Tummy Tuck: 3 essential things you must know!

  1. Before a tummy tuck

When you continually gain and lose weight, the excess tissue composed of skin and fat in the lower part of the tummy becomes a real problem for some people. This excess tissue along with the underlying lax muscles can be dealt with by a surgical procedure known as a tummy tuck, otherwise known as an abdominoplasty. Removing the “muffin top” (the tissues between the belly button and pubis), then re-draping the skin from above the belly button to meet the skin on the pubis and repositioning the belly button, are the basis of all tummy tucks.

One of the keys to a tummy tuck is finding out how much excess skin and fat, as well as, muscle laxity you have in your tummy, is to bend over at the waist and “let it all hang out.” The next step is to pinch these tissues and tighten the tummy muscles, which will give you an idea of how much of the tissues need to be removed.x

Also, you will notice that most of the tissue bulk is in the midline and fades out at the sides. If you imagine this excess tissue as an ellipse on the lower tummy, it will give you an indication of how long the scar will be from one side of the hip to the other. I tell all my patients that the resulting scar can be concealed, that it will generally fade with time, but will always be there.

 

  1. Tummy tuck operation

Just prior to beginning the tummy tuck, I mark the tummy while the patient is standing up. I mark the midline from the xiphoid (“breast bone”) to the pubis. This enables me to realign the midline after removing the excess tissues and to place the belly button in the midline. A second line indicates the position of the lower-tummy incision. This usually lies quite low in the tummy since the most common garment worn by women today is jeans. Finally, areas for liposuction are marked in the upper tummy, the hips and lower flanks (liposuction thins the tissues and allows them to re-drape better).

Our anaesthetists use a laryngeal-mask airway (a breathing tube that sits at the back of the throat) and do not paralyse the patient, allowing them to breathe independently during the entire operation. I begin the tummy tuck operation with liposuction to the tummy, hips and lower flanks.  Then, I incise the skin around the belly button which is still attached to the underlying muscle wall. After making the lower tummy incision, I widely undermine the tissue up to the level of the belly button. I continue the dissection above the belly button to the level of the xiphoid process (lower part of the sternum), making a central tunnel (about the size of a hands width). I then “lace-up” the separated muscles of the midline from above and below the belly button.

Next, the patient is bent at the waist to 45 degrees, and the excess tissues removed so that the two skin edges may be closed without tension. Two drains are brought out below the pubic hairline to capture any excess fluid that may build-up in the tissues. These usually are taken out between day 3 to 5 when the drainage is less than 30 ml’s or so. Lastly, I bring out the belly button at the midline, usually 12 to 15 cm above the lower tummy incision and place a tummy binder on the patient at this time and adjust it to allow for moderate compression.

The patient is kept in a bent position at the waist and knees as they are transferred to the recovery bed.

 

  1. After tummy tuck surgery

After a tummy tuck, the patient will continue to wear TED (compression) stockings and automated calf compressors for 24-48 hours and be commenced on blood thinning agents the following day to lessen the chance of deep vein thrombosis (clots in the legs) or pulmonary embolism (when these clots break away from the legs and migrate through the venous system to the lungs causing a “lung attack”).

The patient is instructed to sleep with several pillows behind her back and a pillow beneath their knees.

They are encouraged to walk to the bathroom the following day, have showers and to undergo regular chest physiotherapy. Patients are advised to wear the tummy binder continuously for the first 4 weeks after surgery, except when they wash themselves or the binder. After this period, I allow them to wear it only at night if they wish, but many choose to wear it longer. I also advise patients that it takes 4 weeks to get back to normal activities of daily living and 6 weeks to resume aerobics exercises.

 

Question: What questions do you have about tummy tuck surgery? You can leave a comment below.

Why a Body Lift Can Help You After a Massive Weight Loss

If you desire a firmer, more youthful-looking body contour, then a surgical body lift may help achieve your goals. It improves the shape and tone of the underlying tissue that supports fat and skin. In addition, the procedure(s) can improve a dimpled, irregular skin surface, commonly known as cellulite.

