Preventing Tummy Tuck Wound Breakdown

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Tummy tuck wound breakdown can be problematic because it could result in additional 2-3 weeks of healing (instead of about two weeks only) and may affect the quality of scarring.  All efforts are made to ensure that the scar will fade and remain almost as thin as a width of a human hair.


One of the most crucial steps to prevent or at least minimize risk of tummy tuck wound breakdown is to rule out chronic medical conditions.  Simply put, it is only reserved for patients who are healthy enough to handle a surgery.


Lab screening and honest communications and good rapport between the surgeon and patient are critical parts of meticulous patient selection process.


Patient cooperation is equally important to minimize risk of most known tummy tuck complications.  A good rule of thumb is to discontinue tobacco products and aspirin and other drugs with blood thinning effects a few weeks before and after surgery; eat more “whole” foods, as opposed to “empty calorie” or highly processed foods; and achieve one’s optimal health prior to surgery.


Of course, the surgeon’s skills and experience can further reduce the risk of complications and achieve optimal results from the surgery.


It is important to note that tummy tuck creates a smoother, flatter waistline by removing the excess skin between the navel and the pubic region.  The skin in the upper abdomen is then pulled down to close the hip-to-hip incision.  This ensures that the resulting scar is concealed by the patient’s underwear and is expected to fade into the background.


Nonetheless, the amount of skin removed must not be too excessive to allow for good wound closure and to prevent excessive tension, which of course leads to poor healing, wound breakdown, and less than optimal scar and contour appearance.


The surgeon’s experience will matter a lot because it helps him hone his “eye for detail.”  Hence, a prudent patient will only choose a tummy tuck doctor who performs over a hundred surgeries every year.


The quality of wound closure is another important aspect.  A good rule of thumb is to reduce the tension on the skin surface.  Hence, great doctors know the importance of reinforcing the underlying anatomies of the abdomen layer by layer (including the actual muscle) with adequate internal sutures.


Since excessive tension is the number one enemy of tummy tuck incision, over-exertion in the first three weeks after surgery must be avoided at all cost.  Just to be on the safe side, patients should never resume rigorous exercise (or lift heavy things or perform any activity that can increase their heart rate) without their surgeons’ permission.


The use of compression garments can further reduce tension on the hip-to-hip incision and can even promote healing by keeping swelling to a minimum.


And lastly, infection may also cause tummy tuck wound breakdown.  For this reason, good surgeons will make every effort to minimize this risk before, during, and after surgery.  Of course, patients should also do their part such as avoiding or controlling risk factors (e.g., smoking and obesity); washing their hands before and after changing their dressing (practicing good hygiene); and taking their preventive antibiotics (but only when prescribed by their surgeons).


In the ideal scenario, all patients should be made aware of the telltale signs of tummy tuck wound infection, which include fever (but not always), persistent redness, increasing pain, warmth in the tummy area, tenderness, and/or unusual discharge (green or opaque white).

Article by
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon