Tummy tuck surgery is a major event. There’s a lot of thought that must go into preparing for your abdominoplasty. Here’s a look at some of the steps involved and ways you can help ensure the best possible outcome.

Overall Health

Maximizing your pre-treatment health is the No. 1 thing you can do to make your tummy tuck a success. Good health reduces your risk of complications during surgery and will speed your recovery afterward. The most important thing you can do is to get your weight well under control. You don’t have to be exactly at your ideal body weight to have this surgery – but you should be reasonably close (within 10 pounds). Both substantial weight gain and weight loss can distort your tummy tuck results later. That’s because there’s no way to tell how and where you are going to put on or take off fat volume as your weight fluctuates or how this will affect the appearance of the overlying skin. So, set your goal weight, achieve it and maintain it for at least half a year before you schedule your tummy tuck surgery. To do this, you’ll need to be eating a nutritious, moderate diet and getting plenty of exercise. Both these habits will assist you in getting through your abdominoplasty in good shape.

There is one other big thing to change about your health habits. If you smoke, you need to quit immediately. Cigarettes affect your body in many harmful ways, but they are especially dangerous if you have any form of surgery. The chemicals and contaminants in cigarette smoke impair wound healing and increase the chance that you’ll experience necrosis (tissue death) as a surgical complication.

Preparing Your Mental Outlook

From the standpoint of mental and emotional health, these are the important things to work on: Take a realistic look at why you want this surgery. It should be only for your own personal reasons and not to please someone else or to try to achieve an unrealistic body type that you’ve seen in the media. It’s good to give yourself plenty of time to decide whether you really want to go through with surgery. Consider how you might feel if the procedure doesn’t go as planned. Answer the following questions:

  • Are you ready to cope with complications and a less than optimal outcome?
  • How will you feel about your body if the results don’t match the picture you have in your mind?
  • Will you feel satisfied if you do get the results you want – or will you simply fixate on another perceived problem?
  • Do you have someone you can trust to help you through the emotional upheaval that usually follows any major cosmetic surgery?

Consultation with Your Plastic Surgeon

The next big phase in preparing for your tummy tuck surgery is the consultation (or series of consultations) with your cosmetic surgeon. This is when you’ll discuss your hopes and expectations as well as any special risk factors. You’ll want to be very clear about the main issues that are troubling you regarding your appearance. This might include:

  • Protruding abdomen (above or below the waist)
  • Separation of the abdominal muscles (this often occurs during pregnancy)
  • Lack of definition around your waist
  • Pockets of fat that are resistant to weight loss efforts
  • Excess skin (such as the “apron” that may hang down at the lower edge of your belly)
  • Stretch marks

The more information you can provide about exactly what you want fixed, the greater your surgeon’s ability to plan the right approach to your surgery. Your surgeon may take photos or use imaging software during this phase to visualize and discuss your desired outcome.
Your surgeon will explain the risks and any potential complications during your consultation. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions so you feel confident about your decision. Here’s additional information you’ll want to write down and bring with you so you don’t forget to disclose it:

  • A full list of any prescription drugs and other substances you are taking (including vitamins, supplements, herbs, over the counter medications, etc.)
  • All current and past medical problems including information about what treatment you received (medication, surgery, etc.)
  • Information about any previous pregnancies
  • Any known drug allergies

Your surgeon will let you know if you should stop taking any of your regular medications or supplements prior to your tummy tuck surgery. Don’t stop taking your meds unless you are specifically instructed to do so. You may need one or more lab tests to check your blood for signs of problems like anemia or infection that might increase your risks.

Preparing for the Day of Surgery

Arrange for your ride home and make sure you have items you might need in the car. This includes a container with a lid (vomiting is a pretty common side effect of the anesthesia). Bring some plain crackers and water or ginger ale so you have something to calm your stomach. Throw a couple of pillows in the car too in case you need extra cushioning on the ride home.

Use antibacterial soap to clean your entire body as directed by your surgeon. This cuts down on the Staphylococcus bacteria on your skin so there’s less chance that it will get in your incision. Wash your hair since you won’t feel up to this task for a while after surgery. Take off nail polish so your nail beds are visible. These are areas your anesthesiologist may check during surgery to confirm that you are getting plenty of oxygen. Don’t put lotion, makeup, or anything else on your skin.

Fast (no food or liquids) for the amount of time instructed by your surgeon. Dress in comfortable clothing and slip on shoes. Leave all your valuables including your jewelry at home. Just bring your ID, a small amount of cash and other essentials to the hospital with you. That way, you won’t have to worry about where your stuff is while you’re in surgery.

Preparing Your Home for Tummy Tuck Recovery

You’ll want to set up your home well in advance of your surgery to provide the best possible recovery environment. Here’s a “to do” list you may find helpful:

  • Clean your house from top to bottom and get all your laundry done while you can still move around easily.
  • Schedule or send payment for all outstanding and upcoming bills so you don’t miss a utility, mortgage or credit card payment.
  • Stock up on easy-to-prepare or readymade meals and snacks. Remember that pain medication may make you both nauseated and constipated. So, pick foods that will still appeal to you even if you feel queasy, and add in some high-fiber snacks to keep your bowels moving.
  • Prefill any prescriptions and purchase all post-operative supplies in advance. This includes getting a shower chair and a hand-held shower head so you can bathe easily.

Here’s a partial list of the items you may need to keep within easy reach:

  • Ice packs
  • Stretchy, loose clothing you can slip in and out of easily
  • Cell phone
  • Books, magazines, iPod or MP3 player, TV remote, laptop and other forms of entertainment
  • Extra pillows and blankets
  • Snacks and bottles of water
  • Vaseline to keep the incision site protected and moist (if your surgeon says that’s OK)
  • Box of tissue for when you start feeling weepy
  • Medications (in a segmented pill box so you know what to take when)

Of course, the most important thing you can line up in preparation for your tummy tuck surgery is a family member or close friend who can be there for moral support!