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

How safe is a tummy tuck?

Doctor Answers 34

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.

Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 reviews

4915 25 th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105

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
2.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

1, rue Holiday, suite #813
Montréal, Québec H9R 5N3

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 66 reviews

10941 Raven Ridge Rd
Raleigh, NC 27614

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!

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 58 reviews

1135 116th Ave. NE
Bellevue, WA 98004

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.

Manish H. Shah, MD, FACS
Denver Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

101 University Blvd
Denver, CO 80206

Is tummy tuck safe?

Tummy tuck can be performed with a high level of safety using modern techniques in surgery, anesthesia, and post-operative care. However, there are risks, as with any surgical procedure. These include things such as bleeding, pain, infection, poor scarring, over- or under- correction, asymmetry, as well as formation of blood clots. Your surgeon will discuss these with your during the informed consent process.

I hope this helps.

Bryan Correa, MD
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

4850 West Panther Creek Drive
The Woodlands, TX 77381

Tummy tuck safety

When performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon, a tummy tuck is a safe procedure. Prior to surgery, you should have a medical screening to make sure your body is healthy enough to undergo tummy tuck surgery. However, as with any surgery there are potential risks. Some of the more common potential risks include anesthesia risks, bleeding, infection, seroma, wound healing, numbness, unfavorable scarring, pain, etc. During a consultation with your surgeon, be sure he/she explains all of these risks with you in detail so that you are fully educated about the procedure. But again, to mitigate your risk, make sure you are having surgery with a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience performing tummy tucks and a board-certified anesthesiologist at an accredited surgery center. Finally, make sure you follow your surgeon's post-op instructions very closely to avoid any complications in the healing process. Hope this information helps!

Jimmy S. Firouz, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

416 N. Bedford Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Tummy-Tuck, risk vs benefit

A tummy-tuck (abdominoplasty), like all surgeries, has risks.  These include the risks of anesthesia, bleeding, infection, wound healing, etc.  With that being said, the chances of this occurring with a tummy-tuck is minimal if you have a board certified plastic surgeon who is experienced in body contouring and abdominoplasty procedures.  For the right candidate, the benefits can certainly outweigh the risks.  I would suggest consulting with a board certified plastic surgeon and discussing your options.  While you are at the appointment, ask to view pictures of that particular surgeon's patients, before and after tummy-tuck.  Also, inquire about the practice's patient satisfaction rates post tummy-tuck and how many they have performed in the past.  Making sure your surgeon is an expert in the surgery you are considering is very important to ensuring the best results.   

Peter J. Capizzi, MD
Charlotte Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

8712 Lindholm Drive
Huntersville, NC 28078

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 13 reviews

1111 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10128

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.