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

How safe is a tummy tuck?

Doctor Answers 37

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
4.8 out of 5 stars 65 reviews

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
3.3 out of 5 stars 13 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!

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

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

Every surgical procedure involves a certain amount of risk, and it is important that you understand the risks involved. An individual's choice to undergo a procedure is based on the comparison of the risk to its potential benefit. Although the majority of patients do not experience any complications, you should discuss each of them with your plastic surgeon to make sure you understand the risks, potential complications and consequences of the procedure.

Specific risks for a tummy tuck procedure may include but not limited to, infection, bleeding, haematoma, poor scarring, seroma, bruising, prolonged swelling, delayed wound healing and blood clots.  Although very rare, serious complications may occur including allergic reactions, severe illness, cardiac and pulmonary issues and potentially life threatening conditions. To help avoid and minimise the risk of these complications it is important you disclose your complete medical history including all health problems and current medications to your surgeon during your initial consultation. 

Patients who are currently smoking are at greater risk of surgical and anaesthetic problems which can later lead to serious complications. It is important to refrain from smoking at least 4 weeks prior to and after surgery. As well, patients with massive weight loss, diabetes or taking certain medications for an extended period may have delayed healing issues.

Every action is taken to minimise the potential for complications including the routine use of antibiotics, compression garments and stockings, early mobilisation and ensuring all pre and post operative instructions are understood and followed carefully. 

Eddy Dona, MBBS, FRACS
Sydney Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 81 reviews

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 15 reviews

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
4.8 out of 5 stars 55 reviews

Safety and Risks Factors of Tummy Tuck

Thank you for your question! As with all surgical procedures, there are inherent risks associated with a tummy tuck. The procedure is considered safe and complications are rare. Some complications may include bleeding, infection, loose skin, or poor healing.

Best Wishes! 

Morgan E. Norris, III, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Risks and Information on Tummy Tucks

Thank you for your question. Deciding on whether or not you want to undergo plastic surgery is a big deal. It is understandable you want to know every risk or complication, which you should. Always think, will the good weigh out the bad? 

Here are some risks of a Tummy Tuck.
-Anesthesia risks
-Fluid accumulation)
-Poor wound healing
-Skin loss
-Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
-Skin discoloration and/or prolonged swelling
-Unfavorable scarring
-Recurrent looseness of skin
-Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
-Suboptimal aesthetic result
-Persistent pain

Dhaval M. Patel 
Double board certified
Plastic surgeon
Hoffman Estates 

Dhaval M. Patel, MD
Hoffman Estates Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 93 reviews

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, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

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
4.9 out of 5 stars 84 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.