Tummy Tuck Risks

Reviewed by Richard J. Greco, MD, FACS

Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is a popular plastic surgery procedure that removes excess stomach fat and skin and tightens weak abdominal muscles. The decision to undergo an elective surgery such as tummy tuck should never be made lightly, as all surgeries involve risks.

Your risk of tummy tuck complications should be discussed during your initial consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon, and any follow-up questions can be addressed during subsequent pre-op visits.

Each person's risk profile is unique. Some risks may be generic, but others are very specific to you. Be up front about your medical history so your doctor can carefully evaluate your personal benefit-risk profile.

In general, tummy tuck risks include:

  • Anesthesia complications
  • Tissue loss
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bleeding under the skin flap
  • Collection of fluid or blood under the skin (seroma or hematoma, respectively)
  • Blood clot in the legs that travels to the lungs (pulmonary embolism)
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Insufficient wound healing
  • Cosmetic dissatisfaction with the results
  • Death

Minimize Your Tummy Tuck Risks: Here's How

Many risks can be managed or avoided. Start by carefully following your surgeon's pre- and post-surgery instructions, including quitting smoking. Cigarette smoking increases risk of poor wound healing and tissue death (necrosis).

The loss or death of tissue after a tummy tuck, which typically occurs in the skin above the pubic hair, is more likely to occur in people who smoke as well as those with inadequately controlled diabetes or a history of abdominal surgeries.

Certain medications can increase your bleeding risk and must be stopped in the weeks before your tummy tuck surgery. These include aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. Certain herbal remedies may also increase bleeding risk. Tell your surgeon about all medications and supplements you take on a regular basis during your consultation.

Risk of infection can be minimized with proper wound care and by taking any prescribed antibiotics as directed, for as long as directed. It's also important to report any symptoms of infection, such as a fever, to your doctor as soon as they occur. It's better to be safe than sorry, so call your surgeon with any concerns.

Early ambulation can help reduce your risk of developing a blood clot that could travel to your lungs, so begin walking as soon as you can. Also ask for compression boots to help boost circulation during your in-hospital recovery.

Tummy tuck is often performed in combination with other procedures such as breast lift with breast implants as part of a mommy makeover. Be sure that you are fully informed of all the complications associated with the various procedures you are considering, including your breast augmentation and breast lift risks.

Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience performing tummy tuck can also help minimize your risk of complications. Start your search now.