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What Are the Risks of Getting a Tummy Tuck?

What is it like waking up from anesthesia and what should I expect after Tummy Tuck? Is it that bad or should I have nothing to worry about? I'm heatlhy and I dont smoke. I had a tumor removed from my sinuses 3 years ago and was wondering if it would be a risk for me to go under again.

Doctor Answers (12)

Risks of Tummy Tuck

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Patients generally feel sluggish and tired after general anesthesia for tummy tuck, but provided that they do not have significant problems with their heart and lungs, most people don't have significant problems. There are many general risks from tummy tuck, which are outlined in the following paragraphs.

Although very infrequent, it is possible to bleed excessively after tummy tuck and require another procedure to stop the bleeding and drain the accumulated blood (hematoma). Some patients also develop a collection of watery fluid called a seroma. A seroma can serve as a significant nuisance postoperatively, and can interfere with the re-draping of the abdominal skin. Seromas are usually treated by repeated aspirations of the fluid over several weeks after surgery; sometimes, they require placement of a drain many weeks after surgery.

A significant amount of skin and fat is removed and rearranged during tummy tuck surgery. If the blood flow to a portion of skin or fat is diminished, that tissue can die, leading to problems with normal wound healing. If a pocket of fat dies, it tends to turn into an orange-yellow fluid and drain from the incision. More significant pockets of dead fat can turn into hard lumps below the skin. Death of the skin can lead to an open wound after surgery. Usually this heals, but it can take several weeks for final healing to occur. If the scar is thick or wide after this, sometimes a secondary scar revision is required. The chances of skin or fat dying are markedly increased if patients are using tobacco products.

Pulmonary embolism is quite rare, but is the most feared risk after tummy tuck. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot which has broken loose from the veins of the leg or thigh and travels in the bloodstream to the lungs. If a clot travels to the lungs, it can cause serious breathing problems and, in severe cases, can cause death. Pulmonary emboli usually happen within the first 2-3 days of surgery, with the most common symptoms being shortness of breath, a racing heart, and fatigue. The risks of pulmonary embolism are markedly reduced by walking as soon as possible after tummy tuck. In addition, anti-embolism compressive devices are placed on all patients during tummy tuck, and some patients also receive injectable blood thinners. All of these treatments in combination can help keep the risk of pulmonary embolism to a minimum.

In some patients, the scars end up healing wider or thicker than expected. If this is the case, several months after surgery, a scar revision may be required to allow the incision to heal as a thin, flat and fine line.

That's a general overview of the risks of tummy tuck. More specific questions can be answered during a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Hope this helps. Best of luck!


Dallas Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

What Are the Risks of Getting a Tummy Tuck?

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The majority of serious complications that may occur with tummy tuck surgery occur within the first 2 weeks.  These may include deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, infection, bleeding, and even death.    Fortunately, the  potential for these types of major complications are very small,  assuming careful selection of plastic surgeon, anesthesiologist, and fully accredited surgery facility. Other types of complications that are more likely ( but still much less than 50%) include superficial incision line healing problems ( wound healing problems), seromas,  abdominal wall asymmetry, abnormal scarring, unsatisfactory cosmetic result…   You may benefit from additional consultation with your selected plastic surgeon to address specific concerns/questions. Patients going into surgery should do so in a confident/calm fashion;  doing so generally results in a smoother recovery process. Best wishes. 

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 791 reviews

Risks of Tummy Tuck

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A tummy tuck can be performed safely if performed by a board certified plastic surgeon who is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the procedure if completed in an accredited facility. Of course, patient selection is critical. If you are healthy and a non-smoker, the risks for general anesthesia is very very low.

Your surgeon should peform a complete history and targeted physical exam. If there are any concerns, often an internist will be involved to obtain clearance before surgery. The risks of the procedure include delayed healing, bleeding, fluid collection (seroma), infection, and deep venous thrombosis.

Fortunately, these events are extremely rare. Abdominoplasty remains a very safe procedure and overwhelming majority of patients are very happy w their results and experience.

C. Bob Basu, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 128 reviews

Tummy tuck and risks

+1

Hi, the risks of any surgery include bleeding and infection. With a tummy tuck, the specific risks also include seroma (collection of fluid under the skin), scarring, and prolonged numbness of the skin. General anesthesia is much safer than many people think, and reactions are very unusual. Your prior surgery does not put you at higher risk for surgery. You should make sure that you use a licensed center and a board-certified plastic surgeon to ensure your safety. In terms of recovery, most patients are sore for the first week or so. It is much less painful than a C-section, as the muscles are only being tightened, and are not cut. Good luck, /nsn.

Nina S. Naidu, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Risks of tummy tuck

+1

Dear Mom

There are certains risks in surgery that are pertinent to almost all procedure - bleeding, infection, scarring, hematoma (bleeding under the skin) and seromas (fluid collections under the skin. There are also complications that are particular to tummy tucks such as asymmetry, skin loss, elevation of the pubic area, and the one that would be most feared of pulmonary emboli or blood clots to the lung. All of these should be discussed with you by your plastic surgeon prior to any surgery.

If you are concerned about the risks of anesthesia and "coming out" after the operation I have done quite a few cases under spinal with great patient satisfaction.

I hope this helps you somewhat. Good luck with the surgery.

Steven Schuster, MD
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Risks of a tummy tuck

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As with all surgical procedures, there are risks with a tummy tuck.  Bleeding and infection should be extremely rare.  A seroma is a nusiance complication and the most dangerous risk is a deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. 

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Complications associated with tummy tuck

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A complication is an unwanted event that cannot be foreseen or prevented. Every operation has them.

Assuming you do not have major systemic diseases (heart disease, insulin dependent diabetes, some autoimmune diseases and do not smoke (as you said), tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is an extremely safe procedure with a VERY low rate of complications. Among its complications are bleeding, infection, unsightly scar, blood clots in the deep veins (DVT) which can migrate to the lungs (pulmonary embolism), among others.

Done in the right person, this operation produces some of our happiest women and literally transforms lives.

Good Luck.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 66 reviews

Risks of tummy tuck

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There are risks to crossing the street or flying in an airplane and, of course, there are risks to any surgical procedure.  These risks can occur regardless of surgeon or technique. These include but are not limited to: infection, hematoma/seroma, discomfort, wound breakdown, hypertrophic scar formation, asymmetry, unfavorable healing, palpable sutures, depressed scars, deep venous thrombosis with/without pulmonary embolism, distortion with muscular contraction, discomfort, numbness, interference with subsequent surgical procedures, need for secondary surgical revisions, and inabiltity to guarantee a specific cosmetic result.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Need to prevent blood clots after tummy tuck.

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Hi!

1) In Manhattan, we do a tummy tuck in our office operating room. You walk out and go home with a nurse 3 hours after surgery. So that gives you an idea that the recovery is uncomfortable, but not that terrible.

2) It is very safe surgery. The one serious complication that does happen occasionally is a blood clot in the leg that can go to the lung (pulmonary embolus). We (and most plastic surgeons) use a number of measures to prevent blood clots.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Risks of Tummy Tuck

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A TT, like all surgery, carries a risk of the anesthetic, bleeding, and infection. In addition, the is a risk of poor scar formation and tissue necrosis which is greatly reduced for you since you do not smoke. Your previous anesthetic, assuming there were no complications, should have no adverse effect on your TT.

John Whitt, MD
Louisville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.