Tummy tuck surgery, also known as abdominoplasty, is a surgery that can give a firmer, flatter, more defined abdomen by removing loose skin and fat. The abdominal muscles can also be tightened and repaired during this procedure. It is one of the most popular plastic surgery operations in the UK.
2 to 4 hours
0 to 3 nights
6 to 12 months
What can a tummy tuck achieve?
The aim of a tummy tuck is to create a smoother abdomen. The surgeon does this by removing stubborn fat and loose skin that cannot be lost through exercise and diet alone.
Patients should be aware, however, that a tummy tuck is not a weight-loss procedure. It is most suitable for patients who have excess skin from major weight loss or pregnancy. Patients should, therefore, aim to reach their optimal weight before considering having a tummy tuck.
A tummy tuck procedure can:
- Remove loose skin after major weight loss
- Remove excess skin or fat after a pregnancy
- Tighten weak stomach muscles
- Repair stomach muscles that have separated.
The surgeon may also choose to include liposuction with the abdominoplasty. This is because liposuction can help contour the body more precisely, and therefore help achieve a more shapely figure. Some surgeons include liposuction in all of their abdominoplasty procedures and some do not. It is worth asking the surgeon if they will include liposuction with the tummy tuck.
In addition to the changes made to the figure patients may also see improvements with unwanted:
- Stretch marks.
But this is not the main goal of the surgery.
How much does tummy tuck surgery cost?
The price of tummy tuck surgery can vary between £3000 to £9000, on average, in the UK patients can expect to pay around £7000 for tummy tuck surgery. There are various factors that could contribute to price fluctuations such as
- Hospital fees
- Anaesthetist expertise
- Surgeon experience
- The complexity of the procedure for an individual's case
- Amount of hours required in surgery for each patient's case
- Additional combined procedure requirements, for example, the addition of liposuction
In order to get a tailored price adapted to an individual's needs, patients will need to be examined by a surgeon during the consultation to ascertain what is possible for the patient's body and expectations. A patient's personalised price is all-inclusive and shall take into account all of the patient's requirements, the tailored abdominoplasty price will cover:
- Highly rated CQC hospital cost
- Surgeon's experience (BAAPS/BAPRAS)
- Anaesthetist time and expertise
- Any overnight stays that are required
- Follow-up appointments and aftercare
Tummy tuck consultations, like all plastic surgery consultations, are free with no obligation. An abdominoplasty consultation will allow patients to ask all their questions, get to know the surgeon better and for the surgeon to be able to assess them and make the patient aware of the possible outcomes of their tummy tuck surgery.
Candidates & Medical Conditions
Why have a tummy tuck?
It is important to be aware that a tummy tuck is not a type of weight loss surgery. It is therefore not an appropriate procedure for patients if they are seeking to lose more weight. The ideal tummy tuck candidates include patients who have a stable weight and are looking to remove stubborn fat and excess skin that they cannot remove through exercise and diet alone.
Ideal tummy tuck candidates include those who:
- Are not happy with the look of their abdomen
- Want to remove excess skin or fat from their abdomen
- Have loose or weak abdominal muscles that need tightening
- Are not currently pregnant or planning a future pregnancy.
Before considering having an abdominoplasty, patients are advised to make sure that they are:
- Physically and emotionally fit for surgery
- Not smoking or using nicotine products for at least 6 weeks before the operation
- Willing to adopt a healthy diet and do regular exercise to maintain results after surgery
- Expecting realistic goals from the operation.
- Reached a stable weight for at least 3 months
Who is not suitable for a tummy tuck?
As tummy tuck surgery is not a procedure that aids weight loss, surgeons only recommend this operation for patients who have stubborn fat or excess skin that cannot be removed through exercise or diet alone. Patients should be aware that major weight loss or weight gain after the operation may affect the results of the procedure. Its is, therefore, recommended that patients reach an optimal and stable weight before having a tummy tuck procedure.
If patients are planning on becoming pregnant, tummy tuck surgery may not be suitable until after completing their family. This is because the surgery will sometimes involve tightening of the abdominal muscles, which will stretch during pregnancy. Therefore having a pregnancy after an abdominoplasty will stretch the muscles back to their pre-surgery state.
A common condition that affects patients’ weight is hypothyroidism. When left untreated, it can very easily lead to weight gain. Patients with hypothyroidism do not produce enough thyroid hormone, which is involved in how fast a patient’s metabolism is. It can be diagnosed by a blood test from a doctor and is often treated with thyroxine tablets to replace the low levels of hormone being produced. When patients’ thyroid levels are more stable, they find it easier to lose any weight put on and once at a stable weight, the tummy tuck procedure can remove the symptoms from the weight fluctuation.
