Why Get a Tummy Tuck?
There may be many reasons as to why you are considering tummy tuck surgery: excess fat, excess skin, or maybe weakened connective tissues in your abdomen (i.e. diastasis recti). Some of the most common reason why people may consider tummy tuck cosmetic surgery include:
- Substantial weight loss or gain
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Abdominal surgery, such as a C-section
A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is a very specialized area specific procedure. It can be used to remove loose or excess skin and fat and also help tighten weak connective tissues. However, a tummy tuck can only remove stretch marks and excess, loose skin around the lower abdomen and below the belly button.
In some cases, if you have previously had a C-section, your plastic surgeon may be able to incorporate your prior surgical scar into your abdominoplasty incision site.
A tummy tuck procedure may be combined with many other cosmetic contouring procedures. One of the more common procedures to accompany a abdominoplasty are various breast augmentations (i.e. a Mommy Makeover). Others may consider a abdominoplasty after liposuction if they have any excess skin as a result of having fat removed.
However, a tummy tuck isn’t for everyone.
Who Can Get a Tummy Tuck?
Making the decision to have any cosmetic procedure is very personal. Patients who choose to have a tummy tuck do so for a variety of reasons. Your reasoning doesn’t need to be the same as the next. However, ideal candidates for a tummy tuck are already near or close to their ideal body weight, are non-smokers in good health, and have realistic expectations as to the best results plastic surgery can provide them. Often, the following statements describe some of the best patients for abdominoplasty:
- You have successfully lost weight with diet and exercise, yet your abdomen still protrudes, is untoned.
- Your abdominal wall, muscles, and skin are stretched or sagging postpartum
- After significant weight loss, you have loose, drooping skin around your belly.
- Your belly has always stuck out even though you are in very good shape
A tummy tuck / abdominoplasty can address any of these issues and help your body reach your desired shape and achieve a firmer, flatter abdomen.
How Do Tummy Tucks Work?
During tummy tuck surgery, the plastic surgeon makes an incision above the pubic bone – low enough so it stays below the bikini line – allowing him or her to remove excess fat and skin. Whether or not the underlying muscle is repaired and/or the belly button repositioned and improved depends on the type of tummy tuck surgery you and your surgeon have settled on.
Types of Tummy Tucks
There are three different abdominoplasty techniques. A consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon will help determine which option is best for you. The three different approaches include:
Full or Classic Abdominoplasty
A full abdominoplasty involves two incisions. Traditionally, a full tummy tuck will have an incision around the belly button in addition to the incision in the lower abdomen. Any excess skin and fat are removed, the abdominal wall is tightened, and liposuction may often be used to shape the abdomen. A full abdominoplasty removes skin from above the navel down to the pubic region – often compromised by multiple pregnancies, genetic laxity, or obesity.
A mini abdominoplasty is less invasive than a classic tummy tuck. A single incision is made in the pubic region as low as the surgeon can safely incise. The length of the incision may vary in size ranging from a few inches to the entire span of the abdomen. Your surgeon will then remove extra skin, tighten slack muscles, and use lipo to help tone the area. A mini-tummy tuck is often recommended to patients who have remained in good health and fairly good shape but have slight laxity or protrusion below the navel.
Extended or High Lateral Tension Abdominoplasty
A high lateral tension or extended tummy tuck addresses loose skin around the love handles or hips. Often the incision is made a bit longer to address this issue. This technique uses layers of deeper tissue to support and maintain the repair. As with the previous techniques, your surgeon will incise below the navel to tuck in the front of the abdomen and transfer the lift over the hip to the thigh to help contour the area – suspending and improving the thigh and hip. An extended abdominoplasty was one of the first procedures developed to remove excess skin after drastic weight loss or multiple pregnancies.
Is a Tummy Tuck Safe?
As with any surgery, a tummy poses its own risks. The most common include bleeding, blood clots, infection, or complications from general anesthesia. However, a tummy tuck is considered a very safe procedure. What you do following surgery and how you follow your surgeon’s instructions can help ease post-op pain, bleeding, and prevent infection or other complications.
It is best to discuss all potential risks and the pros and cons with your surgeon before deciding to have the procedure. Although the results are generally permanent, it is important to understand that significant weight gain or loss, pregnancy post-operation, or additional procedures may affect the appearance of the abdomen.
Risks of Tummy Tuck Surgery
A few risks to be aware of before considering an abdominoplasty:
- Unexpected scarring: It is important to be aware that any abdominoplasty procedure will leave a permanent scar. Yet, it is placed along the bikini line and is often easily hidden. The length and visibility of the scar will vary from person to person.
- Poor wound healing: often occurs as a result of poor aftercare or increased activity too soon after surgery. This may cause the surgical site to separate or heal poorly. Antibiotics given during or after surgery can help prevent infection from poor healing.
- Changes in skin sensation: Directly after the procedure, you may notice reduced sensation or increased numbness around the surgical site. Repositioning the abdominal tissues can affect the nerves in your abdomen or upper thighs. This typically diminishes six weeks to a couple months after the procedure.
- Tissue damage or necrosis: Although rare, there are times when fatty tissues deep within your abdominal area may be damaged and die. If you smoke, you may increase the risk of damaged skin and necrosis. Depending on the affected area, you may heal on your own or require a touch-up procedure. Tissue necrosis can be a medical emergency.
Post Surgery Recovery
After your surgery, you will need someone to drive you home, help around the house (especially if you have small children), and a few weeks set aside for recovery. Although you may begin returning to daily activities a few days after your surgery, some people may be recovering for several months post-op. Managing pain and avoiding any potential complications should be your top priority for the first few days.
The first week of recovery is typically the hardest, and the following two to three weeks can still feel like major recovery. After the first few weeks, mobility and fitness will become integral to your recovery. It is important to remember that recovery is unique to each person and will look different between patients.
After several months, you can start evaluating the aesthetic results of your operation.
Will My Abdominoplasty Scars be Noticeable?
The noticeability of your scarring post-tummy tuck will vary depending on the method of your tummy tuck procedure.
A full abdominoplasty scar may reach from hip bone to hip bone and, at times, around the navel. It may have a V or U shape in appearance, but is often hidden in a bikini. Your doctor will determine the shape and length of the incision based on your personal preference or the amount of correction desired.
A mini-tummy tuck has no incision near the navel and it can be easily hidden in the pubic region. The length of the incision will vary depending on how much skin your doctor removes.
Unfortunately, high lateral tension or extended abdominoplasty scars are often higher and longer than a traditional or mini-tummy tuck / abdominoplasty. However, it is unlikely your doctor will excise the umbilical site, since there is typically not much skin to remove in the central area.