A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure aimed at extracting loose skin and excess fat from the abdominal area while also tightening the underlying muscles. The result is a stomach that looks flatter and more toned.

While tummy tucks are often associated with women who wish to regain the firmer appearance their stomach had before pregnancy, abdominoplasty can also help patients who have lost a significant amount of weight over a relatively short time.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that the number of tummy tuck surgeries performed has spiked by 87 percent between 2000 and 2014. Most of these surgeries were likely performed for cosmetic purposes; however, patients can experience some medical benefits following the procedure.

Reduction of Stress Urinary Incontinence

Vaginal birth can cause some women to develop a condition called Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). This condition causes bladder leakage that can occur while exercising, sneezing, coughing or even laughing.

For many patients, SUI can be treated without surgery. For more severe cases, several studies have indicated tummy tucks can help in the recovery process, particularly in those who did not have a cesarean section. A small bladder blockage is created with the soft tissue located in the pelvic region during the surgery, resulting in diminished incontinence issues.

Improved Abdominal Tone and Better Posture

Stomach muscles can expand after several pregnancies or significant weight loss to the point that changes in exercise and diet plans are not sufficient to correct the problem. A tummy tuck will firm up weakened muscles and rid the abdomen of excess fat and skin, giving the stomach a flatter appearance.

A condition called lordosis, also known as sway back, is often connected to weakened muscles in the abdomen. Following abdominoplasty, patients may see a marked improvement in their posture, thanks to the newly tightened abdominal muscles providing more support to their spine. Some may also experience less severe back pain.

Ventral Hernia Correction

Patients who have experienced extreme weight loss, or undergone procedures such as appendectomies and cesarean sections, may suffer from ventral hernias. This condition occurs when abdominal or intestinal tissue breaches the abdominal wall, forming a protruding sack.

Symptoms that call for a ventral hernia correction procedure are much like those that require abdominoplasty, in that both techniques correct weak abdominal muscles. Regardless of what causes weakness in the abdominal wall, that weakness creates conditions that are ripe for the formation of a hernia.

Patients who experience a ventral hernia once must understand that the condition can easily re-occur. Your surgeon may consider the benefits of combining the hernia correction procedure with abdominoplasty to further strength the abdominal wall and avoid future problems. Combining these surgeries is safe and smart – doing so can cut medical costs and recovery time considerably.

Risks and Rewards

Contrary to popular belief, tummy tucks are not easy procedures. They are major operations that require patients to remain in surgery for up to five hours while under general anesthesia.

A common abdominoplasty extracts approximately 10 pounds of abdominal fat by detaching the underlying tissue from the skin, securing the abdominal tissue with sutures and removing excess skin. Patients can expect to be in recovery for several weeks, and during that time they remain at risk for complications such as infection, as is the case with any other surgery.

Despite the risks, many find the medical and cosmetic benefits associated with the tummy tuck procedure quite appealing. Patients considering this procedure should talk to their surgeon and weigh all recommendations before deciding to move ahead with surgery.