Tummy Tuck: Types, Procedure, And Recovery

Overview

During a tummy tuck — also known as abdominoplasty — excess skin and fat are removed from the abdomen. Connective tissue in the abdomen (fascia) usually is tightened with sutures as well. The remaining skin is then repositioned to create a more toned look.

You might choose to have a tummy tuck if you have excess fat or skin around the area of your belly button or a weak lower abdominal wall. A tummy tuck can also boost your body image and therefore increase self-confidence.

Why It’s Done

 Abdominoplasty is an appropriate procedure for slightly obese people who have lost elasticity in their skin and for women whose skin and muscles have been stretched from pregnancy. Other reasons for having excess fat may include:

  • Significant Changes In Weight
  • Abdominal Surgery, Such As A C-Section
  • Aging
  • Your Natural Body Type

A tummy tuck can remove loose, excess skin and fat, and tighten weak fascia. A tummy tuck can also remove stretch marks and excess skin in the lower abdomen below the belly button. However, a tummy tuck won’t correct stretch marks outside of this area.

If you’ve previously had a C-section, your plastic surgeon might be able to incorporate your existing C-section scar into your tummy tuck scar.

A tummy tuck can also be done in combination with other body contouring cosmetic procedures, such as breast surgery. If you’ve had fat removed from your abdomen (liposuction), you may decide to have a tummy tuck because liposuction removes tissue just under the skin and fat but not any excess skin.

Who Are Good Candidates For A Tummy Tuck Procedures?

A tummy tuck isn’t for everyone, and you should ask your doctor if you are eligible.

Elliot Hirsch, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Hirsch Plastic Surgery in Los Angeles, warns that tummy tucks should be used when a patient is already at his or her ideal weight. “Tummy tucks should not be thought of as a weight loss procedure, but rather as a contouring procedure,” he explains. 

Your surgeon might not recommend a tummy tuck if you:

  • Plan to lose a significant amount of weight
  • Might consider future pregnancy
  • Have a severe chronic condition, such as heart disease or diabetes
  • Have a body mass index that’s greater than 30
  • Are a smoker
  • Had a previous abdominal surgery that caused significant scar tissue

How To Prepare For A Tummy Tuck?

In preparing for tummy tuck surgery, you may be asked to:

  • Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
  • Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding

Initially, you’ll talk to a plastic surgeon about a tummy tuck. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:

  • Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions. Talk about any medications you’re taking or you have taken recently, as well as any surgeries you’ve had.

You must tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications. If your desire for a tummy tuck is related to weight loss, your doctor will likely ask detailed questions about your weight gain and loss.

  • Do a physical evaluation. To determine your treatment options, the doctor will examine your abdomen. The doctor might also take pictures of your abdomen for your medical record.

Before a tummy tuck you might be asked to:

  • Stop smoking. Smoking decreases blood flow in the skin and can slow the healing process. Also, smoking increases the risk of tissue damage. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend that you stop smoking before surgery and during recovery.
  • Avoid certain medications. You’ll likely need to avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements, which can increase bleeding.
  • Maintain a stable weight. Ideally, you’ll maintain a stable weight for at least 12 months before having a tummy tuck. If you’re severely overweight, your doctor will recommend that you lose weight before the procedure. Significant weight loss after the procedure can diminish your results.
  • Take medication to prevent complications. Shortly before your tummy tuck, you’ll need to begin taking an anticoagulant to prevent blood clotting.
  • Arrange for help during recovery. If your tummy tuck is performed on an outpatient basis, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.

What You Can Expect

A tummy tuck may be performed in an accredited office-based surgical facility, licensed ambulatory surgical center, or a hospital.

During a tummy tuck, you’ll be under general anesthesia — which means that you will be asleep and won’t be able to feel any pain.

In other cases, you might be given a pain-relieving medication and be moderately sedated (partially asleep).

Types Of Tummy Tuck

There are a number of different procedures for a tummy tuck, depending on the extent of change you would like to see. These are the 3 most common types of tummy tuck procedures:

 

1) Mini Abdominoplasty

A mini tummy tuck, also known as mini-abdominoplasty treats baggy skin that hangs in the lower stomach area commonly called the navel.

By removing excess skin and fatty tissue from this area, patients can improve their contours and improve laxity and bulge in the lower abdomen. In this type of tummy tuck, generally, the abdominal muscles are spared and won’t be treated by the surgeon.

2) Traditional/Classic Abdominoplasty

The abdominal muscles can lose their natural compact shape due to pregnancy or weight fluctuations, becoming loose or separated. A traditional abdominoplasty can repair the abdominal muscles and remove excess skin and tissue from the abdomen.

 Typically, the belly button is repositioned after the abdominal skin is tightened across the repaired abdomen. A traditional abdominoplasty can be combined with liposuction for optimal results.

3) Extended Abdominoplasty

The extended tummy tuck is reserved for patients who have undergone significant weight loss, often due to bariatric surgery, and wish to see dramatic improvements in their body contours.

