What can go wrong with a tummy tuck?

What complications should I expect? I'm sure there's almost nothing I should worry about, but I want to be prepared. How often do you see tummy tucks go wrong? Is age an important factor? Because I'm not as young as I used to be.

lisamayer

F, 42, Utah

Even though tummy tucks are one of the most popular cosmetic plastic surgery procedures in the USA, they do include the potential for serious complications. Possible life-threatening complications include infection, bleeding, and blood clots that become lodged in the lungs. For smokers, these risks are much higher and most plastic surgeons insist their patients quit smoking before moving forward with tummy tuck surgery. Less dangerous complications include unsightly scarring and the potential development of hard, internal scar tissue.

It's impossible for me to tell you in general terms what the chances of specific complications occurring are. The risks depend on the state of your health, your adherence to postoperative recovery guidelines, the skill and experience of your plastic surgeon, and the quality of the medical facilities you visit. Needless to say, the quality of care in New York or Beverly Hills is likely going to be higher than in Panama of Mexico.

When performed by an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon, the risks associated with tummy tuck surgery are generally very low. We’ve had excellent success with the procedure and can count thousands of very happy patients. If you’re concerned about whether you're a good candidate for tummy tuck surgery, I encourage you to schedule a consultation with a local board-certified plastic surgeon to discuss which options make the most sense for you.

There are some potential risks associated with tummy tuck surgery, but most are very rare. The most common risk is the collection of serous fluid. Other less likely complications include infection and bleeding. The most serious potential risks are the formation of blood clots in the legs or a pulmonary embolism, both of which are extremely rare.

Please note that a tummy tuck should be a low risk procedure in the hands of an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon. However, even in the hands of the most skilled doctors, the possibility for complications exists -- although most are minor and have no effect on the final results.

Many of the horror stories you read on the internet are the result of patients who visited poorly trained surgeons, or were searching for cut-price tummy tucks in offshore clinics lacking state-of-the-art facilities. Anyone shopping for a cheap tummy tuck in the Czech Republic or at a bargain Mexican clinic is risking complications and negative results.

It should also be mentioned that when complications do occur it’s usually among patients who drank, smoked, or didn’t properly follow their doctor’s postoperative guidelines.

Dr. Neil Zemmel has 5 Tummy tuck before & afters:

Tummy tuck before image performed by Dr. Neil  ZemmelTummy tuck after image performed by Dr. Neil  ZemmelTummy tuck before image performed by Dr. Neil  ZemmelTummy tuck after image performed by Dr. Neil  ZemmelTummy tuck before image performed by Dr. Neil  ZemmelTummy tuck after image performed by Dr. Neil  ZemmelTummytuck before image performed by Dr. Neil  ZemmelTummytuck after image performed by Dr. Neil  Zemmel

» View Dr. Neil Zemmel's full profile

While it's important to understand the potential complications associated with any plastic surgery procedure, it's also important to understand the likelihood of any complications occurring when you’re in the hands of an experienced plastic surgeon.

Many of the "tummy tuck gone wrong" stories you read about are stories of patients who took a risk on a clinic in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or another foreign destination with lower standards of surgical care. For an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon in the USA, tummy tuck surgery is statistically very safe.

Nearly 130,000 tummy tuck procedures were performed in the United States last year alone. Tummy tuck surgery is one of the most popular cosmetic surgery options in the world and keeps growing more popular every day.

With that said, complications do happen. To maximize your chances of a perfect outcome, my advice is to:

First, do your homework carefully before moving forward with decisions concerning breast augmentation, tummy tuck surgery, or any other cosmetic procedures. Be sure to review before-and-after photos and to choose a plastic surgeon who has a history of satisfied patients and quality results.

Second, listen closely to the advice of your plastic surgeon regarding postoperative care. The recovery period after plastic surgery needs to be respected. In many cases an ugly tummy tuck scar or other unsatisfactory result is not the result of a botched plastic surgery, but rather a patient who drank, smoked, failed to exercise or otherwise didn't properly participate in their own recovery.

It's important to stay mobile and lightly active. It's also important to avoid alcohol, smoking and heavy lifting. By doing your research; choosing a skilled and experienced plastic surgeon and closely following their postoperative guidelines, acquiring a perfect new flat tummy should be a very low risk affair.

Some things can go wrong with tummy tuck, like any other operation, but that's not the right frame of mind.  Many things can go wrong with driving, airplane travel, or eating out at restaurants.  First educate yourself about it, decide if it's something you want or not, and then speak with a surgeon.  Be sure to discuss your goals and concerns with your board certified plastic surgeon and consider the pros and the cons. Be certain your surgeon is properly certified.  I've attached a link where you can start your search. Most tummy tucks go without a hitch, and the patients love their results.

You can also look at our tummy tuck page to learn more about potential issues and typical restuls:  www.plasticsurgerysmg.com


Abdominoplasty is a very safe operation, however it is a surgical procedure and complications can happen. Age is not a factor with increased complications as long as your in good health. Go over all the potential complications in detail with your surgeon pre operatively so you are comfortable moving forward. Good Luck!