Body lift surgery essentially sculpts the body by excision of excess skin and fat and reconstruction of what remains into some reactive contours. Body lifts can be performed in two different ways, to treat either the upper or the lower body:

  • Lower body lift: The lower body lift is the most common type of body lift in my practice. It typically includes a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), thigh lift, and buttocks lift performed at the same time. The incision is concealed around the hipline so that it’s not visible when wearing underwear or a bikini.
  • Upper body lift: For patients with severe skin laxity of the upper torso, an upper body lift may be the appropriate treatment. This typically includes a bra line back lift and upper abdominoplasty. The procedure is individualised for the particular patient.

Candidates for body lifts typically have lost large amounts of weight. They should be healthy and well-nourished without vitamin or mineral deficiencies. They should not smoke, as smoking increases the risk of complications.

Body lift is performed under general anaesthesia, with the patient positioned on their stomach, and the surgeon removes a large, belt-like segment of skin above the buttocks, up to the lower back. When the wound is closed, the thighs and buttocks are lifted. The patient is turned over and the surgeon continues to work on the front of the thighs and abdomen. Indeed, when a surgeon performs a circumferential removal of skin and fat of the lower abdomen, and when combined with undermining of the thighs, it will lead to a lift of the buttocks and thighs. A body lift can be done in two stages, with a three-month gap between procedures, or as a single stage surgery.

Patients usually take at least two weeks off from work following a body lift. I encourage patients to ambulate shortly after surgery. They may resume full exercise approximately 6 weeks following surgery. The results of a body lift are visible almost immediately. However, it may take as much as one to two years, or more, for the final results of the body lift procedures to fully develop. Since weight loss patients have poor skin elasticity, the closure must be as tight as possible. However, over-resection of the skin followed by overly tight closure of the tissues can lead to wound rupture or to broadly depressed scars resulting from suture pull through, breakage or premature dissolution. At the same time, insufficient removal of skin and low-tension closure leaves sagging tissues, skin rolls and/or wrinkles. A body lift should be seen as a critical step in overcoming obesity, with the potential of ceasing or reducing medications used for diabetes and high blood pressure. Patients need to take steps following surgery to maintain a healthy lifestyle, ensuring that their new shape will be long term.

Question: Do you feel that a body lift can improve self-esteem following massive weight loss? You can leave a comment below.

Teenage Cosmetic Surgery: Why So Much Pressure?

 

There has been a storm brewing for some me now regarding teenage cosmetic surgery.  A concoction made up of quick fixes,  a society obsessed with beauty, and the commercialisation and overexposure of cosmetic surgery. This has all lent themselves to the growth of cosmetic surgery for  Generation  X and younger.  This has been further compounded by the increasing number of medical specialists entering the cosmetic arena.

My worry is that this Generation X and their successors wanting teenage cosmetic surgery may become an abused marketplace.  It would appear that they have it a little easier, in the sense that, they have parents or relatives who have had cosmetic surgery and are approving of it, in an economy that has been both buoyant and robust for some time now.  This takes away from the fact, that teenage cosmetic surgery needs much more scrutiny because it can play on people’s insecurities and promises of an instantly better life.

Most plastic surgeons I believe are responsible individuals with a conscience who try and counsel teenagers, usually in front of their parents, of the risks, benefits, and outcomes of procedures, as well as whether they are appropriate or not. They try very hard to show that TV programs like Extreme Makeover,  Dr.  90210  and  The Swan trivialise and glamourise cosmetic surgery and that glossy magazines like Teen Vogue or Teen Cosmo display airbrushed photos of models and celebrities that are in reality unachievable.

