Surgical Risks and Potential Complications of Tummy Tuck Surgery
All surgical procedures, including the tummy tuck, have potential risks associated with their performance. The decision to have abdominoplasty or other body contouring surgeries is extremely personal, and you’ll have to decide if the procedure will achieve your goals and whether or not the risks and potential complications are acceptable.
In this section, you will find further information regarding the potential risks associated with various abdominoplasty procedures.
Possible risks of abdominoplasty include:
Surgical Anesthesia: On the day of surgery, your anesthesiologist will discuss the risks of both local and general anesthesia.
Unfavorable Scarring: If the sutured area doesn’t heal properly or takes too long to heal, the scars that are a result of the abdominoplasty may be thicker than normal. If the patient heals relatively quickly, minimal scarring will result. Scars will take years to fade, but they are long-lasting. Despite Dr.Agha’s best efforts, scar appearance and healing are not fully predictable. The scars may be uneven, excessively wide, and/or asymmetrical. Scars may be unattractive and of a different color than the surrounding skin. Excessive, hypertrophic, and keloid scarring are uncommon. Additional treatments, including surgery, may be necessary to treat abnormal scarring.
Bleeding/Hematoma: Bleeding may result if the sutured areas do not heal correctly or if there is improper coagulation after the tummy tuck procedure. A hematoma is a blood collection that can form under the skin and enlarges as a tender bulge. If a patient notices any unusual bleeding after an abdominoplasty, contact Orange County plastic surgeon Dr. Agha immediately. Do not take any aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications for ten days before surgery as this will increase the risk of bleeding. Non-prescription “herbs” and dietary supplements can also increase the risk of surgical bleeding.
Infection: Major infection with fever and large areas of red skin (cellulitis) is unusual after this type of surgery. Should a serious infection occur, treatment, including intravenous antibiotics or additional surgery to remove dead tissue and drain abscesses, may be necessary. Minor wound infections, accompanied by exposed and “spitting” sutures can occur and are usually easily dealt with by limited debridement, antibiotics, and dressing care. There is a greater risk of infection in smokers, those with diabetes, and with multiple procedures.
Fluid Accumulation (Seroma): Drains are often placed at the surgical site at the end of the operation to collect seepage of fluid. After their removal in about five to seven days, body fluids (serum) occasionally accumulate underneath the skin. Should this occur, it may require aspirations. If that fails to cure the seroma then the patient will need to be seen either in the office or the operating room for insertion of new drainage tubes and the removal of seroma cavities. This is very rarely necessarily.
Poor Wound Healing: Individuals that have a slower than average healing rate or smokers may find that they do not heal properly, that the sutured areas reopen easily, or that they are more prone to infection. Patients should avoid smoking three weeks prior to and after the procedure so that their body’s natural healing process is not hindered.
Wound Dehiscence: In general, your skin closure is in multiple layers. Separation of the superficial, deep and/or both layers may occur any time during your first post-operative month. Suture breakage, knots untying, sutures tearing through an excessively tight closure, too much movement or bending, and skin necrosis (death) are some of the recognized causes of dehiscence. Breakage of sutures in the superficial layer of skin may be sutured closed or allowed to heal secondarily at the judgment of Orange County plastic surgeon Dr. Agha.
Deep dehiscence may require a return trip to the operating room for closure under anesthesia. These healing problems may require frequent dressing changes, extra office visits and further surgery to remove the non-healed tissue. Open wounds may take weeks to heal or a secondary closure may be appropriate. Wounds allowed to heal on their own usually benefit from secondary scar revision. Smokers have a high risk of skin loss and wound healing complications. Do not smoke for three weeks before and after your surgery.
Suture Granuloma: Some surgical techniques use deep sutures. These items may be noticed by the patient following surgery. Sutures may spontaneously poke through the skin, be visible, or produce irritation that requires removal.
Numbness in Skin Sensation: Post-operative diminished (or loss of) skin sensation (numbness, pins and needles sensation, burning or itching), and/or pain in the lower torso may be temporary or very rarely long-lasting.
Contour Irregularities: Contour irregularities and depressions may occur after these procedures. Visible and palpable looseness and wrinkling of skin can also occur. On occasion, asymmetrical fullness, bulges, and depressions may be present.
Asymmetry in Scar Placement or Contour: On occasion, asymmetry may occur after a tummy tuck. Although this is not typical, it is a risk associated with the abdominoplasty procedure. Every body and every patient is different.
Pain that Persists: Chronic pain may occur very infrequently from nerves becoming trapped in scar tissue after surgery.
Nerve Damage: If improper healing occurs, the patient may have some nerve damage. The possibility of nerve damage should be discussed with the physician before the procedure. Nerve damage can result in over-sensitivity or it can result in a lack of sensitivity in certain areas where the abdominoplasty was performed.
Allergic Reactions: In rare cases, local allergies to tape, suture material, or topical preparations have been reported. More serious systemic reactions may occur in response to drugs used during surgery and prescription medicines. Allergic reactions may require additional treatment.
Loss of Umbilicus: Malposition, scarring, unacceptable appearance, or loss of the umbilicus (navel) may occur.
Residual Deformity- Despite the best efforts to obtain a tight abdominal contour, a small degree of residual deformity may persist or develop months after the surgery.
Need for Revisional Surgery: The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Should complications occur or some aesthetic expectations remain unmet, additional procedures or other treatments may be necessary. Other complications and risks can occur but are even more uncommon.
Suboptimal Aesthetic Result: You may be disappointed with the results of surgery. Under-treatment with residual laxity and looseness or over-treatment with excessive tightness of the skin can occur with the flattening of regional contours and the widening or thickening of scars. Considerable care is used to achieve the optimum shape, but for a variety of reasons, the ultimate results may be suboptimal. At times, it is desirable to perform additional procedures to improve your results.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Complications: Deep vein thrombosis is rare but worrisome complication of plastic surgery. It represents formation of blood clots in the deep veins of the legs during anesthesia and surgery. Although a sequential compression device will be used to reduce the risks, a few patients may still develop DVTs. Pulmonary complications may occur secondarily to the migration of the vein blood clots into the lungs (pulmonary emboli) or partial collapse of the lungs after general anesthesia. Should either of these complications occur, you may require hospitalization and additional treatment. Pulmonary emboli can be life-threatening or fatal in some circumstances. Dr Agha is a board-certified surgeon. Click Here for more General information on the Tummy Tuck Surgery Procedure.
Long Term Effects: Subsequent alterations in body contour may occur as the result of aging, weight loss or gain, pregnancy, or other circumstances unrelated to the above procedures. Click Here to read more information on a Full Tummy Tuck and Click Here for more information on The Recovery Process.
Contraindications for Abdominoplasty Plastic Surgery