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Friday, May 20, 2005

The Tummy Tuck:
I Relented & Went Under The Knife (again)

We talked earlier this week about my reconstructive breast surgery. It was painful and emotional. After that considering another elective surgery was out of the question.

It took me a long time, 3 years, about 1-million ab-crunches and a few thousand miles on the treadmill before I gave in and decided to have a tummy tuck. It was my last hope to get rid of the awful belly flap left behind from my obesity.

No matter how thin I appeared, how many compliments I received, I always believed the belly bulge was the equivalent of a wart on the tip of the nose. I was certain it entered the room before me and people stared at it. I loathed how I looked naked.

A tummy tuck, abdominoplasty, is a procedure that flattens your abdomen by removing extra fat and skin, and tightens muscles in your abdominal wall. But be cautioned: This is a major surgery, it is not the easy way out. (Have you ever hear that before - "easy way out?)

I had the tummy tuck last fall. The surgeon cut me hip to hip: I have a 20” scar to prove it. He removed the flap of skin, gave me a new belly button and did some body sculpting with liposuction on my hips and waist. Like the breast surgery, it was done in his surgical suite and I went home that evening heavily medicated. I rested in a reclining chair for several days. Everything was painful and exhausting: sitting, standing, showering, eating. I slept a lot for two weeks. I wore a surgical girdle to keep everything in place.

The surgeon closed the wound with tape and I wore a surgical drain for 10 days (sound familiar?) My body was quite swollen and this messed with my head - - I expected to wake from surgery swimsuit model perfect. Not so. In fact, my measurements after surgery were actually greater than prior to surgery. The swelling lasted, to a lesser degree, for about a month. The good news, within 3 weeks I was back to my walking program on the treadmill.

Now, six months post-op I’m happy to report a firm flat tummy (Who me? The Little Fat Girl? YES!) The incision is still ugly wicked red and tender: wearing jeans is uncomfortable. Still, I’m happy I had the surgery, but don’t even consider asking me if I want any more surgery. I hope I’m done with that forever!

Who Are the Best Candidates For a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck is suitable for both men and women who are in good general health overall.

It should not be confused with a liposuction (the cosmetic surgery used to remove fat deposits), although your surgeon may elect to perform liposuction as part of a tummy tuck.

Women who have muscles and skin stretched by multiple pregnancies may find the procedure useful to tighten those muscles and reduce that skin. A tummy tuck is also an alternative for men or women who were obese at one point in their lives and still have excessive fat deposits or loose skin in the abdominal area.

How a Tummy Tuck is Done

Depending on your desired results, this surgery can take anywhere from one to five hours. The complexity of your particular situation also will determine whether you have it completed as an in-patient or outpatient procedure.
You will receive general anesthesia, which will put you to sleep during the operation. It's important to have someone with you who can drive you home. If you live alone, you also will need someone to stay with you at least the first night after the surgery.

There are two options for a tummy tuck. You and your surgeon will discuss your desired results, and he or she will determine the appropriate procedure during your consultation.

Complete abdominoplasty. Your abdomen will be cut from hipbone to hipbone in this procedure, the option for those patients who require the most correction. The incision will be made low, at about the same level as your pubic hair.

Your surgeon will then manipulate and contour the skin, tissue and muscle as needed. Your belly button will have a new opening if you undergo this procedure, because it's necessary to free your navel from surrounding tissue. Drainage tubes may be placed under your skin and these will be removed in a few days as your surgeon sees fit.

Partial or mini abdominoplasty. Mini-abdominoplasties are often performed on patients whose fat deposits are located below the navel and require shorter incisions.
During this procedure, your belly button most likely will not be moved. Your skin will be separated between the line of incision and your belly button. This type of surgery may also be performed with an endoscope (small camera on the end of a tube). The procedure may only take up to two hours, again, depending on your own personal situation and the complexity of your needs.

In our next plastic surgery installment we’ll talk about the “Full Body Lift” and Brachioplasty (removes batwings under arms).
Best wishes!

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