What is a Partial Abdominoplasty?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

A partial abdominoplasty is an elective surgical procedure that is performed to tighten and reshape the lower abdomen. Men and women who are in relatively good health but concerned about a small amount of excess fat and loose skin may be candidates for the procedure. Also called a mini tummy tuck, partial abdominoplasty has a very high success rate and the risks of complications are low. Many patients receive liposuction around their hips and stomachs at the same time as abdominoplasty to achieve more dramatic results.

Most doctors encourage their patients to try non-surgical methods of getting into shape before considering partial abdominoplasty. People who do manage to lose significant amounts of weight through diet and exercise, however, sometimes have loose, sagging skin that they want tightened through surgery. In general, the best candidates for partial abdominoplasty are close to their ideal weights and in good physical and mental health. Patients who are significantly overweight are usually better suited for full abdominoplasty, which involves a much riskier and more time-consuming operation. A plastic surgeon can assess a candidate during an initial consultation as well as explain the risks, benefits, and long-term expectations of the procedure.

Before a partial abdominoplasty is performed, a patient is usually given a sedative and a local anesthetic injection in his or her lower abdomen. He or she is situated on an operating room table and the surgeon marks the incision site. In most cases, an elliptical cut is made between the hipbones that follows the natural curvature of the abdomen. The surgeon proceeds to clip away sections of excess skin, fat and cartilage tissue. A suction device may be used to remove larger amounts of fat in some cases. After removing skin and fat, the surgeon stretches the abdominal muscles and sutures them back together to tighten them.

Once all of the necessary cuts and muscle adjustments are made, the surgeon uses stitches and glues to close the skin wound. Partial abdominoplasty can usually be completed in one to two hours, and patients can usually leave the plastic surgeon's office after an overnight stay. Painkillers and antibiotic ointments may be provided to ease symptoms and prevent infection during recovery. In most cases, people can return to work and limited physical activity in as little as one week after the procedure. A follow-up visit within the first two weeks is normally scheduled so the surgeon can gauge the success of the operation, remove stitches, and answer questions.

The risks associated with partial abdominoplasty are low compared to many other surgical procedures. There is a small chance of hemorrhaging, blood clots, infections, and nerve problems, though the risks can be limited by following the surgeon's instructions and caring for surgical wounds properly at home. A long, thin, permanent scar that typically is covered by the underwear may result from the surgery.

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