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Tummy Tuck Reduces Back Pain and Incontinence in Study

American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)
February 27, 2018

In addition to restoring the pre-pregnancy shape of the abdomen, an abdominoplasty with muscle repair can improve back pain and urinary incontinence after childbearing, reports a study in the March issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Although an abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, is classified as a cosmetic procedure, it also improves two of the most common physical complaints experienced by women after labor and delivery, according to the new research. "Abdominoplasty has a proven functional benefit as well as a cosmetic benefit," said lead author D. Alastair Taylor, FRACS, of The CAPS Clinic in Deakin, Australia.

Abdominoplasty found to improve common post-childbearing symptoms

The study included 214 women undergoing abdominoplasty with repair of the abdominal muscles at nine Australian plastic surgery centers. Many women seek tummy tuck surgery to restore the shape and appearance of the abdomen after childbearing. The women's average age was about 42, with an average of between two and three deliveries.

Before and after surgery, the women completed questionnaires rating their disability from back pain and urinary incontinence — two very common problems after childbearing. In the preoperative questionnaires, about 51% of women had moderate to severe disability from back pain, while urinary incontinence was a "significant concern" for about 42.5%.

On follow-up questionnaires at 6 weeks and 6 months, scores for both problems showed major improvement. At 6 months, only 9% of patients still had moderate disability from back pain. Urinary incontinence remained a significant problem for less than 2% of women.

Scores for back pain continued to improve from 6 weeks to 6 months after abdominoplasty, while urinary incontinence improved no further after 6 weeks. The women underwent several different types of abdominoplasty surgery; the improvements in back pain and incontinence were similar regardless of the technique used.

Nearly 128,000 abdominoplasty procedures were performed in the United States in 2016, according to ASPS statistics. Tummy tuck is sometimes performed as part of "mommy makeovers" to restore the shape and appearance of a woman's body after childbearing.

The new findings are consistent with previous case reports of improvement in back pain and urinary incontinence after abdominoplasty. These functional improvements may result from restoring strength and stability in the abdominal and pelvic region as the operation incorporates repair of the abdominal muscle separation (rectus diastasis) that can occur after pregnancy.

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