Now teenagers who want to have cosmetic surgery usually have different motivations and goals than adults.  They too have cosmetic surgery to improve physical characteristics they feel are awkward or flawed,  that if left uncorrected, may affect them well into adulthood.  Teens tend to have cosmetic surgery to fit in with peers, to look similar.  Adults tend to have cosmetic surgery to stand out from others.  Teenagers frequently gain self-esteem and confidence when their physical problems are corrected.  In fact, successful teenage cosmetic surgery may reverse the social withdrawal that generally accompanies teenagers who feel different.  Not every teenager seeking cosmetic surgery is well suited for an operation.  Teenagers must demonstrate emotional maturity and an understanding of the limitations of cosmetic surgery.

I would caution teenagers and parents to keep in mind that cosmetic surgery is real surgery, with great benefits, but also carries some risks. Teenagers should have realistic expectations about cosmetic surgery and what it can do for them. In addition, certain milestones in growth and physical maturity must be achieved before undergoing cosmetic surgery. The most rewarding outcomes are expected when the following exist:

  1. The teenager initiates the request.
    The young person must appreciate both the benefits and limitations of cosmetic surgery, avoiding unrealistic expectations about life changes that will occur as a result of the procedure.
  2. The teenager has realistic goals.
    While parental support isn’t lessened at all, the teenager’s own desire for cosmetic surgery must be clearly expressed and repeated over a period of time.
  3.  The teenager has sufficient maturity.
    Teenagers must be able to tolerate the discomfort and temporary disfigurement of a surgical procedure.  Cosmetic surgery is not recommended for teens who are prone to mood swings or erratic behavior, who are abusing drugs and/ or alcohol, or who are being treated for clinical depression or other mental illness.

Some of the commonest teenage cosmetic surgery procedures include:

  1. Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping)

Cosmetic surgery may be performed on the nose to straighten the bridge, remove an unsightly hump, reshape the point or open breathing passages. Ordinarily, this is not performed until the nose reaches its adult size –  about age 15 or 16 in girls and a year later in boys. The procedure accounted for nearly 50 percent of all cosmetic surgical procedures performed on this age group.

2.Otoplasty (ear surgery)

Surgical correction of protruding ears, in which the ears are pinned back, may be performed any time after the age of five. Otoplasty made up 11 percent of all cosmetic surgical procedures performed on this age group.

3. Correction of Breast Asymmetry

When one breast grows to a much larger size than the other, an operation may correct the difference by reducing the larger breast, augmenting the smaller, or both. Many teenagers who want breast augmentation tend to have one breast that is larger than the other – sometimes a full cup size or more in difference. This condition is called breast asymmetry. Using a breast implant in the smaller breast allows the patient to have breasts of the same size. Although waiting may prolong the physical awkwardness, it is advisable to delay surgery until breast growth ceases in order to achieve the best result.

4. Breast Augmentation

Breast implants can be used for breast augmentation in women 18-years or older and for breast reconstruction.

Many teenagers who want breast augmentation to have one breast that is larger than the other -sometimes a full cup size or more in difference. This condition is called breast asymmetry. Using a breast implant in the smaller breast allows the patient to have breasts of the same size. Although waiting may prolong the physical awkwardness, it is advisable to delay surgery until breast growth ceases in order to achieve the best result.

5. Breast Reduction

Surgical reduction of very large breasts can overcome both physical and psychological burdens for a teenage girl.

In fact, many teenagers suffer ongoing back pain due to overly large breasts. Although waiting may prolong the psychological awkwardness, it is advisable to delay surgery until breast growth ceases in order to achieve the best result.

6. Acne and Acne Scar Treatment

Acne eruptions may be controlled by the proper use of modern prescription drugs. In addition to supervising the use of these medications, plastic surgeons may improve acne scars by smoothing or “refinishing” the skin with a laser or with a fine sanding technique called microdermabrasion. Other treatments for acne related skin problems include laser skin resurfacing, dermabrasion, and chemical peels.

