A Brief History of the Tummy Tuck

With more than 117,000 procedures performed in 2014, according to the 2014 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the tummy tuck is among the top 6 cosmetic surgery procedures in the United States*. Though it has gained its most notable traction in the past 15 or so years, the tummy tuck has actually been around for several hundred years. To give you a better idea of how this procedure has evolved over time into what it is today, here is a brief history of the tummy tuck, brought to you by the plastic surgery team at NuBody Concepts.

The earliest forms of the tummy tuck occurred in the 19th century.

As long ago as the early 1800s, excess skin was used to cover up open wounds. This was done mainly to help critically injured people, rather than for cosmetic purposes. In 1890, the first official tummy tuck was performed by Dr. Demars and Dr. Marx in France. Less than a decade later, in 1899, a gynecologic surgeon in Baltimore, Maryland performed what we now know as a tummy tuck (the official medical term is abdominoplasty).

For the first few years, performing a tummy tuck without removing the belly button was seen as impossible. However, that changed during the 20th century.

The first belly button was saved in the early 20th century.

As the years progressed, physicians made advances in the art of surgery—making for more efficient and safer tummy tuck procedures. In 1905, only six years after the first official tummy tuck, doctors in France were able to perform a tummy tuck that preserved the belly button. Using vertical and horizontal flap incisions (rather than one horizontal incision across the middle of the abdomen), the belly button could survive the procedure.

The tummy tuck was originally used for treating wounds—not cosmetic purposes.

The tummy tuck technique became especially useful for treating injured World War I soldiers. After treating millions of wounded soldiers, surgeons eventually refined their techniques, creating the foundation for modern plastic surgery.

During the 1970s and 1980s, doctors performed tummy tucks for patients suffering from conditions like umbilical hernias. Typically only a condition affecting babies, an umbilical hernia is when part of the intestine makes its way into the umbilical opening in the abdomen, characterized by a bulge near the belly button.

The modern tummy tuck is useful for many different purposes.

Today, thanks to the development of anesthesia and proper sterilization techniques, the tummy tuck is much safer and more effective than it was in its early stages. The tummy tuck today can be used to remove C-section scars, tighten or repair muscles in the abdomen (often to reverse a pregnancy-related condition called diastasis recti), remove excess skin after significant weight loss, and more. It is typically performed in an outpatient setting under IV sedation, with patients able to go home after the 2-4 hour surgery.

Not only is belly button repair and repositioning routinely incorporated into modern tummy tuck surgeries, there is an entire cosmetic surgery line dedicated to “designer belly buttons.”

The tummy tuck is also a major component in mommy makeover procedures, the commonly-used name for surgeries that combine breast augmentations or lifts with belly fat removal via tummy tucks and/or liposuction. A mommy makeover allows a woman to reclaim her tight tummy and youthful look after pregnancy and childbirth.

As you can see, the tummy tuck has a long and esteemed history. If you are interested in learning more about a tummy tuck and whether you are a candidate for one, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons in Nashville or Memphis.

* Update: By 2020, in the most most current available Plastic Surgery Statistics Report, the tummy tuck has fallen to #9 on the list of plastic surgeries at 98,000 procedures performed.

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