What is a Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)?
A tummy tuck is a cosmetic surgical procedure that enhances the appearance of the abdominal area. It does this by removing excess fat and skin from the abdomen and tightening its muscles. A tummy tuck is also known as abdominoplasty.
Where weight management fails to achieve a smoother, firmer abdomen, a tummy tuck may be worth considering.
The procedure is, however, not a substitute for weight loss. If anything, significant weight fluctuations can undo the results of a tummy tuck.
Is Tummy Tuck Surgery Safe? (Possible Risks of a Tummy Tuck)
Tummy tuck surgery is generally safe. But like any other surgery, it poses various risks, including:
- Fluid accumulation under the skin (seroma)
- Blood clots
- Side effects of anesthesia
- Fat necrosis
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Poor wound healing and skin loss
- Unfavorable scarring
- Need for revisional surgery
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Persistent pain
- Sub-optimal aesthetic result.
- Skin discoloration and/or prolonged swelling.
Your plastic surgeon will disclose these and other potential complications of a tummy tuck before you consent to the procedure.
Types of Tummy Tucks
The tummy technique your plastic surgeon uses will depend on the degree of excess fat, poor skin elasticity, and weakened tissue in your abdominal area. These are the most common abdominoplasty types:
1. Standard or full tummy tuck
A full tummy tuck focuses on the entire midsection and uses two incisions. One incision runs horizontally along your bikini line. The shape and length of this cut depend on the amount of excess abdominal skin you have.
Your surgeon will also make a second incision around your navel to free it from surrounding tissue.
Both incisions allow the surgeon to remove the extra skin, tighten the underlying weakened muscles, and reposition the belly button.
2. Mini tummy tuck
A mini tummy tuck solely focuses on the area below your navel. The incision used with this technique is shorter than that of a standard tummy tuck, usually 4-8 inches. It lies just above your pubic region and is easy to conceal under intimate clothing.
A mini tummy tuck only achieves minimal improvement that includes muscle tightening. Your belly button, however, does not get repositioned with this technique.
Your surgeon will likely recommend this type of tummy tuck, if you have a mild lower belly pooch and minimal excess skin.
3. Extended tummy tuck
An extended tummy tuck is a more extensive standard tummy tuck, where the horizontal incision extends around your hips. So if someone viewed your body from behind, they would see the tail ends of your scar.
The procedure addresses excess fat and skin in the abdomen, hips, and sides of your lower back. It is, therefore, often reserved for patients who have undergone massive weight loss.
An extended abdominoplasty also requires your plastic surgeon to create a new opening for your navel by making a round incision around it. The belly button then gets sutured into its new position before the incision is closed.
During the procedure, a liposuction is also commonly done to remove fat deposits in the target areas, further improving your body contour.
The scar that results from an extended tummy tuck tends to be larger than those left by previously discussed procedures.
4. Fleur-de-lis tummy tuck
A fleur-de-lis tummy tuck is an extended tummy tuck that also requires a vertical incision that runs down the middle of the abdomen. The scar will not be easy to hide, but the results will be more dramatic.
The technique is for patients who need the most correction, usually massive weight loss patients with significant excess skin in their midsection.
5. Reverse Tummy Tuck
A reverse tummy tuck is a surgical procedure that removes sagging skin and excess fat from the area of your stomach that’s above the navel.
The procedure addresses excess fat in the lower abdomen but not excess skin or abdominal muscles.
Reverse tummy tucks are rare because most people have loose skin on both their entire midsection. And that is usually addressed by a traditional tummy tuck.
Who Is an Ideal Candidate for Tummy Tuck Surgery?
You may have loose, excess skin and fat and weakened and separated belly muscles for various reasons, including:
- Significant weight changes
- Prior surgery, including a C-section
A tummy tuck can help you attain a flat, well-toned abdomen when diet and exercise fail to give you the results you desire.
However, the procedure is not for everyone. For instance, a board-certified plastic surgeon may caution you against a tummy tuck if you are planning a pregnancy in the future or have a chronic condition.
An ideal candidate for a tummy tuck is a man or woman who:
- Is in good health overall
- Is at a stable weight
- Does not smoke’
- Has realistic expectations regarding the results of an abdominoplasty
Preparing for Tummy Tuck Surgery
Before your tummy tuck procedure, you will have a pre-operative consultation, ideally with a board-certified plastic surgeon. During this visit, the surgeon will:
- Discuss your medical history: this will entail answering questions about past surgeries, drug allergies, medications you’re currently or were recently taking, and other related concerns.
- Do a physical exam: your doctor will examine your abdominal area and may even take clinical photographs of your abdomen. The latter allows for meaningful observations of tummy tuck before and after images.
- Discuss the likely outcomes and potential risks of abdominoplasty. Your plastic surgeon will ask about your expectations and explain in detail all aspects of the procedure. Ask any questions you may have and practice complete candidness throughout the consultation.
In preparing for tummy tuck surgery, your doctor may ask you to:
- Stop smoking before and after the procedure.
- Avoid taking herbal supplements and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen because they increase bleeding. You may also need to change some medications.
