Who doesn’t dream of flat, toned abs? It’s part of the reason why the tummy tuck is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures. Real or perceived, it is also considered one of the most painful operations, which scares some people away. But no longer. Dr. Richard Baxter explains the ‘Tylenol Tummy Tuck’, a cutting-edge procedure that takes the concern (and most of the pain) out of achieving a tighter midsection.
by Dawn Tongish
and Richard Baxter, MD
No More Pain
When it comes to popular cosmetic procedures, the tummy tuck consistently ranks in the Top 5, right behind liposuction and breast augmentation for women. A tummy tuck removes excess tissue and skin that may not respond to diet or exercise, but even with it’s popularity there can be the pain pitfall. There is some reluctance to sign up for the surgery because of the pain associated with getting a trim midsection. Even experts admit it can be a mental hurdle to overcome.
In recent years however, new products are changing techniques and providing pain relief. “One of the things that we have been doing is using an innovative drug called Exparel, which is a long-lasting numbing agent,” says Dr. Baxter. Hesays the success of Exparel has prompted a new procedure called the ‘TAPBlock”. “It’s basically a specific way of injecting the material into a layer where all the nerves come into the abdomen — and so if you get it right there, in the right place it just numbs up the whole wall and there is not much pain.” Baxter uses ultrasound to help place the numbing drug in exactly the right spot to provide maximum relief for the patient. “They feel almost nothing at all,” he says. “It’s amazing.”
What is TAP
It’s a short phrase for some big time relief. TAP stands for Transversus Abdominis Plane, the area where the pain medication is injected. Baxter says injecting the numbing agent allows the patient to use less pain medication throughout the procedure and recovery. “The pain is reduced even more and you need even fewer pain medications.” He says labeling it the ‘Tylenol Tummy Tuck’ may imply there is NO pain, which isn’t the case, but he says with TAP the discomfort is greatly reduced and patients will feel a big difference. The pain level from the tummy tuck of the past is greatly reduced. “They wake up from the tummy tuck, feeling almost no pain at all.”
Less Pain = Better Recovery
One of the first questions about any cosmetic procedure often relates to pain associated with the procedure and how that will impact recovery. Baxter says the use of TAP works to minimize not only pain, but the worry associated with it. “A tummy tuck can be a significant ordeal to recover from, but if you wake up feeling good you are going to be more active and recover more quickly.” He adds that patients who don’t feel as much pain are more likely to recover quicker and report success. “You are just going to have a better experience overall, if you feel less pain.”
The TAP block will provide relief for several days and can help eliminate complications from surgery. “If a patient isn’t feeling pain and is active right away after a tummy tuck, they are less likely to get blood clots, constipation and nausea,” says Baxter. Feeling better sooner is the goal in any tummy tuck operation. “If you can avoid all of that then you will be ahead of the game.”