Designed to remove unwanted fat from the abdominal area and tighten the muscles of the midsection, the tummy tuck procedure holds additional benefits for patients, including reducing back pain and relieving stress urinary incontinence, according to a new study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
The tummy tuck was the fifth most popular plastic surgery procedure in the United States in 2017, according to the annual statistics report from the American Society of Plastic Surgery. The procedure is especially popular for women who want to regain their pre-pregnancy shape after childbirth, but many of these same women report medical benefits after their surgery, too.
One of those benefits is a reduction in stress urinary incontinence, a condition that causes urine leakage when there is stress or pressure on the bladder. Stress urinary incontinence often develops in women after pregnancy and childbirth.
"Stress urinary incontinence occurs when a woman sneezes, coughs, runs or jumps. It is a condition that is both frustrating and embarrassing for many women," said Dr. Mona Alqulali.
Alqulali is a Bettendorf, Iowa, OB-GYN and cosmetic surgeon.
"When the weight of unwanted tissue and excess skin in the midsection is eliminated through the tummy tuck procedure, the stress on the bladder is reduced and urinary leakage is reduced," Alqulali said.
The surgery also tightens the muscles in the midsection that stretch out or become separated during pregnancy.
"When the abdominal muscles separate, some women experience back pain because their muscles are loose and cannot support their upper body," Alqulali said.
The study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery was performed by The CAPS Clinic in Deakin, Australia, and included 214 women undergoing the tummy tuck procedure at nine Australian plastic surgery clinics. The average age of the participants was 42 years and the average number of childbirths was 2.5 among the group.
Prior to their procedure, the participants completed a questionnaire self-rating their disability caused by back pain and stress urinary incontinence.
The results of the survey showed that 51 percent of the participants rated their back pain between moderate and severe.
The findings of the survey also discovered that 42 percent of the women rated their disability due to stress urinary incontinence as moderate to severe.
The women were surveyed six weeks and six months after their surgery. At the six-week interval, only 9 percent of participants still rated their back pain as moderate to severe.
"With the muscles of the midsection tightened, the upper body is supported, posture improves, and back pain is reduced," Alqulali said.
After the surgery, participants also reported a decrease in disability caused by stress urinary incontinence disability. At the six-week mark, only 2 percent of the women reported that their urinary incontinence was still a significant problem.
While participants reported further improvements in their back pain between week six and the six-month mark, stress urinary incontinence did not improve after six weeks for most of the participants.
Although the procedures were performed by different doctors using different techniques, all participants reported improvements.
According to the ASPS, there were 129,753 tummy tucks performed in the United States in 2017. The surgery can be performed as a stand-alone treatment, but some women choose to combine the procedure with other body surgeries.
"After the changes in the body brought on by pregnancy and childbirth, many women seek cosmetic surgery to reshape the midsection, lift the breasts or change their buttocks," Alqulali said.
The CAPS Clinic study is not the first to examine the benefits of the tummy tuck procedure for patients with back pain and stress urinary incontinence. Previous studies have shown the medical advantages of the abdominoplasty procedure for postpartum women.
"The benefits of cosmetic surgery can be twofold by improving both how a person looks and feels," said Alqulali.
Wolters Kluwer Health. "More than just a cosmetic procedure - 'tummy tuck' reduces back pain and incontinence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2018.