- Take certain medications such as an anticoagulant to prevent blood clots.
- Maintain a stable weight or lose weight before the procedure if overweight or obese.
- Eat a healthy diet to promote proper healing.
- Arrange for someone to drive you to or pick you from the hospital and stay with you at least the first night after surgery.
Tummy Tuck Procedure Steps
As mentioned earlier, there are various techniques plastic surgeons use to perform abdominoplasty. Your desired goals and existing anatomy determine the appropriate type of tummy tuck for you. Your anatomy includes the amount and location of your excess skin, your body type, and skin quality.
But generally, tummy tuck surgery involves the following steps:
- You receive general anesthesia that makes you completely unconscious or intravenous (IV) sedation that lets you remain awake during the procedure without feeling pain.
- Your surgeon makes a horizontal incision above your pubic hairline. The length depends on the amount of correction required. If you previously had a C-section, the surgeon may incorporate your existing scar into your abdominoplasty scar. For a fleur-de-lis tummy tuck, a vertical incision is also necessary.
- The surgeon tightens the muscles of your abdomen with sutures, reposition your navel, trims the excess skin, and closes the remaining skin together using sutures, clips, or skin adhesives.
You may receive an antibiotic during the surgery to prevent infection. Depending on the type of tummy tuck, the procedure will take one to five hours to perform.
Tummy Tuck Recovery
After the procedure, you will have a bandage or surgical dressing over your incision site. Your surgeon will also likely ask you to wear a compression garment or elastic bandage to prevent swelling and provide abdominal support as you heal. How long you wear a tummy tuck binder depends on your surgeon’s instructions.
Surgical drains may be placed under your skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that collects. These are removed when your surgeon sees fit, usually a few days after the procedure.
Before leaving hospital, your surgeon or members of your health care team will give you detailed post-operative instructions, including:
- How to care for your incisions, stitches, and drains
- Medications to take, including antibiotics, pain medication, and blood thinners
- How to sit, lie down, and bathe
- When you can resume normal and strenuous activities
- Incision site infection symptoms and other general health concerns to watch out for
- The Do’s and Don’ts during tummy tuck healing.
- When to go for follow-up visits
Tummy Tuck Recovery Time.
How long does a Tummy Tuck take to heal?
The recovery time of tummy tuck individuals varies from one person to another. There are a number of factors that influence the time one takes to recover. Some of these factors include:
- The extent of your abdominoplasty.
- Your physical condition.
Abdominoplasty takes the longest recovery time. For about 1-2 weeks you will not be able to do any activities. However, you will able to resume your normal duties after 1- 2 months if there will be no complication that arises.
This is because a lot of the energy from your body is dedicated to your recovery.
Your tummy Tuck Swelling will last for a few weeks. with fewer activities, your healing will be faster.
Surgeons, however, recommend restricting from smoking before and after surgery and avoiding activities after surgery for a quick recovery.
Tummy Tuck Results
A successful tummy tuck results in a flatter, firmer abdominal contour proportional to your body type and weight.
However, because of the swelling in the surgical area and the inability to stand upright immediately after surgery, the final results are usually initially hidden.
And while the procedure does not correct stretch marks, it may remove or improve them if they were on the excised skin.
The results of a tummy tuck are long-lasting if you maintain a stable weight and follow your surgeon’s instructions.
Your tummy tuck scar will be very noticeable in the first several months after your surgery. It may take up to a year to flatten and fade as much as it will.
However, a good plastic surgeon will do their best to ensure the scar is not visible above most types of swimwear, underwear, and or pants. But this is not always possible.
Tummy Tuck Cost
How much does a tummy tuck cost?
The latest statistics of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons put the average cost of a tummy tuck at $6,154, which is just part of the price.
A typical tummy tuck surgery can range from $3350 – $12,875. The cost varies from one location to another and the type of tummy tuck to be performed.
Some of the factors that may influence the cost of a tummy tuck include;
- Experience of the surgeon.
- Your region or country.
- The extent of your surgery.
- Cost of any additional surgery.
- Extensiveness of the surgery.
- Operating room costs and anesthesia.
For an accurate quote, contact your plastic surgeon’s office. Be sure to enquire about any financing plans the surgeon offers as most insurance carriers typically do not cover abdominoplasty.
- Panniculectomy: surgery that removes hanging skin and fat from the lower abdomen (pannus).
- BodyTite: radio frequency-assisted liposuction (RFAL) that melts stubborn fat, making it easier to remove. It does this while simultaneously tightening the skin.
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons(n.d). Tummy Tuck. plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/tummy-tuck.
- Mayo Clinic staff (July 20, 2019).Tummy Tuck. mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/tummy-tuck/about/pac-20384892.
- Cleveland Clinic (Dec 30, 2020). Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck). my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/11017-abdominoplasty-tummy-tuck.
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons(n.d). What type of tummy tuck is right for you? plasticsurgery.org/news/blog/what-type-of-tummy-tuck-is-right-for-you
- AEDIT (n.d). Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty). aedit.com/procedure/tummy-tuck-abdominoplasty.