular bandages to minimize swelling. However, blood clots are still a problem because they stop drainage and increase fluid buildup.
While blood loss sounds scary, it’s rarely life threatening. Most patients recover within three days. However, severe blood loss requires immediate treatment. Bleed victims may become weak and dizzy, lose consciousness or suddenly develop shortness of breath. These signs require immediate attention, particularly if accompanied by a rapid drop in blood pressure.
Necessary precautions aside, infections are another common complication among tummy tuck patients. Patients are generally kept in isolation wards throughout recovery because they’re vulnerable to germs. Afterward, they must stay in bed and wear compression garments to reduce swelling, which makes the already fragile skin weaker and increases the likelihood of developing bedsores.
Other Possible Side Effects
Aside from blood loss and infection, other side effects of having a tummy tuck include:
Swelling – Swelling occurs immediately following the procedure and lasts anywhere from four to six weeks. When swelling does occur, it tends to be worse in obese patients.
Lack of appetite – Because of the pain involved, tummy tuck patients tend to avoid eating for hours after the procedure. This lack of food causes nausea and vomiting, which leads to dehydration.
Pain – Pain level varies based on each individual patient. Usually, it takes between one and two weeks to fully recover.
Scarring – Though rare, some patients end up with unsightly scars due to poor healing techniques.
Dislocation of internal organs – Dislocation of the internal organs is a serious concern for some patients because it prevents them from achieving optimal results. Fortunately, this complication becomes increasingly unlikely as patients’ ages increase.
Allergic reactions – An allergic reaction to anesthesia is very dangerous. If you think you may be suffering from one, notify your surgeon immediately. Symptoms may show up days after the procedure and can include difficulty breathing, hives, rashes, wheezing and chest tightness.
As you can tell from the list above, it’s important to prepare for the possibility of unpleasant outcomes prior to making your decision to get a tummy tuck. Notify your friends and loved ones ahead of time and explain exactly what you’d prefer them to say if you were ever incapacitated. Finally, follow all instructions provided by your surgeon carefully. If you skip something, contact your surgeon immediately.
In addition to all of the risks mentioned, there are also long-term consequences of getting a tummy tuck that aren’t necessarily bad. People who have experienced extreme weight gain are more likely to develop diabetes. Those who smoke are also at higher risk of dying early. Lastly, people who undergo this procedure are more likely to put unhealthy choices behind them, such as drinking alcohol and skipping exercise.
So the bottom line is this: Don’t get a tummy tuck unless you absolutely need it. Cosmetic surgery isn’t always necessary. Talk to your doctor to determine if you truly are a candidate for this procedure. If you decide to proceed, be prepared for both positive and negative outcomes. Know that you’re doing nothing wrong but simply accepting the reality of the situation.
More than half of U.S. states permit elective cosmetic procedures like Botox injections and face lifts, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. By contrast, only 14 states and Washington DC currently authorize nonemergency cosmetic surgery for minors.
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