In an extended abdominoplasty, excess skin and tissue are removed not only from the abdomen but also from the hips, thighs, and back. Additionally, muscles in the back, flanks, and abdomen can be repaired and toned.

During the Procedure

Depending on the extent of change you would like to see and based on your surgeon’s techniques, during the typical tummy tuck, your plastic surgeon will perform these steps:

1)  Anesthesia

Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedures. The choices include intravenous (IV) sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.

2) The Incision

A full tummy tuck requires a horizontally-shaped incision in the area between the pubic hairline and the belly button.

The shape and length of the incision will be determined by the amount of excess skin. Once the abdominal skin is lifted, the underlying weakened abdominal muscles are repaired.

A second incision around the navel may be necessary to remove excess skin in the upper abdomen.

The upper abdominal skin is pulled down like a window shade. The excess skin is trimmed and the remaining skin is sutured together.

A new opening for the belly button is created. The belly button is popped through to the surface and sutured into position.

3) Closing The Incisions

Your surgeon will close the skin incisions with sutures, skin adhesives, tapes, or clips.

4)  Results And Recovery

Your tummy tuck will result in a flatter, firmer abdominal contour that is more proportionate with your body type and weight.

 

 

What To Expect During Tummy Tuck Recovery

Immediately After The Surgery

 After a tummy tuck, your abdominal incision and bellybutton will likely be covered with surgical dressing. Small tubes might be placed along the incision site to drain any excess blood or fluid.

For the first day after a tummy tuck, your health care team will help you walk to help prevent the formation of blood clots.

You’ll likely feel moderate pain, which will be controlled by pain medication. It’s normal to have swelling in the surgical area.

Drains might be left in place for several days after surgery. Your doctor or another member of your health care team will show you how to empty and care for your drains.

You may be prescribed antibiotics to reduce any chances of infection and continue taking them as long as the drains are in place.

Your surgeon might also prescribe a blood-thinning medication for a short time after your tummy tuck.

You’ll wear an abdominal garment (abdominal binder) for about six weeks after your tummy tuck, that supports your abdomen and helps prevent fluid buildup.

This also provides abdominal support while you heal. Your doctor will explain how to look after your surgical scar.

At Home

It’s important to receive help for at least the first day or two that you’re home following surgery. You will be prescribed pain medications and have somewhat limited mobility, so you will not be able to drive yourself home.

Once home, you will likely have difficulty with bending, lifting, or standing for prolonged periods of time, so having someone to help around the house during the initial period after tummy tuck surgery can make recovery significantly easier.

Smoking and drinking alcohol can seriously inhibit your recovery, so they should be avoided for at least three months post-surgery.

Risks And Complications

The decision to have plastic surgery is extremely personal, and you’ll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications of tummy tuck surgery are acceptable.

As expected, you will have pain and swelling after surgery. Your doctor can prescribe a painkiller if needed and will instruct you on how best to treat the pain.

Soreness may last for several weeks or months. You may also have numbness, bruising, and overall tiredness for that same period of time.

As with any surgery, there are risks. You may have an increased risk of complications if you have poor circulation, diabetes, heart, lung, or liver disease, or if you smoke. Complications can include:

  • Scarring
  • Hematoma (bleeding)
  • Infection
  • Seroma (accumulation of fluid)
  • Poor wound healing
  • Loss of skin
  • Blood clots
  • Numbness or other changes in sensation
  • Risks related to anesthesia
  • Changes in skin color
  • Long-lasting swelling
  • Fat necrosis (death of fatty tissue located deep in the skin)
  • Wound separation
  • Asymmetry (unevenness or lopsidedness)

Like any other type of major surgery, a tummy tuck poses a risk of bleeding, infection, and an adverse reaction to anesthesia.

You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any risks that may occur. These risks and others will be fully discussed before your consent. You must address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon.

Also, some doctors may recommend you to do the following after your surgery:

  • Take vitamin A and vitamin C supplements.
  • Drink green tea to boost immunity and antioxidant levels.
  • Take a probiotic supplement.
  • Eat pineapple and papaya to reduce bloating and inflammation.
  • Use arnica to reduce swelling, bruising, and pain.
  • Take a staphisagria supplement to heal your incision.
  • Take a phosphorus supplement or drink ginger tea to relieve nausea.

Results

By removing excess skin and fat and strengthening your abdominal wall, a tummy tuck can give your abdomen a more toned and slimmer appearance.

Tummy tuck results are usually long-lasting if you maintain a stable weight.

Recovery after a tummy tuck surgery can be a slow process, so focus on getting better each day as you move toward your intended goal of full recovery and be sure to discuss with your surgeon or nurse if you have any questions or concerns.

If you’re not sure about the technique or treatment you have chosen and have other inquiries or uncertainties, be sure to take advantage of our free medical consultation services. Our team of experts is here to guide you through this beautiful stage of transformation!

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