General Risks of Abdominoplasty Surgery

Abdominoplasty is serious surgery, and although a bad outcome is rare, it can happen.

There are several risks. You could have a bad reaction to the anesthetic, something that can happen anytime anesthesia is used. General anesthesia is considered to be more risky than local or regional anesthesia, but any anesthetic could bring on a negative reaction. Please read our Anesthesia Section for more information.

Although extremely rare, it is possible to bleed excessively after your abdominoplasty surgery and need a second surgery to control and drain the collected blood. You could also develop a pocket of collected blood, called a hematoma, or a pocket of watery fluid called a seroma. Either a hematoma or a seroma can cause excessive scar tissue and discomfort.

A lot of tissue, skin, and fat are removed or rearranged during an abdominoplasty. If the blood supply to a portion of muscle, skin or fat is cut off, it could die, a condition called necrosis. If a pocket of fat becomes necrotic from the lack of blood supply, it tends to turn into an orangey fluid and drain from the incision. Some orangey drainage is normal, as is some blood-tinted drainage. Drainage is actually necessary for proper healing. So do not be alarmed by any drainage unless what comes out has a very foul odor, is greenish-white or if there is a large amount of it. If you ever have questions about drainage, call your surgeon immediately.

Necrosis (death) of skin, fat or muscle tissue is a risk, although extremely rare. The chances of necrosis are increased if you have poor circulation or if you smoke (which causes poor circulation).

Loss of sensitivity on the skin of your abdomen is common, although usually temporary. Permanent loss of sensation of the skin on the lower abdomen or around the navel can happen. There is also a risk of excessive scarring of the skin or internally.

You could develop a postoperative infection. Infections usually occur with the first 4 to 6 weeks after your tummy tuck surgery.

One common type of bacteria that can cause postsurgical is Staphylococcus aureus. One form of this is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This strain is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin, but in practice it is resistant to many types of antibiotics, but not all of them. MRSA is not a common infection, but can occur.

The incidence of infections can be reduced by washing the abdomen (or the area to be operated on) with antimicrobial soaps such as Hibiclens or Antibacterial Dial before surgery. Your surgeon will give you instruction about this. Washing with an antibacterial soap will rid the area of staph bacteria, which are naturally found on the skin. Your surgeon will also scrub you with an antibacterial solution at the start of your surgery.

Pulmonary thromboemboli (or pulmonary emboli) are quite rare, but are a very serious risk after abdominoplasty surgery. An embolus (the plural is emboli) is anything that gets into the bloodstream that could cause a blockage. If a blood clot breaks loose and travels in the bloodstream, it is called a thromboembolus. If a clot travels to the lungs, it is a pulmonary thromboembolus (or thromboembolism) and can cause serious breathing problems and can lead to a heart attack or coma, and even death. Pulmonary thromboemboli, if they occur, can occur within 3 weeks of the surgery, but usually will happen within the first 72 hours. The symptoms are shortness of breath and fatigue. However, pulmonary thromboemboli can occur without warning.

You can reduce the risk of a thromboemboli by moving around and walking gently as soon as possible and as often as possible immediately after your surgery. In fact, if you are in a hospital for any surgery, you will pretty much be rousted out of bed and made to walk no matter how you feel or how many intravenous lines are in you. Do it. Walking and moving helps to prevent blood clots from forming.

Liposuction Risks
Sometimes liposuction is performed in conjunction with abdominoplasty. Liposuction has risks of its own that should be seriously considered. Please read more about liposuction risks at our sister website,, if you are planning on having this procedure as well.

General Dissatisfaction with Abdominoplasty
Although this is not quite a surgical risk, you may be unhappy with the results of your abdominoplasty.

You could end up with dog ears.This is when the incision line ends with little tags or triangles of skin after everything has healed. Some surgeons prevent dog ears from forming by suturing your incision while you are in a partial upright position. Dog ears can be fixed after the fact by removing the tags and resuturing where they have been removed. This can be done under local anesthesia in your surgeon's office.

Lastly, you have the risk of your tummy tuck just not living up to what you expected. You can avoid this happening by discussing in depth what you want with your surgeon before your surgery and listening very carefully to what he or she says about what is possible. Look at tummy tuck before-and-after photos of other people with your surgeon to get an idea of what you will look like. Computer imaging is often an excellent tool that can be used to help you and your surgeon agree on what you will look like and ensure that you are both on the same page as your surgeon as far as aesthetics are concerned.