It surprises many patients who are considering a tummy tuck at my Chicago practice when I explain that I prefer to perform the procedure using local anesthesia with sedation, rather than general anesthesia. Their quizzical looks are understandable because the innovative technique isn’t used by many plastic surgeons.
It is, however, perfectly safe and actually reduces the risk of side effects and complications. A tummy tuck, which tightens abdominal muscles and removes sagging skin and excess fat, is a major surgical procedure. That’s why many people assume it requires general anesthesia.
By using local anesthesia with sedation, patients are not paralyzed, and breathing on their own, but are unaware of the ongoing procedure. The procedure can be performed under conscious sedation or deeper sedation with an anesthesiologist. In either case the safety of the procedure is enhanced. The patient is not paralyzed, and the risk of blood clots is greatly reduced, if not entirely eliminated. Additional advantages of this technique include:
- Lower incidence of nausea ( less anesthesia)
- A more comfortable recovery ( less thermal injury due to less use of cautery), a pain free experience for the first several hours which aids in recovery, and much less pain from muscle placation due to some techniques to minimize grabbing actual muscle as part of the fascial placation (bringing the muscles together)
Despite these advantages, patients still need to get plenty of rest after the operation. The first couple of days are still uncomfortable, and most people need to have some restriction in activity for 7-10 days.