Fortunately, serious complications after abdominoplasty are relatively uncommon. With an experienced surgeon and anaesthetist, most patients do not experience significant difficulties.
Bleeding can occur after any operation. Normally this appears as mild bruising or some spotting on the dressings for the first few days. Occasionally, blood can collect under the skin flap. This is known as a ‘haematoma’ and is usually easy to diagnose. You may need to return to theatre to have a haematoma washed out; however this rarely delays your discharge home or affects the final anticipated result. If you are taking aspirin or another anti-inflammatory or blood-thinning medicine, it is often best to discontinue these for several weeks before the operation. You should discuss this with your surgeon and General Practitioner.
A ‘seroma’ is a simple fluid collection that can develop beneath the skin flap. We can usually drain this very easily in the clinic with a needle. This is the same fluid that is removed by the drains placed during the operation. Once the drains have been removed, the body normally soaks up the fluid itself.
Post-surgical swelling is common after abdominoplasty, particularly when it has been combined with liposuction. This resolves naturally with time but may be minimised by wearing snug lycra shorts or a corset for a few weeks after your operation.
All surgery presents a risk of infection but we take care to minimise this. Minor infections often respond to antibiotics and more significant infections requiring a wash out under anaesthetic are rare. Complications relating to wound healing, such as skin breakdown and blistering are uncommon and rarely serious. Most scars heal well but it can take a long time for them to reach their best. They usually become pale and white with time. However, very occasionally, a hard red elevated or itchy scar necessitates further treatment, usually as an outpatient in the clinic.
At either end of the long abdominal scar, raised bumps (dog ears) can occur and may detract from the cosmetic outcome. If these do not disappear spontaneously within a few months, they can be corrected easily with a minor procedure under local anaesthetic. Perfect symmetry does not exist before or after abdominoplasty surgery and scars may be uneven or suboptimal in a few cases.
The lower abdominal skin may be relatively numb after surgery. This often, but not always, improves with time.