How is the procedure performed?

An incision is made across the lower abdomen, extending out to the hips. Skin and fat are elevated up to the rib cage. Excess skin and fat are removed and upper abdominal skin is stretched down to the lower abdomen. A new opening is made for the navel which is re-sitted in its normal position level.

Abdominoplasty surgery is performed under general anaesthetic and takes approximately three hours. A device called a pain buster is used to minimize discomfort along the abdominal wound line during the hospital stay. Usually two nights / days are required in hospital.

After the surgery a garment is worn to provide support to the abdomen. This garment is ordered and fitted prior to the operation. It is worn for 6 weeks following surgery. Early mobilisation with walking etc is encouraged.
Stitches are all absorbable except those around the belly button which are removed 1 week after surgery in Dr Drielsma’s rooms.

When can I return to normal activities?

Usually 2 to 3 weeks are required off work although some people require a longer recovery period.

Gentle exercises can be commenced after 3-4 weeks, however, vigorous exercise should be avoided for 6-8 weeks. It may take 2-3 months before returning to completely normal activity.

Are there any risks?

As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of complications. Surgery and anaesthesia are very safe and it is most unlikely you will experience any difficulty. However, there are areas of potential problems you need to understand before proceeding with your surgery. You can reduce your risk of complications by closely following instructions before and after surgery.

Bleeding: Bleeding can be problematical in about 2% of cases. It is possible in cases bleeding that return to the operating theatre will be necessary and sometimes blood transfusion is required.

Infection: If infection occurs it will usually become evident within one week of surgery and may delay the healing process or result in the development of scar tissue. This may require treatment with antibiotics. In the unlikely event of infection, the ultimate result of the surgery may be adversely affected.

Anaesthesia: The surgery is done under a general anaesthetic and the anaesthetist will be discussing the possible discomforts following anaesthesia. Modern anaesthesia is very safe and risks very rare. Any questions you have regarding your anaesthetic would be best answered by the anaesthetist at the time of surgery.

Scarring: All surgery carries risks and every incision leaves a scar. Scars do however fade remarkably well over a one to two year period and become much less noticeable. The scar of abdominoplasty is never invisible but is placed in a position that is inconspicuous when wearing most clothing or swimming costumes.

The scars will often look red and lumpy at about three months after surgery as they heal but this is normal and will settle over the following 3-6 months. It takes 12-18 months before the scars mature completely, flatten out and lighten in colour.

Sensation: Areas of your lower abdomen may be numb for up to six months as bruised nerves are recovering. Some minor residual permanent alteration in sensation may occur.

Fluid Collection: A seroma is a collection of fluid under the skin and fat. If this occurs it may take a few weeks to absorb. Wearing the pressure garment will help reduce this risk.

Circulation: Although rare, there is a risk of clotting in the veins of the legs. Such a thrombosis may rarely be complicated by pulmonary embolism ( a clot going to the lung). The risk of this is about one in 500 and is increased with use of the oral contraceptive pill. All possible precautions are taken to minimize the risks of thrombosis including use of leg compression devices during surgery, use of TED stockings and heparin injections while in hospital.

Important points to remember before proceeding with surgery:

There can be no absolute guarantee with any surgery. In the hands of any experienced surgeon, a secondary operation to correct a minor irregularity may be needed.

Should there be any questions regarding abdominoplasty, be sure they are answered in advance by Dr Drielsma. Well meaning friends are not a good source of information. Find out everything before the operation – a well informed patient is a happy one.

The best candidates for cosmetic surgery are those who want to enhance or improve their appearance, not those who seek perfection. You will be satisfied with the results of surgery if you have realistic expectations. It is important that you make the decision to proceed with surgery for yourself, not anyone else.

The next step when considering cosmetic surgery is a consultation with Dr Drielsma. You will be shown before and after photos, your suitability for surgery will be assessed and the procedure will be explained fully to you in detail.

The above information mentions only some of the benefits and complications of abdominoplasty. This information should not be regarded as a substitute for information and advice provided by Dr Drielsma during consultation.

Dr Robert Drielsma is a fully qualified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon specialising in Cosmetic Surgery and Reconstructive plastic surgery with over 20 years experience.

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