Apron Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)
What Is An Apron?
When a person has lost a lot of weight from around the lower abdomen (tummy), the skin that was previously stretched may not return to its previous tightness. There are often other reasons that have led to the loose skin developing over time, including the skin stretching through pregnancy (with stretch marks to prove this), and poor abdominal muscle tone and damage which is again often due to pregnancy. The resulting skin can cause an unsightly loose flabby flap, hanging down onto and over the bikini line. Many women find this really distressing and it can lead to low self-esteem and low self-image. When wearing even the loosest fitting clothes, it is impossible to give the stomach a flattened appearance, and the problem becomes huge when considering swimwear, underwear and clothes that skim the silhouette of the body.
How Can A Tummy Tuck Help?
The tummy tuck is a surgical procedure designed to remove the excess skin and fat, or apron, from the abdominal area. The medical term for this is an abdominoplasty and the average UK cost for this procedure is around £5,000. The surgery will flatten the stomach considerably, and in some cases, may produce a flatter stomach than the patient ever had before. The procedure also aims to repair any abdominal muscle damage that may have occurred during pregnancy, and it should improve the appearance of any stretch marks across the tummy.
Contrary to popular belief, a tummy tuck and panniculectomy are not similar procedures.
While a tummy tuck involves the removal of excess fat and skin, a panniculectomy only involves the removal of tissue. The abdominal muscles are also tightened during a tummy tuck, which they are not with a panniculectomy. This means the results are different, and that certain individuals are better suited to one procedure than the other.
In order to avoid any misconceptions or disappointments, make sure you have thorough discussions with your surgeon ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
The procedure is carried out under a general anaesthetic, and will involve a hospital stay of up to four nights. The operation itself does take time, usually about three hours, under a specialist surgeon. Depending on the amount of apron to be removed, the tummy tuck may be a standard tummy tuck, but more likely an extended tummy tuck; one which is able to remove the large excess of abdominal skin and adipose (fat) tissue. There is also a mini tuck which is suitable for small amounts of excess skin. During the operation, a long cut is made across the abdomen, just above the bikini line. Another cut is necessary around the belly button, as this will need to be repositioned once all the excess skin and fat has been removed. The surgeon will repair any damage to muscles in the abdomen, then remove the apron of skin and fat, before putting the belly button back into the correct position (from which it will have moved during the apron removal), and finally the wounds will be stitched and bandaged.
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Planning For Surgery
Planning your panniculectomy should consist of meticulous research ahead of choosing a clinic, followed by a personal pre-operative chosen plastic surgeon.
It is vital to ensure clear communication so that you can manage your expectations, and prepare your body physically for surgery accordingly. As each individual patient is different, so too will be the experience and the long-term benefits. Your surgeon will discuss these with you, and further to that suggest the right surgical technique and treatment plan that best suits your needs. When you arrive for your consultation, be sure to provide your complete medical history, including the details of any previous surgical procedures. You should also disclose past and present medical conditions, and whether you are taking any medications or herbal supplements currently.
Your surgeon will carry out a physical examination of your abdomen to determine the quality and elasticity of the skin, whether there is any existing scar tissue, the status of the underlying muscles, and how much tissue will need to be removed. During this time, they will also discuss with you any steps required for preparation, along with possible risks and complications that can arise as a result of the procedure.
In order to be deemed a suitable candidate for the contouring procedure known as panniculectomy, you should be in good health overall, and not be suffering from any active diseases.
You should not have any pre-existing medical conditions, and should be of sound mental mind and be able to have realistic expectations of the surgery.
Panniculectomy does not treat obesity and cannot be used as a substitute for healthy diet and exercise, and so eligible candidates should have an understanding of this. If you are planning to become pregnant or to achieve further weight loss, you should discuss these plans with your surgeon as they could impact your eligibility for the procedure.
You may not be deemed a suitable candidate if you smoke, have recently given up smoking, or a still exposed to second-hand smoke. This is because smoking can decrease the blood flow to the body’s tissue, which can impair healing following surgery significantly.
Preparing For Surgery
Ahead of your panniculectomy, your surgeon will provide you with the information you need to prepare for the procedure.
This pre-operative information packet will contain information about what to do and what to avoid in the lead-up to your surgery. For example, you will be given guidelines regarding what to eat and drink, smoking cessation, and what sort of vitamins and medications should be taken or avoided in preparation. You will also receive information about how to prepare to be discharged, and the arrangements you’ll need to make to return home from hospital.
Post Operative Care & Outcome
There will be discomfort after the procedure, and painkillers will almost certainly be required. Most patients awaken to find a bladder drain (catheter), and drainage tubes from the abdomen wound have been fitted. There is usually also a drip given to recovering patients until they are able to drink fluids themselves. Painkillers and dressings are usually necessary for several weeks after the procedure, as there are two wounds with stitches; care must particularly be taken with the long wound around the bikini line, as a lot of movement can cause the healing wounds to reopen. However, the end results after a few weeks of healing, is a wonderfully flattened tummy and fading scars.