How common are complications after abdominoplasty?
Abdominoplasty is a major and popular plastic surgery procedure in the United States. More popularly known as the tummy tuck, abdominoplasty is used to contour the abdomen by removing the excess skin and fat and tightening the separated abdominal wall muscles. There are many factors that cause the abdomen to become saggy and loose, such as pregnancy, weight loss, genetic factors, and aging.
A saggy abdomen looks aesthetically unappealing, which is why many women decide to go under the knife. While abdominoplasty can effectively treat saggy abdomen, making it firmer, toned, and youthful, there are many risks and complications associated with the surgery. Abdominoplasty is a relatively riskier procedure. In this article, we will discuss the complications associated with abdominoplasty.
Abdominoplasty and factors that can trigger complications
As stated above, abdominoplasty involves the removal of excess skin and fat from your abdomen. The surgery results in a firmer, sexier, toned, and youthful abdomen. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and on an outpatient basis.
After the anesthesia administration, the plastic surgeon will place incisions on the abdomen and then tighten the abdominal wall muscles that may have been separated and loosened by weight loss, pregnancy, or aging. In the second step, the surgeon will elevate the navel to a youthful position. Next, the excess skin will be removed. The remaining skin will be re-draped and the incision will be sutured and closed.
Afterwards, the patient will be required to observe a complete recovery process that can extend to 2-3 weeks. During this period, there are a number of complications that may occur. How likely you are to suffer from these complications depends on many factors, such as your overall health, age, care during recovery, the surgeon’s skills and experience, where your surgery is performed, and your lifestyle.
Your health and medication history: You are more likely to experience complications if you have a severe health issue. During the initial consultation, the plastic surgeon will assess your overall health. Be sure to share your complete health and medication history with the doctor. Serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, an autoimmune disorder, hypertension, etc. can increase your chances of experiencing complications after the tummy tuck. Also, there are certain medications like blood thinning medicines that can create complications during and after the surgery.
Smoking and excessive use of alcohol: If you are a smoker and/or use alcohol excessively, you will be at greater risk of complications after the tummy tuck. Smoking has the tendency of affecting the healing process. It can slow down recovery and lead to poor wound healing by blocking the flow of oxygen to the incisions. Smoking will further increase your risk of blood clotting. Likewise, alcohol can increase your risk of excessive bleeding.
Poor skin quality: In order to achieve good and sustainable aesthetic results with abdominoplasty, your skin quality must be good. Your skin should be elastic enough to not become saggy again after the surgery. If your skin quality is poor and the elastin is damaged, chances are you will suffer from aesthetic complications after abdominoplasty.
Food: While there are many foods that are good for your health, certain foods can increase your risk of complications after the tummy tuck. You must ask the surgeon what types of foods can cause complications during and after the surgery and be sure to avoid those foods.
Some examples of foods you should avoid before plastic surgery and during the recovery period include garlic, tomatoes, green tea, flaxseed, eggplant, and ginkgo. Also, there are many vitamin and mineral supplements you will be required to avoid. For example, vitamin E can increase your risk of complications.
What are the complications and how common are they?
The complications associated with abdominoplasty have been explained below. How common they are depend on the above-explained factors.
• Abnormal scarring
Scarring after abdominoplasty is unavoidable. In fact, it is impossible to perform a tummy tuck without incisions, which develop into scars. While in most cases the scars develop normal and fade over time, there are certain factors that increase the patient’s risk of developing abnormal and more visible scars. These factors include the genetic tendency of the patient to develop abnormal scars, carelessness during recovery, and exposure of the abdomen to the sun or direct forms of heat during the first six months following the operation.
• Excessive bleeding
Excessive bleeding is a complication that affects many people with certain health conditions. The complication is more likely if you:
– have diabetes
– have a history of alcohol abuse
– are taking blood thinning medications
– are using certain supplements and herbs
– are careless during the recovery prior
– engage in physical activities during the recovery period
• Internal organ damage
Abdominoplasty involves the removal of excess skin and fat from your abdomen, which increases the risk for internal organ damage during the procedure, which can create health issues for you during recovery. If the surgeon is inexperienced, your risk of internal organ damage is greater.
Infection after abdominoplasty is a common complication. The infection can be mild, moderate, or severe. There are certain people who are more exposed to infections after the tummy tuck. If you have a weak immune system, you may contract infection after the surgery. Also, if you are careless during the recovery and fail to care for the incisions, you may contract an infection.
In order to decrease your risk of infection, the plastic surgeon may prescribe you certain antibiotics to be taken during the recovery period. In case you contract a mild or moderate infection, oral antibiotics will be enough to contain the condition. However, if the infection is severe, you will need IV antibiotic administration.
• Nerve damage and loss of skin sensation
Give that abdominoplasty is a highly invasive procedure and involves skin and fat excision from your body, there is a risk your nerves may be injured or damaged, which can lead to a change in or loss of skin sensation. The nerves maintain the skin sensation, and trauma to the nerves can affect the sensation. The change or loss of skin sensation can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the nerve injury or damage. The likelihood of this complication depends on your plastic surgeon’s skills and experience.
• Anesthesia complications
Abdominoplasty is performed under general anesthesia. There is a risk the patient may experience anesthesia complications. This complication is more common among people who have a history of anesthesia reactions. Also, it depends on who administers, manages, and monitors the anesthesia during the operation. The aesthetic complications during the surgery can lead to health complications and prolonged sickness after the procedure.
• Slow and poor wound healing
There are many patients who may experience slow and poor wound healing after the tummy tuck. For example, if you are a smoker or have been smoking excessively, your risk of poor and slow wound healing is greater. Also, if you are careless during the recovery process, engage in physically strenuous activities, or are careless while sleeping and resting during the recovery period, you may experience slow and poor wound healing. Furthermore, if you have a history of blood clotting, you are more likely to experience poor and slow wound healing after abdominoplasty.
• Seroma and hematoma
Seroma and hematoma are two of the most common complications that happen after abdominoplasty. Seroma occurs when the fluids discharged from your body at the surgery site get trapped under the skin. A hematoma occurs when the blood discharged from your body at the surgery site get trapped and becomes clotted under the skin. The risk of seroma and hematoma is greater if the surgeon doesn’t place drain cannulas at the site of surgery.
• Blood clotting
Blood clotting is also a complication that may occur after abdominoplasty. After the surgery, the patient will be required to take rest for 2-3 weeks, staying mostly in bed. The inactivity can increase your risk of experiencing blood clotting. If you are a smoker, your risk of blood clotting during the recovery period can be greater. This is the reason why patients are told to get up and take slow and short walks every few hours during the abdominoplasty recovery process.
Abdominoplasty is a major and relatively risky surgery. Like other procedures, there are complications associated with the tummy tuck. In this article, I have discussed the complications that may happen after abdominoplasty, the factors that can increase your risk of these complications, and what you can do to prevent these complications. Most of these complications can be prevented by choosing your plastic surgeon carefully, following the surgeon’s instructions, being careful during the recovery period, stopping smoking, and sharing your complete health and medication information with the surgeon.