The Safety of Combining a Hysterectomy and Tummy Tuck

by Dean Anderson

The Safety of Combining a Hysterectomy and Tummy Tuck

The results of a study focusing on the newly popularized method of combining the two important procedures for aging women, the hysterectomy and the tummy tuck, has doctors cautiously optimistic. Researchers from Florida International University in Hialeah followed up on sixty-five women who received both treatments during one operation and found that none experienced what they classified as “major complications.”

A tummy tuck, also referred to as abdominoplasty, involves the removal of excess skin and fat from the mid-section accumulated as the result of pregnancy, extensive weight loss, or other skin stressors. Typically this is done by either a hip to hip incision or a smaller cut below the naval that allows doctors to reposition or contour muscle, fat, and skin. Once the operation is complete and the individual is sutured up, a four to eight week recovery period can be expected.

A hysterectomy is the removal of all or part of the female uterus, the organ responsible for containing and nurturing unborn fetuses. Hysterectomies are the second most popular invasive procedure performed on women in the United States, with surgical child birth at number one. The reasons for attempting hysterectomies range from improving quality of life to mortal danger. They include: cancer of the uterus or ovaries, non-cancerous growths such as fibroids or endometriosis, uterine prolapse, hemorrhages, and pelvic pain. Surgeons typically remove tissue through one incision or series of small cuts along the abdomen, making it procedurally easy to combine with the tummy tuck surgery. The recovery period for hysterectomies is also around four to eight weeks.

According to the study’s authors there are several benefits to the combined approach. Overall healing time as well as the duration of hospital stays can be reduced by getting both procedures done at once. The risks associated with anesthesia as well as some of the costs the surgeries may be also decreased with combined operations. Hysterectomies are medically relevant procedures whereas tummy tucks are seen as cosmetic, so usually only the former is covered by insurance. Many carriers have calculations to subtract the operating time spend on the hysterectomy and bill you the tummy tuck costs directly; although, the total may still be lower with coupling.

The above positive aspects along with the major complication free turnout of the study lead researchers to write, “The results suggest that combined [tummy tuck] and hysterectomy is a safe and effective way to help patients attain both cosmetic and medically important outcomes in the same surgical procedure.” But what has some surgeons concerned is the 32% rate of what researchers deemed “minor complications.”

These minor issues included the 9% of studied women experiencing atelectasis, which is a partially or totally collapsed lung, an occurrence of wound complications in 8% of patients, the necessity for a blood transfusion in 3%, and yeast infections in only 2%. Both atelectasis and blood transfusions can pose severe risks to people recovering from surgeries leaving a few doctors questioning whether the terminology is misleading.

Plastic surgeon director and chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, Dr. Sherrell Aston explained his doubts about the minor complications to US News, stating, "Any procedure that carries a 32 percent complication rate should be re-evaluated…Transfusion is a major complication, and it occurred in 3 percent of the surgeries…I would not recommend doing these procedures together."

As with all medical procedures much depends on the health and specific nature of a patient’s needs. Dr. Angela Kerr, Chief of the Gynecology Program at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, also spoke to US News on the matter, commenting, “[The surgeries] could be safe for some patients, but it depends on patient selection: Do the patients have other conditions like diabetes or hypertension? That may play a role in the risk of complications. And a lot depends on the expertise of the surgeons."

Ultimately the safety this procedure will be determined in larger studies conducted over the next few years, but for the present it offers an enticing option for older women looking to attempt these procedures without the hardship of two separate recoveries. If you’re interested in learning more about cosmetic surgeries such as tummy tucks, contact us today. Our Plastic Surgery Portal representatives will schedule you a free, no obligation consultation with a top tier cosmetic surgeon in your area.

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