Tummy Tuck Complications and Risks

With tummy tuck, what kind of risks and complications can occur? Do your patients usually find the risks are worth the rewards?

Doctor Answers 10

Understanding the risks of tummy tuck

The benefits of tummy tuck today almost go without saying, improved abdominal contour and tone, firm abdominal skin without hanging or laxity, and reduced stretch marks from pregnancy. Understanding the risks is an important part of prevention. Besides, no one should face unexpected disappointments or thoughts of "I didn't know that could happen", especially after the fact. The 'common' risks do include infection, poor healing or scarring, bleeding, fluid collection or seroma, and blood clots which can form in the legs.

There are measures which can reduce the risks, dramatically. First and foremost, you should be in good health before a tummy tuck procedure. You should not be nursing a cough or cold, be recovering from a urinary, chest, or sinus infection, or starting new medication your family doctor has prescribed. The night before surgery you should wash with a good antibacterial soap, such as Dial. You must stop all medication which can contribute to bleeding such as aspirin well before, and consider herbal supplements which may have an effect as well.

Concerning healing and scarring, it is important that you know where the scar will appear after your tummy tuck, and consider scars and how you might have healed in the past. You absolutely must stop smoking for healing to be at its best. Fluid collections can be dependent on the technique the surgeon uses, though you should know how to wear the binder or support garment after to reduce this risk. Finally, blood clots in the legs are quite dangerous, and prevention begins during the tummy procedure, and continues at home after the procedure. We insist that right after tummy tuck, patients are up and mobile, on their feet, gently exercising leg muscles to resist pooling of blood in the legs and calves.

Tummy tuck is quite safe and patients do well as a rule, though understanding risk and participating in recovery will reduce risk all the more.

Best of luck.

Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Tummy tuck risks

The risks associated with a tummy tock are usually small, in a young healthy nonsmoking patient. The main risks are bleeding, infection and wound healing problems, as with any operation. These complications are rare. Many patients have small nuisance problems such as spitting stitches or postoperative fluid collections, but these do not usually affect the outcome. The most dreaded complication is blood clots in the legs (DVT) and in the lungs (Pulmonary Embolism) which can be potentially fatal, these are extremely rare, but you should ask your surgeon what he or she does to minimize the risk and keep you safe. All in all the benefits outweigh the risks in the vast majority of patients. Good luck.

Johan E. Brahme, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Tummy Tuck Risk vs. Reward

Bleeding and infection are possible complications- as with any type of surgery. They are rare, however, with careful attention to surgical and sterile technique. Tissue loss due to poor blood supply is a problem more specific to this procedure. It most commonly occurs just above the incision over the pubic area. Fortunately, this complication is quite infrequent also. You are at much greater risk for this problem if you are a smoker. Some surgeons will not offer an abdominoplasty to a patient who smokes.

Probably the most common complication after tummy tucks is seroma formation. Drains are usually used post-operatively to help prevent this from occurring. A seroma is a collection of fluid between the abdominal wall and the skin/fat layer above. If it appears, it can usually be managed non-surgically with serial aspirations of the fluid in the office. Abdominoplasty patients, in general, are among the happiest patients in our practice. The improvement in the stomach area is often amazing and well worth the minor risks associated with this procedure.

Robert C. Bledsoe, Jr., MD
Grapevine Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Tummy tuck complications and risks

This is a very nebulous question. I do over 100 tummy tucks a year, and have seen my share of complications, or unforeseen events. The patient must weigh the risk/benefit ratios to determine if they can accept this operation.

A listing of the complications can be found on the ASPS website. Here are the major ones: Death, Pulmonary emboli, Infection, Hematoma, Dehisence of the wound, Skin/Fat necrosis.

Go see 3 board certified plastic surgeons in your area. Regards

Darryl J. Blinski, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 174 reviews

Well done tummy tuck produces happy patients.


Unfortunately you cannot generalize.  How good the surgeon is determines everything.  With good technique, and meticulous precautions, the benefits of a tummy tuck far outweigh the risks.

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

Risk vs. Reward for Tummy Tuck

As your question implies, the decision for elective surgery is a balance of reward and risk. If the risk of a tummy tuck were too high, no one would be able to rationalize the decision so it would not be as popular as it is. In fact, no cosmetic surgery operation increased more over tha past 10 years. On the benefit side, tummy tucks do what you can't do with exercise and diet alone: tighten skin, remove localized fat, and repair muscles that have been pushed apart by pregnancy or weight gain.

On the risk side, it is important to be aware of the factors that contribute to the odds of complications: These include smoking, being too overweight, and general poor health. Your plastic surgeon will be able to give you a detailed summary of what you need to know.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 53 reviews

Risks of Tummy Tuck

Tummy tucks are probably the most risky standard cosmetic procedure. Only large procedures on patients with massive weight loss have more risks. The scar can become thick or wide. Rarely the wound, especially just above the pubis, will not heal immediately. You can also have infections, pneumonia, asymmetry, poor umbilical position, loss of the umbilicus, unusual or decreased sensation or small projections of skin at the end of the scar. The greatest risk, however, is development of blood clots in the legs which can dislodge and go to the lungs causing problems breathing or, even, death.

The risks are significantly increased in smokers. Therefore, most Plastic Surgeons will not do this surgery until you stop smoking. All of these are infrequent and we, as plastic surgeons do everything we can to reduce the risks to a minimum. Therefore, most people find them quite acceptable because of the generally excellent results.

Robert T. Buchanan, MD
Highlands Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Tummy Tuck Risks

Abdominal contouring operations can make dramatic differences in a persons appearance and their physical health. I have had people tell me they could not exercise because of the excess skin on their abdomen or from back pain which improved after correcting the position of the rectus muscles. Reestablishing a waistline allows greater flexibility with wardrobe and bathing suits, I have woman who have not worn a bikini for years because of the appearance of their abdomen who are wearing them now with great pride and enthusiam.

Any surgical procedure has inherent risks, these complications are uncommon. By uncommon I mean they happen less than 2% of the time on average. Medical conditions a person has will also alter these risks making them more or less prevalent. Common conditions which increase risks are obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The major risks are the possibilty of having a bleeding episode which will require returning to the operating room, a blood clot forming in the leg which can dislodge and travel to the lungs or having some loss of skin at the incision line or the belly button. Although I can not quote an accepted statistic the incidence of these problems are exceedingly small.

Discussion of all these risks will be presented to you when you consult a board certified surgeon.

Robert W. Kessler, MD, FACS
Corona Del Mar Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 130 reviews

Benefits of Tummy Tuck are way greater than risks


The benefits of tummy tuck in my practice and in my patient's experiences outweigh the risks/complications. Some of the general risks/complications that I inform patient about are outlined below. It is best to have several consultations with plastic surgeons in your area to outline the risk/complications that are general and that are specific to you.

Good Luck!


1. Infection

2. Bleeding

3. Fluid accumulations (seroma, hematoma)

4. Scarring

5. Soft tissue loss (wounds of incision and/or belly button)

6. Persistent pain and/ or numbness of abdominal skin

7. DVT

8. Abnormal position of the belly button

Dr. ES

Tummy Tuck Risks

All surgery carries risks. The risks with tummy tucks include the risk of anesthesia, bleeding, infection, loss of sensation, poor wound healing, poor scarring, and seroma formation. Cigarette smoking definitely increases risks, especially poor healing. You should have a candid conversation with a Board-certified plastic surgeon. Following this you must weigh the benefits and risks as well as the cost.

John Whitt, MD (retired)
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.