Many patients have undergone abdominal surgery in the past and find the scarring from such operations unsightly. Hysterectomies, laparoscopies and C-sections are common procedures patients feel unhappy with the scarring left. Depending on the tummy tuck performed and how much excess skin the patient has, plastic surgeons may be able to remove such scars leaving smaller neater scars.
Pregnancy can take a toll on patients’ bodies, and for some, the abdominal muscles can become separated due to the womb pushing them out. This muscle separation is called diastasis recti. The muscles will in most cases, return to their normal state about eight weeks after giving birth, but for some patients, the muscles remain protruded despite abdomen tightening exercises. During a tummy tuck, the surgeon can tighten the abdominal muscles back together, but in the extreme separation of muscles, an abdominal surgeon is likely needed.
How is a tummy tuck procedure performed?
A tummy tuck procedure often lasts between 2 to 4 hours. Before patients have the procedure, they must follow the advice given for eating, drinking and taking medications the night before.
The procedure involves the following steps:
Before or on the day of surgery, patients will be given a consent form to sign by your surgeon and anaesthetist. After having given consent, the surgeon will draw lines on the abdomen and discuss the goals of the tummy tuck.
Before the surgeon starts performing the tummy tuck surgery, the anaesthetist will give an anaesthetic. This is usually a general anaesthetic but may also be a local anaesthetic with IV (intravenous) sedation.
There are several tummy tuck techniques that the surgeon may use. The surgeon will choose which technique is most appropriate for you. The incisions made depend on the type of tummy tuck you have.
There are four different procedures that are currently used for tummy tuck surgery:
- Full abdominoplasty
- Mini (modified) abdominoplasty
- Endoscopic abdominoplasty
- Fleur-de-Lis abdominoplasty
A full tummy tuck procedure involves making two different incisions:
- The first one is made around the belly button.
- The second one is made along the bikini line, from one hip to the other.
This is the ‘classic’ tummy tuck technique that targets both the upper and lower abdomen. The surgeon will sometimes tighten the abdominal muscles and remove excess skin and fat. It is most suitable for patients who have recently lost a great deal of weight or women who have excess, stubborn fat and weak muscles after pregnancy.
A full tummy tuck is not suitable for patients who are planning a future pregnancy as the pregnancy will re-stretch the muscles and reverse the results of surgery.
Although a full abdominoplasty causes a large amount of scarring, it allows for a greater improvement in shape than a mini or endoscopic tummy tuck.
Mini (modified) abdominoplasty
A mini tummy tuck mainly targets the lower abdomen. The surgeon will make a single incision line made across the bikini line (smaller than in a full tummy tuck). There is no scar around the belly button as this is not moved in a mini tummy tuck.
Surgeons use this technique when only a small amount of excess skin and fat needs removal. The surgeon may or may not tighten the muscles, depending on necessity. While not ideal, it is a more suitable option for patients planning a future pregnancy, but as pregnancy will stretch abdominal muscles, patients may need revision surgery if they give birth after the procedure.
A mini tummy tuck causes a smaller amount of scarring than a full tummy tuck, however, the final results are not as effective.
For an endoscopic tummy tuck, the surgeon will make several small incisions in the following areas:
- Around the pubic line and
- Around the base of the belly button.
The surgeon then uses a small camera called an ‘endoscope’ with small surgical instruments attached to perform the procedure.
This technique is the least invasive and is most suitable for patients with a protruding abdomen and a small amount of excess skin. It is the best option in patients for whom muscle tightening is the main goal.
This technique causes very minimal scarring that can easily be concealed.
The three incisions made in a Fleur-de-Lys tummy tuck include:
- Around the belly button
- Across the bikini line, from one hip to the other
- Vertically down the middle of the stomach.
This technique is the most extreme type of tummy tuck and is not often used. It is most suitable for patients who have lost a very large amount of weight, resulting in large amounts of excess skin. This can be a result of having weight loss surgery such as a gastric bypass.
This type of tummy tuck causes a large amount of scarring but allows for the greatest amount of improvement. This approach helps deal with skin laxity both above and below the belly button.
Closure of incisions
After the surgeon removes the excess skin and fat and tightens the muscles, they then close the incisions. They will apply some tape and strapping to the stomach. They may also insert some drains to help reduce swelling and bruising.
Return to the ward
Finally, patients are taken back to the ward to recover from the anaesthetic. Patients should be able to go home after spending 1 to 3 nights in the hospital. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for the swelling and bruising to go down before they can appreciate the full cosmetic results of your procedure. Some surgeons will advise post-operative manual lymphatic massage, which can help with the post-operative swelling which is often encountered.
The surgeon will discuss the different techniques with the patient and will suggest which procedure will achieve the best results for their body. Their choice will depend on a number of factors including:
What to expect from the consultation?
