Ask a doctor

Tummy Tuck - Is It Safe? What Are the Risks and Side Effects?

How safe is a tummy tuck?

Doctor Answers 31

Have a question? Ask a doctor

A tummy tuck is an elective, cosmetic procedure that is...

A tummy tuck is an elective, cosmetic procedure that is done under a general anesthetic and it has a well recognized set of risks associated with it.

The term 'safety' is relative to the individual patient's perspective. In general terms, it is a safe procedure.

The risks of the procedure related to the surgical wound include infection, wound healing problems, fluid collecting underneath the wound (seroma). The cumulative risk of these problems is about 10-15% in a non-smoking patient. These wound issues can be managed by your plastic surgeon post-operatively, and usually will not affect the long term result of the tummy tuck in a substantial way.

The risks of the procedure related to the surgery and the general anesthetic include deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and anesthetic complications. This is by no means a complete list, but the risk of these complications approaches 1/1000 cases.

For more information on abdominoplasty, take a look at my website which has an article on the topic.

Tummy tuck risks

Hello. Tummy tucks (abdominoplasties) are very commonly performed surgeries with a high satisfaction rate. I have performed over 1000 of these procedures and the patients are among my happiest. This surgery corrects the loose  skin, stretch marks, lax abdominal muscles and excess tummy fat often seen after pregnancy or weight gain/loss and that do not respond well to diet and exercise.

Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with tummy tucks. These include infection, blood or fluid collections under the skin, prolonged numbness, poor scars, blood clots etc. However, in healthy  patients with few or no risk factors, this procedure is very safe with a low rate of serious complications. Make sure that your surgeon is a board-certified plastic surgeon with significant experience in this type of surgery and you are likley to have an excellent outcome.

Arie Benchetrit, MD
Montreal Plastic Surgeon
2.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Tummy Tuck Safety

A tummy tuck, like any plastic surgery procedure can be very safe. Patient selection is important as health issues could result in complications. It is critical to select an experienced board certified plastic surgeon who operates in an accredited facility. It is also imperative to have a board-certified anesthesiologist administering anesthesia. 

Post operative care is critical and an important part of the surgical process. Be sure to have post operative appointments scheduled before surgery and report any concerns to your plastic surgeon's office right away.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

A tummy tuck is a safe procedure IF it is performed on a...

A tummy tuck is a safe procedure IF it is performed on a healthy non-obese patient and is performed by an American Board of Plastic Surgery certified surgeon who performs the surgery frequently.

The most significant complications that can occur from a tummy tuck are fluid collections in the wound after your drain is removed and blood clots in the veins. The first of these is a nuisance problem that resolves with drawing out the fluid with syringes. The second problem, namely blood clots in the veins, is a serious and potentially life threatening complication. Many measures can be taken to minimize the risk including stopping hormone replacement therapies preop, using compression stockings and pneumatic pumps during surgery, and insisting on early ambulation postoperatively. With these measures, blood clots are rare.

All in all, tummy tucks are great surgeries for the properly selected patient!

Tummy tucks are safe and satisfying procedures.

A tummy tuck is a very safe procedure. I will admit that most patients feel it is a painful procedure, especially if the muscles have to get repaired.

The biggest risks, in my opinion, of the procedure are:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • wound healing problems
  • post-op fluid collections
  • blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis (DVT))
  • clots being thrown to the lungs (pulmonary embolism)

The risks of all these problems are usually less than 5-8%.

When I perform a tummy tuck, I typically give my patients extra IV fluids in the pre-op area before surgery and put anti-embolism stockings on their legs to massage the veins in the legs while they are asleep. To this I add early post-op walking to minimizing clot potential.

Finally, most surgeons put their patients in an abdominal binder, at least, to help with compression and pain control. I only have my patients wear their binders when walking around. I think that binders squeeze too tightly on the tummy and put pressure on leg veins when in the sitting position.

