Tummy Tuck: Not Only for Aesthetics

The abdominoplasty tummy tuck procedure is an excellent way for women to reshape their midsection after pregnancy and childbirth, but a new study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery says the procedure can also help reduce stress urinary incontinence for postpartum women as well.

Stress urinary incontinence is a condition that causes the unintentional release of urine when sneezing, coughing, running or other activities that put stress or pressure on the bladder. Stress urinary incontinence frequently occurs in women because of pregnancy and the pressure of childbirth on the bladder.

Many women choose to have the tummy tuck procedure after having children to remove excess skin and tissue from the midsection and to tighten abdominal muscles that have become separated during pregnancy, a condition known as diastasis recti.

“Diastasis recti is a common consequence of pregnancy and is frustrating for many women because they still feel out of shape because their abdominal muscles are loose,” said Dr. Gregory W. Chernoff.

Chernoff is a triple-board-certified facial, plastic and reconstructive surgeon practicing in Indianapolis, Santa Rosa, and California.

“The combination of stress urinary incontinence and back pain is often debilitating for many women for years after giving birth,” Chernoff said.

The study, performed by The CAPS Clinic in Deakin, Australia, included 214 women having the tummy tuck procedure and repair of abdominal muscles at nine Australian plastic surgery clinics. The average age of participants was 42 years, and the women had an average of two and a half childbirths.

Before their tummy tuck procedure, participants were given a survey to rate their disability from stress urinary incontinence and back pain, another consequence of pregnancy and childbirth experienced by many women.

The results of these pre-procedure surveys found that over half (51 percent) of the women rated their back pain as causing moderate to severe disability. Forty-two percent of the women rated their disability from stress urinary incontinence as moderate to severe.

The participants were given follow-up questionnaires at six weeks and six months after their procedures. At the six-week mark, the results of these questionnaires found that back pain complaints had dwindled to 9 percent.

Stress urinary incontinence disability also decreased to less than 2 percent of participants saying their incontinence remained a significant problem.

Back pain continued to improve between the six-week and six-month marks, while stress urinary incontinence results did not continue to improve after six weeks.

The techniques used to perform abdominoplasty surgery varied between patients and clinics, but the improvements in pain and stress urinary incontinence were comparable across the board.

“During the tummy tuck procedure, the abdominal muscles are sutured to tighten them and restore strength. Tightened abdominal muscles also give the patient more core support and better posture,” Chernoff said.

There were 129,753 tummy tucks performed in the United States in 2017, making it one of the top five most popular plastic surgery procedures in the country, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

“Tummy tucks are popular as stand-alone procedures or in combination with other procedures as part of a ‘mommy makeover,'” Chernoff said.

The CAPS Clinic study adds its findings to earlier research regarding improvements in back pain and stress urinary incontinence after a tummy tuck.

The results contribute to the idea that tummy tucks have medical and functional advantages in addition to cosmetic benefits, especially for postpartum women.

“Plastic surgery is often not just about improving form; it’s about improving function, too, to give patients a better quality of life,” Chernoff said.

Wolters Kluwer Health. “More than just a cosmetic procedure — ‘tummy tuck’ reduces back pain and incontinence.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2018.

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