Patients will meet their surgeon for a tummy tuck consultation which will usually last 15 minutes to an hour. During this consultation, the surgeon will discuss all aspects of the surgery and answer any questions patients may have.
When assessing which tummy tuck technique is most suitable for the patient's body, the surgeon will consider the following:
- The amount of excess skin and fat
- Skin’s elasticity
- The tone and strength of the stomach muscles
- All past and current medical conditions
- Plans to become pregnant in the future.
After the surgeon has taken a medical history, they will also take some photographs of the abdomen They will then discuss the following:
- Goals for the procedure
- The risks and complications of a tummy tuck
- The likely outcome of surgery
- Current use of medications (including prescribed, over-the-counter and herbal drugs)
- Smoking, alcohol and recreational drug use
- Any previous surgeries
Questions to ask during a tummy tuck consultation
The consultation time is the best opportunity for patients to be as honest as they can be with the surgeon. Patients should be candid about what they would like to achieve from surgery. This will allow the surgeon to explore if this is possible or not.
Some important questions patients may want to ask their surgeon include:
- Am I a good candidate for a tummy tuck?
- What can I do to get the best results?
- How will results change over time?
- To see before and after pictures from previous tummy tuck procedures
High-quality surgeons will want to help you achieve the best possible results from the tummy tuck. Being honest during the consultation will help them to do this.
Risks and Complications
What are the main tummy tuck risks?
It is important for patients to educate themselves on the potential tummy tuck risks and complications. This will make sure that they make a fully informed decision before having surgery. The following tummy tuck risks and complications include:
General surgical & anaesthetic complications
All surgeries carry some common risks. These include (but are not limited to): blood clot formation, vomiting and nausea, blood loss, infection and problems with anaesthesia. Patients will be made aware of all the possible risks before they have surgery, and every effort will be made to prevent any complications from occurring.
A seroma is a pocket of fluid that builds up under the skin. This usually develops under or around the incision site. To reduce the risk of a seroma developing, your surgeon may place drains in the abdomen to drain excess fluid build-up. If the surgeon keeps these in place after the surgery, they will give the patient-specific instructions on how best to take care of them.
Bleeding, bruising & haematomas
Patients should expect to experience some minor bruising and bleeding after the surgery. In some cases, patients may experience more excessive bleeding. Any major bleeding usually happens during the procedure, and the surgeon resolves it right away. However, it can occasionally occur a few weeks later. If this does happen, patients may need to have further surgery. With time, things should settle down and it is unlikely to affect the results of the surgery.
Tissue, skin or fat necrosis
During a tummy tuck procedure, there may be some disruption to the blood supply in certain areas. This can result in a loss of blood supply to the skin, fat and tissues in and around your stomach. If the disruption is large enough, it may result in ‘necrosis’, which is the death and loss of tissue, skin or fat.
Depending on the amount of tissue that is affected, the damage may resolve itself within a few weeks or patients may need to have further minor surgery to remove the dead tissue.
Smoking increases the risk of necrosis occurring. It is, for this reason, it is strongly recommended that patients stop smoking at least 6 weeks before and after surgery.
Patients must take infections seriously if they occur. They are often mild wound infections that your surgeon can treat with a short course of antibiotics. Rarely, the infection can spread and become more severe. If this occurs, patients may need to go back into the hospital for treatment.
There is always a risk that you may be unhappy with the aesthetic results of your surgery. It is, therefore, advised patients choose their surgeon carefully and make sure they fully understand all expectations.
Changes in skin sensation (nerve damage)
There may be some damage to the nerve supply in the abdominal area during a tummy tuck. This may cause patients to feel an increase or decrease in sensation in certain parts of their stomach, or (rarely) upper thighs. Patients may also feel strange sensations such as tingling or burning. These changes are often temporary and should resolve a few months after the procedure. They can, however, become permanent.
Scarring is an inevitable outcome of all types of tummy tuck procedures. Where possible, the surgeon will place incision lines in areas that are less visible. Some patients may experience more severe scarring such as keloid or hypertrophic scars. These patients, however, are often aware of this prior to surgery.
The surgeon can give you specific advice regarding how patients can reduce the appearance of scars. It is worth noting that scars can take up to 18 months to fully settle.
Choosing a highly experienced and skilled BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will reduce the risk of developing any of the above complications. This is one of the reasons why it is important to choose a surgeon carefully. It is essential that patients follow the surgeon’s pre and postoperative advice to further reduce the risk of complications.
What can I expect after a tummy tuck?
What happens after a tummy tuck?
