How Long Should Surgery Take for Tummy Tuck with Lipo, and What is a Safe Amount of Time to Be Under General Anesthesia?

Doctor Answers 12

Surgical Time and Risks

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Most good docotrs can perform these combination procedures in under three hours.

A simple rule of thumb is that a patients anesthesia risks go up after 4 hours.

Any eletive procedure for aesthetic concerns should be under that time limit.

Finally, all surgeons feel strong and macho, but any human being cannot be as good at their craft after 4 hours of non-stop surgery.

New York Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Speed kills

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There is no prize for being the fastest surgeon it translates to more complications.  I have firsthand knoweldge of such a doctor who prides his speed but has the most complications amongst his colleagues.

As mentioned, the time varies accordingly to how much has to be done and the averages mentioned are quite realistic (2.5-4 hours).  Regardless, it is considered safe to be under for that time period.

Your surgeon should be able to guide you through this.  If it seems exceptionally long, then a second opinion is warranted.

Curtis Wong, MD
Redding Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Tummy tuck and lipo - how long should it take.

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How long your surgery takes really depends a lot of your anatomy and how extensive your surgery will be.  If you were  having several areas treated with lipo, require a position change and are having a full tummy tuck with removal of a lot of excess skin and fat, I would book you for about 5 hours.  If you are healthy and there is a good anesthesiologist looking after you, 5 or even 6 or sometimes 7 hours of surgery is very acceptable.  Also remember that surgeons get tired.  Sometimes having a sessions in the OR is better and one long session with a fatigued surgeon.   I would not  want a worn out surgeon working on me!  

Lisa Lynn Sowder, M.D.   

Lisa Lynn Sowder, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 77 reviews

Tummy tuck and liposuction and anesthesia time

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Depending on the size of the patient and the number of areas to be liposuctioned, a tummy tuck with liposuction can take from 2 to 4 hours to perform.  This amount of time is well within a safe length of time to be under a general anesthetic.  You should check with your regular medical doctor to see if they have any concerns with your having the surgery. 

Vincent D. Lepore, MD
San Jose Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Anesthesia time for Tummy Tuck and Liposuction Surgery

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The length of the surgery can range between 2-4 hours depending on the patient and the surgeon.  It depends on how many areas of liposuction and whether a regular tummy tuck or an extended tummy tuck are being performed.  Safety issues also need to be individualized - MUCH depends on the patients past medical history,etc..

Tummy tuck anesthesia time

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It usually takes me three to four hours to perform a tummy tuck and liposuction, depending on the size of the case.  In general, I prefer to keep my elective surgery cases under six hours of anesthesia, if possible. The quality of the result matters much more than the surgical time.

David Stoker, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

How Long Should Surgery Take for Tummy Tuck with Lipo, and What is a Safe Amount of Time to Be Under General Anesthesia?

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Dear San Francisco4746,

The length of surgery depends on how much needs to be done, the technique used, and the speed of the surgeon. I prefer to focus on obtaining the best result rather than performing the fastest operation. Having said that, I prefer to keep elective surgery under 6 hours. A tummy tuck with liposuction generally takes 2.5-4 hours.

Warmest wishes,

Larry Fan, MD

Larry Fan, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon

Tummy tuck and anesthesia

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There is no one time it takes to do the tummy tuck with suction.  With any procedure less than 6 hours would be the goal.  For this procedure however an average time would be anywhere from 2 hours to 4 hours depending on the surgeon's speed.

Longer surgery can be done safely under the right circumstances

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You should select a surgeon who can perform the procedure expeditiously, but most of the surgeons I know who brag about how quickly they can do a surgery are too focused on getting back to their golf game.  Of course, the surgeon should be able to make a reasonable estimate of the time required, and none of the other answers to this question constitute "bragging", in my opinion.  I am sure that those surgeons are all very careful surgeons.  However, two weeks after the surgery is done, nobody will even remember how long the surgery took.  Nonetheless, I would agree that a very slow surgeon is not likely to be better than an expeditious surgeon.

Both abdominoplasty and liposuction (and especially liposuction) can take an amount of time that is quite variable, depending on the size of the abdominoplasty, and especially depending on the amount of liposuction required.

As for how long a surgery can go before it is unsafe, I think it would be hard to find scientific justification for a specific amount of time being the maximum that is safe.  I have been involved in extensive reconstructive procedures that have taken up to 24 hours, and were completed safely, and anesthetic complications are very rare, despite the length of the procedure.  

I also do not agree that the risk goes up significantly as the length of the surgery exceeds a certain number of hours.  However, it is certainly true that a longer procedure presents additional challenges to making the surgery safe.  With longer surgery, special attention needs to be taken to keeping the patient from becoming cool, since the anesthesia reduces your body's ability to regulate its temperature.  Careful monitoring, as well as active heating, usually with hot air, is generally used.

Also, longer procedures increase the risk of pressure injury unless every part of the body is carefully padded (keeping in mind that too much padding can be worse than not enough padding, since the padding itself can increase pressure)

Longer procedures may also increase the risk of a blood clot, which in the worst case can grow and travel to the lungs.  Use of active automated squeezing of the calves during and after surgery reduces that risk, and having the patient start walking the same day, or the next day at the latest, is critical.  Anticoagulant medication may also reduce that risk, but may also increase the risk of bleeding after surgery.

The surgery centers I use generally recommend limiting cosmetic surgery to eight hours in most cases, and that seems like a reasonable compromise.  Longer procedures are probably safe as well, but might be a long time for the surgeon to maintain concentration.  I personally believe that one longer surgery is probably safer than two shorter procedures, although I am not aware of any scientific proof of that, either.

In the end, the problem is that, because the risk of significant complications from a procedure done under general anesthesia at a well-appointed and well-staffed facility with a physician anesthesiologist is so low, it leads to superstitions about exact lengths of surgery.

However, safety is the most important thing to think about as you plan your surgery.  Cosmetic surgery can only be justified because it can be done safely.  Be sure to discuss this with your surgeon, to ensure that you are making an informed decision that you are both comfortable with.

James Nachbar, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon

Surgery for tummy tuck and lipo

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The amount of time to perform a tummy tuck and liposuction is dependent upon the amount of liposuction performed and the surgeon. I usually can perform liposuction and tummy tuck anywhere from 2.5 -4 hours depneding upon the extent of liposuction. If it is just the flanks during a tummy tuck it would take about 2.5 hours.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 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.