An abdominoplasty — commonly known as a “tummy tuck” — is a cosmetic surgical procedure that aims to flatten the stomach area through the removal of excess skin and fat and tightening of the abdominal muscles.

People often seek out this surgery when they have been pregnant or lost significant amounts of weight and have extra skin that is difficult to get rid of.

While people typically undergo this procedure for cosmetic reasons, you may wonder whether abdominoplasty has any health benefits.

This article tells you whether there are health benefits to abdominoplasty and discusses the potential risks, the alternatives, and the answers to some commonly asked questions.

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Studies suggest that losing 5–10% or more of excess weight is associated with reduced risk of chronic disease, so you may wonder whether undergoing an abdominoplasty would also confer those benefits.

However, the main purpose of a tummy tuck is to remove excess skin, not excess fat. While some fat can be removed, the procedure is not designed for major fat removal. It’s considered a body-contouring surgery, not a fat loss surgery.

The goal of the surgery is to flatten the stomach area by removing loose skin and tightening the abdominal muscles, if needed. Often, the best candidates for this surgery are those who have already lost weight or have recovered from pregnancy.

If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight prior to getting a tummy tuck, you may experience benefits such as a decreased risk of chronic disease, but that’s not a result of the surgery.

That said, getting an abdominoplasty may still provide other benefits to some people.

Keep in mind that many studies on the health benefits of abdominoplasties are small and rely on self-reported symptom information, so it’s unclear how much of an effect the surgery truly has. More research is needed.

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May reduce back pain

After pregnancy or weight loss, the abdominal muscles can become weaker or may be pulled apart (a condition called diastasis recti). A surgeon may restore weakened or separated abdominal muscles, which can strengthen the core to provide more back support.

Interestingly, a 2018 study found that patients who underwent a tummy tuck had significant improvements in back pain within 6 weeks to 6 months after surgery.

May support better posture

Tightening of the abdominal muscles helps support a stronger core, which is necessary for stabilizing the spine. One study found that this can help reposition the pelvis and keep the back straight, which can improve posture over time.

May help improve stress urinary incontinence (SUI)

SUI occurs when there is excess pressure on the bladder or urethra.

While this condition is usually treated without a tummy tuck, some research has shown improvements in SUI after a tummy tuck.

May correct a ventral hernia

A tummy tuck may help correct a ventral hernia by reducing pressure on the abdominal wall and strengthening weakened abdominal muscles.

Sometimes, an abdominoplasty is added to a standard hernia repair surgery.

Can improve confidence and self-esteem

The main reason most people get a tummy tuck is to improve the appearance of their abdomen.

While there is often no medical need for a tummy tuck, and loose skin is a natural occurrence, research has shown that recipients of a tummy tuck often feel more confident in their physical appearance after the surgery.

Keep in mind that these health effects are usually additional benefits of an abdominoplasty — they are not stand-alone reasons to get the procedure. A plastic surgeon can provide a personal assessment to find out whether you’re an ideal candidate for the surgery.

An abdominoplasty is considered a safe and effective surgery. However, just like any other surgery, it has some risks.

Common risks associated with a tummy tuck include:

One 2015 review of 2,946 abdominoplasties found that 19.5% of patients experienced a general complication. These effects ranged from minor wound complications and infections to more severe issues such as extreme bleeding, kidney failure, and heart complications.

Further, 8.5% needed to be readmitted to the hospital, and 5% needed another operation.

The researchers found that a higher body mass index (BMI), inpatient status, comorbidities (other health conditions occurring at the same time, such as heart disease), and rapid weight loss of more than 10% of body weight in the previous 6 months increased people’s risk of complications.

Additionally, those who had their abdominoplasty performed by a plastic surgeon as opposed to another type of surgery professional appeared to have a lower risk of major complications.

The authors suspected that this was the result of advanced training and the surgeons’ ability to identify ideal candidates.

While this major surgery certainly has some potential risks, you can better understand your risk of complications by working closely with a board certified plastic surgeon. They can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for the procedure.

If your goal is to improve your health, you may want to try nonsurgical interventions before deciding to undergo a tummy tuck.

It’s natural to have loose skin after losing weight or recovering from pregnancy, and it usually isn’t a health concern.

In some cases, your loose skin may tighten over time if you’re maintaining your weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.

These habits can also improve your quality of life by reducing your risk of chronic disease, mobility challenges, and premature signs of aging.

But exercise and diet alone will not eliminate loose skin, especially not if you’ve lost a considerable amount of weight.

Ultimately, choosing to get an abdominoplasty is a very personal decision that you and your surgeon should carefully consider.

Here are some questions people often ask about abdominoplasty.

How long does an abdominoplasty last?

The results of an abdominoplasty are considered permanent because the fat and skin cells are removed and therefore cannot grow back. However, your results may change if you gain or lose significant weight or become pregnant again.

You may also experience some changes in your appearance due to natural factors such as age.

Is abdominoplasty very painful?

An abdominoplasty is a major surgery and requires significant recovery time — often at least 2 weeks.

The first week or two is often the most painful, and your pain will usually subside as your body heals. Your surgeon may prescribe medications to help manage the pain.

What is a full vs. mini abdominoplasty?

A full abdominoplasty involves tightening loose skin and weakened abdominal muscles across the entire abdomen.

In contrast, a mini abdominoplasty focuses on the region just below the belly button and is often reserved for people with minor skin sagging.

Does abdominoplasty help with weight loss?

While an abdominoplasty may include the removal of some fat, it’s not intended as a weight loss surgery. Still, you may see a small decrease on the scale, depending on how much skin is removed.

Surgeons often recommend that people lose weight before undergoing an abdominoplasty, since the procedure focuses mostly on removing excess skin that has resulted from weight loss or pregnancy.

Getting an abdominoplasty, or “tummy tuck,” is a personal decision that many people make to improve the appearance of their abdomen after pregnancy or significant weight loss.

While the procedure is most often performed for cosmetic reasons, other benefits of an abdominoplasty include improvements in back pain, posture, and urinary incontinence — as a result of correcting weakened or separated abdominal muscles — as well as improved self-esteem and confidence.

However, a tummy tuck is a body-contouring procedure and is not meant as a weight loss surgery. In fact, doctors often recommend that people lose weight and maintain that loss before undergoing the surgery.

Though the procedure is considered safe, it does have some risks that you should discuss with your surgeon. Your surgeon will also perform an assessment to determine whether you’re a suitable candidate for the surgery and whether you’ll benefit from it.