Patients will need to spend 1 to 3 nights in the hospital for close monitoring. Before patients go home, the surgeon will arrange an appointment so patients can return within a few weeks to have stitches removed (if they are not dissolvable). Patients may not be able to drive for 5 days to 2 weeks after surgery, depending on the surgeon’s advice. Patients must, therefore, arrange a chaperone to help with transport home.
It is very important that patients follow the tummy tuck aftercare instructions given by the surgeon, including specific advice on how to take care of any drains patients are sent home with. To reduce the risk of blood clots developing, patients should start light walking as soon as possible. Surgeons also recommend that for the first few days after surgery patients remain flexed at the hips and avoid straightening their torso. This will prevent patients from placing extra strain on their surgical incision sites.
Showering & bathing
The surgeon will give patients specific advice on when they will be able to shower and bathe after surgery. Some surgeons may allow patients to shower right away, whilst others may ask you to wait up to 48 hours after surgery.
After washing, it is recommended to dry stitch lines carefully with a towel. Patients should also avoid hot tubs and saunas for at least 4 weeks.
When it comes to scar care, there are a number of techniques that the surgeon may recommend that can aid the healing of scars following surgery. These include:
- Massaging scars – if the surgeon recommends this, patients should start only after incisions fully heal and any scabs disappear on their own.
- Silicone sheets, gels or creams – use this on the scar for 6 months to 1 year once it has fully healed.
- Keep the scars out of the sun and use a high factor sunscreen. This helps to avoid skin colour differences and protect the damaged skin.
The surgeon will advise if they feel you would benefit from Lymphatic massage after your surgery. This can be started from as early as day 3 post-operation. It is not always indicated for every patient. It can help with post-operative swelling. This form of treatment will be an additional cost to your surgery.
Going back to work
If patients have a desk job, surgeons often advise that they take at least 2 weeks off work. If the job includes physical activity, e.g. wait staff, the usual advice is to take at least 3 to 4 weeks off work.
In any case, patients should try to avoid even light duties for at least 2 to 4 weeks.
Sports & exercise
The surgeon will tell you when patients are able to resume regular sports and exercise again. However, in general, it is recommended the following:
Weeks 1 to 2
It is recommended that no exercise is done during this period as even minor aerobic activities may cause swelling. Patients should, however, take light walks to prevent blood clots from forming. It's advised that patients avoid sexual activity for at least 2 weeks as this can also increase swelling and bruising.
Be sure that patients do not raise arms above the shoulders, push anything or lay on the stomach.
Weeks 2 to 4
After 2 weeks, patients should be able to resume very light cardio activity such as walking on a treadmill.
Weeks 4 to 8
After 4 weeks, patients may resume more vigorous activities such as cycling, but nothing that involves heavy lifting or contact sports.
After 8 weeks
8 weeks after having the tummy tuck procedure patients should be able to resume all sports and activities.
An important part of the tummy tuck aftercare involves wearing a post-operative compression garment. This is a tight corset that must be worn around the abdomen to help reduce swelling after surgery. The surgeon will give you very specific advice regarding how long to wear your garment, but most surgeons require patients to wear it day and night for 4 to 6 weeks, only removing it to bathe.
It will take some time before patients are able to see the final results of the surgery. Patients will have bruising and swelling around the abdomen for the first 6 to 8 weeks. Once all the swelling and bruising settles, patients can begin to see the full, permanent results of the tummy tuck. However, patients should be aware that it can take 6 to 9 months before everything completely settles.
In order to preserve the results of the tummy tuck surgery for as long as possible, it is important to try your best to maintain a stable weight through regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Tummy Tuck Surgery FAQs
It is important that patients get answers to all the questions they have about the surgery so that they can make a fully informed decision. This tummy tuck FAQs page answers some common questions patients have.
Tummy Tuck Surgery FAQs
Tummy Tuck Surgery Recovery and Postoperative FAQs
Manjeet's Tummy Tuck (Full)
I highly recommend Medbelle/Dr Vijh as you are in the safest and most expert and professional hands. I’m thoroughly over the moon with my result. Thank you so much Dr Vijh & Medbelle.Read more >
Kim's Tummy Tuck (Full)
It’s a year on now and it’s fab. I don’t regret it at all. I wish I’d done it a few years earlier.Read more >
Tahlii Kassin's Mini Tummy Tuck
An entire month has passed & I am quite happy with my results and progress which continue to improveRead more >
Amina's Tummy Tuck (Full)
I feel much more confident now and I can wear a lot more without that stubborn bulge sticking outRead more >
Tracey's Tummy Tuck (Full)
I have wanted a tummy tuck since my youngest daughter was a year old, she is now 28.Read more >
Learn more about tummy tuck surgery
Tummy tuck surgeries are very popular in the UK and there are various techniques surgeons use to achieve certain goals