New study reveals a higher risk of complications for tummy tuck surgery

Posted: 09/11/2015


A recent study has shown that the ‘tummy tuck’, officially known as the abdominoplasty, has a higher risk of major complications than other cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures. 

A ‘tummy tuck’ is an operation to remove excess fat and skin from the abdomen and can tighten the abdominal muscles to improve the shape of the abdomen. It can also remove or reduce post-pregnancy stretch marks and unwanted scars on the abdomen. The results of a tummy tuck can be permanent as long as a healthy weight is maintained after the surgery and the abdominal muscles are exercised. 

The statistics for cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures performed in 2014 revealed a dramatic 20% drop in the number of ‘tummy tucks’ performed  in 2013. A recent study carried out in the US also shows that there is a high risk of major complications after abdominoplasty, so could this be the reason for the decline in popularity? 

The study examined the data from approximately 25,000 abdominoplasties performed between 2008 and 2013 of which 97% of the patients were women with an average age of 42 years. Overall, major complications occurred in 4% of patients undergoing abdominoplasty. This is significantly higher than the 1.4% after other cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures. The most common major complication was haematomas (blood collections), followed by infections, blood clots (venous thromboembolism), and lung-related problems.

Combined procedures were a key risk factor for complications. Although the risk of complications was just 3.1% for abdominoplasty alone, this risk increased to 10.4% when abdominoplasty was combined with other procedures such as body contouring and liposuction.

A study in the UK last year found an overall complication rate of almost 20% in a review of 450 individual cases while those who had body-contouring after weight loss of more than 3.5 stone were more than twice as likely to suffer problems. The risk of problems increased dramatically in patients who had lost more than 7 stone. Poor healing of wounds and infections, and dehiscence – when a surgical wound ruptures – were all seen significantly more often in patients who lost the most weight. The reason for the increased risk of wound complication is believed to be linked to nutritional deficiencies and changes in the skin.

Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP said: “Tummy tuck surgery was the eighth most popular cosmetic operation performed in the UK last year, with over 2,700 procedures according to figures provided by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). However, having a tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is not a decision you should take lightly. It’s a major operation with some significant risks associated with it. Although the overall incidence of major complications is low, such complications can leave a potentially devastating cosmetic outcome and pose a significant financial burden on the patient and their surgeon. Many clients contact us after discovering long-term swelling, discomfort, scarring and abdomen numbness. If you are concerned about the results of your tummy tuck, we are always available to discuss your circumstances with you further.”


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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

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