Nip, tuck and trim

IT’S expensive, painful and can be dangerous, but for thousands of Irish people cosmetic surgery helps them achieve their dream bodies. The most popular procedure is breast augmentation, but many women and men are having ‘tummy tucks’.

Ex-Atomic Kitten singer Kerry Katona has reputedly undergone several tucks as her weight fluctuated. But it is not a procedure to be taken lightly. Abdominoplasty involves major surgery, four weeks’ recovery and can cause complications and death (American rapper Kanye West’s mother Donda died after a tummy tuck aged 58, as did English mother Lorraine Batt aged 36.)

With images of perfect celeb bodies — often achieved at a high cost — splashed across our screens and in magazines, it is hardly surprising that the public is following suit. It is estimated that e40m is spent on cosmetic surgery in Ireland every year.

Abdominoplasty involves an incision being made across the stomach. Fat and excess skin is removed, stomach muscles are repaired and the skin is stitched back together.

This surgery is favoured by mothers who have weight on their stomach after giving birth and by people who have lost large amounts of weight and have loose muscle tone.

Dr Patricia Eadie, president of the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons, says tummy tucks are not advisable for people who have a lot of weight to lose or who have any underlying illness.

“People who have abdominoplasties have a lot of excess skin and soft tissue of their abdomen following pregnancies or major weight loss,” she says. “Post-pregnancy patients may also have weakness of some of the muscles of their abdomen which can be tightened at the same operation.

“Ideally, the patient needs to be in good physical health and not be obese. If they are significantly overweight their risk of complications will be higher. Also, they will get a better result if they get their weight down before surgery.”

The surgeon says research is important and patients need to make sure the clinic is fully accredited. “Patients should choose a plastic surgeon who is on the specialist register of the Irish Medical Council and not just the general register,” she says. “If possible, they should seek advice and a referral from their GP.”

Anne* was unhappy with her shape when she resorted to cosmetic surgery last year. The 37-year-old nurse from Carlow was slim but after having two Caesarean sections she was left with saggy abdominal muscles.

No matter how much she exercised, her ‘spare tyre’ refused to go away so six months ago she underwent cosmetic surgery to regain her figure. “I have always been skinny and after having my two children (now aged two and four), I worked hard to get rid of any baby weight but I just couldn’t lose the flabby belly I had been left with after pregnancy,” she says.

“It protruded from under my boobs and I looked like I was still pregnant — it was awful. I felt so depressed about my body and my confidence took a nosedive. .”

So after consulting with her husband, Tom, Anne delved into her savings and had surgery to remove the excess flesh. “Tom knew how I felt and was 100% supportive of me — not because he didn’t like the way I looked, but because he knew how much it meant to me,” she says.

“With savings and credit card allowance, we were prepared to spend up to e13,000, but after ringing around and finally getting a recommendation for a reputable surgeon, I decided to go with Mr Brian Kneafsey at the Aesthetic Surgery Ireland clinic.

“I was quoted a price of e7.500 and after a bit of deliberation decided to have breast implants at the same time — the procedure cost less as I was having surgery anyway. The total figure for both was around e11,000, which I was more than happy with.”

Having made the decision and secured her finances, the mother-of-two checked into the clinic and was prepared for surgery. “I was given a general anaesthetic and Tom was with me when I went under, and then again when I woke up six hours later. I was a bit groggy, but otherwise fine, apart from some pain which was similar to what I had experienced after my sections.

“After the operation, I had a scar from hip to hip but that has almost completely faded,” she says. “I know it cost a lot of money, but as far as I’m concerned it was totally worth it and I can’t wait to wear what I ever I want this summer.”

Kieran* is one of an increasing number of men who have gone under the knife to improve their physical shape. Having lost weight in 2009, the 29-year-old IT specialist from Dublin was finding it difficult to tone up the excess skin on his stomach so decided to have abdominoplasty.

“I used to weigh over 18 stone and lost about a third of that weight a few years ago,” he says. “So I had a lot of loose skin around my stomach and had to wear my trousers up high in an attempt to hide the ‘apron’ of skin which was left after my weight loss. I did a lot of exercise in the hope that the skin would shrink back, but that never happened so I decided to look into surgery.

“I did a lot of research and although it was going to cost over e7,000 and I knew it would be cheaper for me to go abroad, I wanted to have it done in Ireland as I knew it would be good to be near my surgeon if anything went wrong.”

At the start of 2011, Kieran, who is single, underwent an operation to remove the excess skin from his stomach and repair the muscles, which had been split apart as a result of carrying so much weight in the past.

“The few days after surgery were pretty hard and although I had very little pain, I was in a lot of discomfort. The muscle repair, coupled with the newfound tightness of my skin, meant that I had to sleep sitting up with my legs up in order to keep the tension off my stomach.

“Everything was an effort — from shifting my position in bed, going for my first walk in the ward or taking my first shower after the surgery.

“I also had to walk in a hunched position for the first few weeks after the surgery to avoid putting stress on the stitches, the incisions or the muscle repair and had to wear a compression garment around my waist for six weeks.”

It’s a year since Kieran had his operation. “Following the surgery, I had regular periods of extreme swelling around my stomach — it helped when I avoided salty food and alcohol and went away after about 10 months,” he says.

“My scar has healed very well and is on course for fading away completely. But I still have a tiny area of numbness inside my belly button and where the vertical scar meets the horizontal scar.

Now that it is all over, I am ecstatic about the results. There was nothing about the operation or recovery that ever made me feel like it wasn’t worth it. And as the scar keeps fading, it just gets better and better.”

* See: www.plasticsurgery.ie

* Names have been changed


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