Good attention to preventing bleeding during surgery can help reduce the risk of post-op bleeding problems (hematoma) and fluid collections (seroma). A skin closure that is just tight enough, and good nutrition, can keep wound healing problems down.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Tummy tuck safety

Thank you for your question.  Tummy tuck, overall, is a very safe operation.  Not to be taken lightly, however, is the fact that it is just that - a surgical operation, and not a minor one.  In most cases, it involves somewhere in the range of 2 hours of general anesthesia, with its associated (very controlled, in the present day) risks. As with any surgical procedure, there are the standard risks of infection, bleeding, and injury to surrounding structures.  We, as surgeons, take this into account and do everything in our power to counteract them.  We employ meticulous sterile technique to prevent infection, and give antibiotics on the operating table and often for several days after surgery.  While no major blood vessels are encountered during a tummy tuck, we are fastidious about controlling any bleeding from the small vessels that we do come across - blood loss is often less than the volume of a shot glass.  And while no major organs are encountered, proper surgical technique ensures avoidance of injury to abdominal skin, musculature, and other tissues.

Following surgery, the most common adverse events are minor:  wound healing issues, managed with proper wound care, and minor revision if necessary; seroma (sterile fluid collection under the flap of abdominal skin and fat that was created), prevented with drains, but sometimes inevitable - and managed with simple, albeit occasionally tedious, drainage in the office, under local anesthetic; contour irregularities from liposuction; and formation of an unfavorable scar.  By definition, tummy tuck produces a fairly long, curved scar across the lower abdomen, as well as a circumferential one around the belly button.  Proper surgical planning involves placing the incision low enough that the scar is covered by nearly any bikini bottom and most underwear; skillful technique ensures creation of an aesthetically pleasing belly button, with an inconspicuous scar.

The most common serious complication that is possible with tummy tuck is thromboembolic disease, the formation of a blood clot in the leg (deep venous thrombosis), that can then travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).  Thankfully, this is a highly uncommon event (less than 1%), that we take the highest level of precaution against.  Risk factors include smoking, hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy, and history of cancer or blood clotting disorder.  The greatest single precaution taken against thromboembolic disease is walking in the days following surgery, rather than lying in bed.  Those who are calculated to have a higher than average risk are given a dose of a blood thinner immediately before surgery, and in extreme cases, for a few days afterward.

Again, in the hands of a qualified and board-certified plastic surgeon, tummy tuck is overall very safe.  Risks are well-defined, and meticulous precautions are taken to manage those risks - and in the proper hands, dramatic, beautiful results are not only possible, but the expected outcome.

Joshua D. Zuckerman, MD, FACS
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Tummy Tuck Risks and Safety, Connecticut

In general tummy tucks are a very safe surgery. A tummy tuck is a common plastic surgery procedure to improve the look and contour of the abdomen and repair the underline muscles. When performed properly and on the appropriate patient, it is a very safe procedure. Therefore, it's important that all cosmetic/plastic surgery procedures are performed by an experienced Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Some risks of a tummy tuck include: Hematoma, Seromas, Delayed Wound Healing or Infection, and DVT/PEs (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism).  

All the best!

Alfred Sofer, MD, FACS
Fairfield Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Abdominoplasty's Risks And How To Alleviate Them

Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is remarkably a well-known and frequently performed procedure though it is not without risks. It is important that the surgery be performed by qualified and experienced surgeons. Patients can also participate to decrease the complication following surgery. Smoking will affect the blood supply to the skin flap and patients should try to stop smoking before and after surgery. Also weight lost can decrease the intra-abdominal pressure on the abdominal skin flap and will also help to decrease complication rate. Early ambulation after surgery will also help to decrease risk of blood clot due to immobilization.

Colin Hong, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

Complications with Tummy Tucks

Although abdominoplasty is generally considered a safe procedure, complications can occasionally occur.  The vast majority of complications are the result of wound healing problems and can usually be managed without further surgical intervention.

Areas of concern include bleeding, infection, anesthesia problems, seromas, pain, scarring, asymmetry, fat necrosis, decreased sensation and wound separation.

Complications can be minimized by consulting a board-certified plastic surgeon with experience performing this procedure.  This procedure is associated with high satisfaction and improved quality of life.

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.