7. Male Breast Reduction (Gynaecomastia)

Teenage boys with large breasts, known as gynecomastia, are often eager to undergo plastic surgery. Surgical correction can be accomplished in a variety of ways including liposuction and/or surgical excision of the breast tissue.

As a plastic surgeon, I am an advocate for the right teenage cosmetic surgery, at the right time, and for the right reason. Things like correction of prominent ears, breast reduction in adolescent boys or breast reconstruction in young girls with an underdeveloped breast can truly advance the person’s quality of life. It is our responsibility as plastic surgeons to guide teenagers (and their parents) in the right direction and to educate them that cosmetic surgery is not a panacea for the everyday pressures that teenagers’ face. Cosmetic surgery can make you more attractive but not necessarily happier!

Question: What do you think is the commonest reason teenagers want cosmetic surgery? You can leave a comment below.

Laser Hair Removal Mythconceptions

There is no such thing as a single “best” laser for hair removal on all patients.  The best laser for laser hair removal for each person really depends on his or her skin colour. Thus, multiple lasers exist for hair removal. Different laser types, which emit distinct wavelengths of light, are better for treating different skin types. There are a number of manufacturers that make these laser types:

  • Alexandrite lasers. These emit laser light at 755 nm. These lasers work best on lighter skin. In my opinion,  it has been the most impressive laser for hair removal for light to olive skin types.
  • Diode Lasers.  These emit light at a wavelength of 810  nm.  Lighter skin types do well with this type of laser, as do some darker skin types.
  • Nd: YAG lasers.  These emit a 1064 nm wavelength.  This laser is best for darker skin types, as the higher wavelength reaches deeper into the skin.  This helps to avoid superficial skin melanin,  which pigments our skin.
  • IPL or  Intense  Pulsed  Light. It has been used for hair removal.  Lasers emit light at one wavelength (like laser pointers in PowerPoint presentations).  IPL machines produce a range of wavelengths  (like the cone of light from a torch one sees in cartoons) and are not lasers.  So,  there  is  no  such  thing  as  an  “IPL  laser”  or  “IPL laser  hair  removal”-  it’s  a  marketing  ploy  for  businesses  that  have  IPL  machines  and  not  hair  removal  lasers (the  only  exception  to  the  rule  are  the  few  machines  out  there  that  have  both  lasers  and  IPL  machines  in them).  Several studies have shown that  IPL is not as effective as dedicated hair removal lasers, and carry a higher risk of burns, blisters, and changes in pigment.

In my experience,  the Alexandrite laser is the most effective laser for removing hair on the lighter skin, whereas the Nd: YAG is the safest and best laser for more darkly pigmented skin.  Remember,  every laser  has  a  “target.”  For hair removal lasers, the goal is to selectively target the pigment (in other words colour) which in this case is called melanin found in hair follicles.  Melanin is the reason why we have black or brown hair or shades in between.  The hair follicles are living cells which make hair below the surface of the skin.  When the melanin is selectively heated, this destroys the hair follicle cells.  The lighter the hair, the less melanin the hair follicles will have in them.  As a result, hair that is blonde, white or grey does not improve with laser hair removal.  In my practice,  I have actually seen some patients notice a decrease in lighter hairs,  but it ’s the exception and not the rule.

Melanin is also present in skin and is the cause for dark skin and suntans.  It is the same target that the hair removal laser is trying to reach in hair follicles.  Hair removal lasers may target the melanin in the skin as well as in the hair follicles which sometimes results in burns,  blisters, and change in skin pigmentation.  As a result,  lower settings and longer laser pulse times must be used for darker skin to avoid damage.  As a consequence, more overall treatment sessions will usually be necessary.

Remember, laser hair removal is a medical procedure and you should always consult with a doctor who has extensive experience in lasers and laser hair removal.  This will maximize your chances of a great result.

Thanks for reading!

Dr.  Tim  –  Sydney  Cosmetic  Plastic  Surgeon

www.cosmeticculture.com.au
www.drtim.com.au