As the temperature outside my office today soars to near 110º, the beach has never seemed more appealing! In fact, today’s Malibu forecast calls for 78º!! There are still a couple of months left of hot summer days, and if you are going to the beach to escape the heat, you’re going to see a lot of bare midriffs. So what is a woman who has had 3 kids to do with a tummy with excess skin, loose muscle, and unwanted fat? The answer, for most, is a tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty.

A problem for many women needing an abdominoplasty is the excess fat in the upper part of the abdomen. In the past it was said that to remove that fat with liposuction would increase the risk of healing problems in the area of the lower abdominal scar. A newer technique pioneered by a Brazilian plastic surgeon by the name of Osvaldo Saldanha allows the plastic surgeon to dramatically contour the upper abdomen with liposuction without increasing the risk of healing problems.

This ingenious improvement on the tummy tuck, termed a lipoabdominoplasty, leaves the skin of the upper abdomen attached to the underlying muscle except in the very center where the surgeon is doing the muscle tightening. The blood vessels that pass from the muscle to the overlying skin enrich its blood flow and allow for liposuction of the fat in the area. This liposuction also loosens up the connections between the skin and the muscle, which prevents skin dimpling when the skin is pulled downward in the tummy tuck procedure. In a traditional tummy tuck, the muscle is completely separated from the overlying skin in the upper abdominal region, decreasing the blood supply to the skin and thus preventing the safe removal of significant fat from the area. Because the blood supply is preserved in a lipoabdominoplasty, the surgeon can safely remove that fat with liposuction.

Another improvement that the lipoabdominoplasty affords is a decreased chance of seromas after surgery. A seroma is a fluid collection under the skin that usually appears 2 weeks after surgery. By leaving a thin layer of fat on the muscle of the lower abdomen, the risk of this is dramatically decreased. A traditional tummy tuck does not leave this layer of fat, which probably accounts for the greater risk of seroma formation following that operation. Because this thin layer of fat is preserved in the newer operation resulting in a decreased tendency for seromas, it is also possible to remove the drains that are placed after surgery a bit sooner following the lipoabdominoplasty procedure than with a conventional tummy tuck.

I have been performing the lipoabdominoplasty procedure for some time and am delighted with the improved results it offers to patients. Many other plastic surgeons in the U.S. are starting to use it as well.

Should you have further questions, please contact my office.

George Sanders, M.D.