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.
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:
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.
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:
In preparing for tummy tuck surgery, you may be asked to:
Initially, you’ll talk to a plastic surgeon about a tummy tuck. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:
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.
Before a tummy tuck you might be asked to:
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Your surgeon will close the skin incisions with sutures, skin adhesives, tapes, or clips.
Your tummy tuck will result in a flatter, firmer abdominal contour that is more proportionate with your body type and weight.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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!