Medical Advances Make Tummy Tuck Procedures Easier & More Comfortable For Patients

“No drain” tummy tucks and new anesthetic increase patient comfort

Popularly known as a tummy tuck, abdominoplasty is one of the most common cosmetic surgery procedures. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of surgeries performed in the US increased by 70%. The reason is simple: most people hate the idea of extra fat around the waistline. But recent medical advances may be part of the reason more people are getting tummy tucks.  Today, getting your tummy flattened may itself be a smoother experience.

One of these advances, the “no drain” tummy tuck, is an advanced surgical technique that offers less pain and a faster recovery than traditional abdominoplasty. Patients have responded enthusiastically to the new technique, and no wonder. The traditional method uses plastic tubes inserted under the skin to drain off fluid thorough the pubic area. The drains tend to irritate the skin and may have to stay in place as long as two weeks. Patients have to empty small plastic bulbs that fill with fluid.

Patient response to that was an almost universal “yuck!” They hated the uncomfortable drains that restricted movement and the long recovery time.

“The drains were definitely an issue in abdominoplasty,” says Dr. Fred Hackney, a noted Dallas plastic surgeon and head of the Hackney Plastic Surgery Center. “Many patients find them awkward and uncomfortable.”

No drain tummy tucks use dissolving stitches that attach the abdominal skin to the muscles.  The stitches are under the skin and not visible, so there’s no scarring from the stitches.

Dr. Hackney says he tested the procedure on select patients before offering it as a standard treatment. He found differences in patient comfort and mobility.

Patient mobility after surgery is an important part of recovery. However, patients with pain want to rest not exercise.

“We want the patient to able to get out of bed and have some mobility after surgery,” says Dr. Hackney.” If the patient is able to walk, it reduces the chance of blot clots.”

Most tummy tuck surgeries use a local anesthetic that wears off in a few hours, but some plastic surgeons now use a local anesthetic called Exparel.  It’s a timed-release anesthetic that blocks pain for up to 24 hours. That helps recovery time and reduces the risk of complications after surgery for up to 24 hours.

Plastic surgery isn’t for everyone. Board-certified plastic surgeons always carefully screen patients for lifestyle factors that could make surgery more risky.

A tummy tuck can take away your “muffin top” temporarily, but regular exercise, a healthy diet, and good habits will help keep it away permanently.