Making the decision to undergo a surgical procedure should not be taken lightly. For patients with loose, excess skin and muscles that are not supported by the overlying tissue called “fascia,” a tummy tuck is typically the way to help achieve a flat and firm abdomen. Board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Kulick, can explain the health risks of a tummy tuck, which is an overall safe surgical procedure.

Gone are the days where society frowns upon seeking professional help to deal with an issue that can’t always be resolved by diet and exercise. Tummy tuck surgery, known as an abdominoplasty, has increased 107 percent1 from 2000 to 2017. Significant complications from this surgery can be as low as 4 percent2. All surgical procedures have some risks, and patients who are high-risk due to age, obesity, smoking, diabetes or other factors are more likely to experience difficulties following surgery. Combining surgeries, such as a tummy tuck with liposuction, can increase the likelihood of complications.

Complications Following A Tummy Tuck

To alleviate complications, you may elect to spend one night in the hospital to optimize your comfort levels immediately following surgery. Patients are also asked to follow the post-Abdominoplasty surgery instructions that are provided to you. Our office will be in touch with you regularly to check on progress, answer immediate questions, and schedule your post-operative appointment with Dr. Kulick. For the first week or two, you will have limited mobility, but your stamina will increase shortly. Patients typically wear a compression garment for four to six weeks to maximize results from the tummy tuck and reduce swelling. Some patients report pain, swelling, or slow wound healing longer than the 4-week period.

As with any surgery, Dr. Kulick will discuss the risks with you prior to surgery. The most common tummy tuck complication is a hematoma or seroma, which is an accumulation of blood or fluid under the skin. A drainage tube can be used to remedy this issue. A small percentage of patients require additional treatment including antibiotics or a drainage procedure to rid the body of such fluid. Patients should be expected to have a scar where the incisions are made, but as a professional, Dr. Kulick strives to minimize the appearance of the scar by creating incisions low on the torso within the bikini line so they can be hidden by underwear or a swimming suit. The noticeability of the scar varies due to patient anatomy and individual needs.

Scarring And Sensation Following Tummy Tuck Surgery

We will also check your scar to make sure there is no infection or other complications. Patients may experience altered sensation in the abdominal area. As healing progresses, patients should regain normal sensation. Some people experience lingering numbness or a reduced feeling in the area. Changes in skin sensation should diminish in the months following the procedure, although altered sensation can last up to two years. After a tummy tuck, some lumps and bumps can be seen or felt in the area of the procedure, although it is very rare with a board certified physician. Once the internal sutures have dissolved and swelling has gone away, so should these uneven places. Patients should expect some pain, and it varies from patient to patient. Pain medications will be prescribed, and patients should following post-operative instructions for rest and limiting activity to reduce the severity of post-operative discomfort.

Rare Complications Of Tummy Tucks

Exploring The Health Risks Of A Tummy Tuck

Tissue necrosis, or dead tissue, is another fairly rare complication of tummy tuck surgery. A lack of blood flow to healing tissues causes it to die. If it is minor necrosis, it can be treated with non-surgical techniques ,but severe necrosis may require follow-up operations. Tissue necrosis is more likely in patients who smoke or who have had heart or blood vessel disease. If a wound is not healing properly, whether from wound separation or wound infection, it is best to consult the patient care team.

Disclosing Medical Information Prior To Your Tummy Tuck

When you are consulting with Dr. Kulick, it is crucial to disclose all medical information to reduce risks associated with surgery. As with any surgery, several risk factors to need to be discussed. The tummy tuck procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and those who have experienced adverse effects in the past such as temporary nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, sore throat, or hypothermia should be disclosed to your doctor. Patients rarely develop blood clots in the legs or lung, sometimes known as DVT – deep venous thrombosis. A National Plastic Surgery Survey3 reported complication rates for DVT was only .04 percent and pulmonary embolism, a blockage to the lungs, was 0.02 percent in 1,016 full abdominoplasties. Some patients experience allergic reactions to medications, surgical materials, and latex. The risk of allergic response can be reduced by discussing these reactions with your surgeon. Another surgical complication is fat embolism, where fat is caught in the blood or lungs. Although, it is rarely seen in tummy tuck procedures, but it is more common in leg fractures. This embolism will present itself within 12 to 72 hours of surgery and cause rapid breathing shortness of breath, mental confusion, lethargy, coma, pinpoint rash, fever, and anemia. Left untreated it can cause inflammation, multi-organ dysfunction, and neurological changes.

Contact Dr. Kulick, a leading board certified plastic surgeon in San Francisco, help you make an informed decision about the risks associated with a tummy tuck. Make sure you know and bring your full medical history including medications and past surgical information to your consultation. If you smoke, it will be recommended you stop smoking. We can discuss the potential risks and complications and to mitigate these risks preoperatively and after your surgery. Be prepared with questions to ask before signing the consent form. Our team will also help you identify potential warning signs of a complication and how to handle it, if they arise.

Interested In A Tummy Tuck?

Additional Resources

  1. American Society Of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Plastic Surgery Statistics Report. Retrieved from https://www.plasticsurgery.org/documents/News/Statistics/2017/plastic-surgery-statistics-full-report-2017.pdf
  2. Science Daily. ‘Tummy tuck’ complications: Study Looks at rates and risk factors. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151029124815.htm
  3. Research Gate. Abdominoplasty and Abdominal Contour Surgery: A National Plastic Surgery Survey. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6547921_Abdominoplasty_and_Abdominal_Contour_Surgery_A_National_Plastic_Surgery_Survey

Dr. Michael Kulick, MD is a leading board certified plastic surgeon in San Francisco, California. During an initial consultation, he’ll examine your individual anatomy, discuss all your options, and create a unique treatment plan along with any other necessary procedures. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of plastic surgery and are looking for a qualified cosmetic surgeon, use this online form to request a consultation with Dr. Kulick or call 415-956-2550.