The tummy tuck is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures performed in the United States. For most tummy tuck patients, the decision to go under the knife is usually motivated by the desire to improve their appearance. While there are aesthetic benefits of the procedure, such as a new shape and a trimmer waistline, having a tummy tuck can also provide patients with significant medical benefits as well.
The tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, involves the surgical excision of unwanted tissue and skin from the middle and lower abdomen. During the procedure, many patients also have their abdominal muscles and fascia tightened via suturing in order to pull weakened muscles together.
One major, but often overlooked, medical benefit to a tummy tuck procedure is the reduction of stress urinary incontinence, also known as SUI. Stress urinary incontinence is a conditional that occurs in many women as a result of pregnancy and vaginal delivery. Both pregnancy and delivery put a significant amount of pressure on the bladder. As a result, urine leakage occurs when the SUI patient sneezes, coughs or even laughs. Some SUI sufferers even report leakage when exercising or running. This situation is often frustrating and embarrassing, especially in when leakage occurs in public places or during social situations. During the tummy tuck procedure, a plastic surgeon can make a slight obstruction of the patient’s bladder using soft tissue, and this obstruction helps to relieve future incontinence and leakage.
Hernia correction is another underreported medical benefit of the tummy tuck procedure. Ventral hernias, in which the intestines break through the abdominal wall, often occur as a result of weak abdominal muscles or because of abdominal surgeries, like C-sections. Hernia repair is often done in conjunction with a tummy tuck to reduce the patient’s need for another separate surgery.
Posture is often improved in many patients as a result of the surgery. Weakened abdominal muscles cause posture problems for many individuals. One of the most common of these posture conditions is known as swayback, a condition that causes a large painful arching of the lower back. When abdominal muscles are tightened as part of the abdominoplasty procedure, they can better support the body and the spine, correcting posture problems. Patients who have undergone the tummy tuck often notice a new, improved posture. Many patients also experience a significant reduction in back pain as an added benefit of their procedures.
Dr. Jack Peterson is a Topeka, Kansas, plastic surgeon who performs abdominoplasty procedures. He agrees that for many patients it makes sense to make these minor medical adjustments for a patient’s benefit during the tummy tuck procedure. “By reducing the number of times a patient has to go under general anesthesia, we are protecting the overall health of the patient,” he explains.
The tummy tuck is an ideal procedure for patients who have experienced significant weight loss, and are looking for a little extra help to tone and tighten the midsection. Many patients who are turning to abdominoplasty do so in order to remove a large pannus area or apron of skin that is often left behind after losing a large amount of weight. Patients with a large pannus can develop infections and rashes, and even have problems walking or participating in some activities because of the extra skin.
“Many tummy tuck procedures involve the removal of a pannus,” says Peterson. The tummy tuck procedure is also often performed in combination with liposuction. Liposuction is a body sculpting procedure that is often used to reshape hard to tone areas like the upper arm, outer thigh, and sides of the abdomen.
Peterson advises that patients seeking to undergo abdominoplasty should talk to their doctors about the benefits of combining procedures.