What is a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck, or an abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure that removes excess overhanging abdominal tissue and tightens your abdominal muscles. Depending on whether your surgeon performs a mini tummy tuck or a full tummy tuck, you may also end up with a new belly button.
It is recommended that women who are planning on having more children wait until they are at a healthy and stable weigh after they have had their last child.
Am I a good candidate for a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck is most frequently performed on women that have gone through pregnancy. But this procedure can be performed on anyone that has experienced a large fluctuation in weight, or has developed sagging abdominal skin due to aging. Excess weight gain, followed by a large amount of weight loss, often results in excess overhanging skin and tissue along your lower abdomen. You may also have experienced irreversible stretching of the Linea Alba, a connective tissue structure that runs through the middle of your six-pack muscle. The degree of stretching directly correlates with an increase in the width of your waist. Diastasis recti (stretching of the fascia between the rectus muscles) is corrected during an abdominoplasty.
If you also have an abdominal or umbilical hernia that requires repair, depending on the severity and hernia type, your plastic surgeon may repair the hernia at the time of the abdominoplasty, or have a general surgery colleague perform the repair immediately prior to the abdominoplasty.
Oftentimes, massive fluctuations in weight cause tears in the deeper layers of your skin, manifesting as stretch marks. These are irreversible and no effective treatment or preventative interventions have been proven effective. With time, the deep red or violet color of the stretch marks lighten and usually become less noticeable. Regardless, it is undesirable for many men and women, and the only way to remove them is by excision. An abdominoplasty removes the skin of the lower abdomen, and this region is where the majority of pregnancy-related stretch marks develop. You may experience a significant reduction in the number of visible stretch marks on your abdomen after your tummy tuck.
Because an abdominoplasty removes excess skin and results in an overall tightening effect on your abdomen, subsequent weight gain will create additional irreversible damage to your remaining abdominal skin and essentially reverse the abdominoplasty results. Thus, it is recommended that you are at a stable weight and have not experienced significant weight fluctuations for at least 6 months prior to undergoing an abdominoplasty.
Full Tummy Tuck
This technique is the most frequently performed. Excess skin and fat are excised by making an incision along the upper border of your pubic region (panty line) and connecting it to an incision that borders the tissue to be removed above, including the belly button. The abdominal muscles are then tightened, and your skin above your original belly button is pulled down to meet with the skin along your panty line.
If you have significant amount of excess tissue along the width of your abdomen, your plastic surgeon may opt to perform a fleur de lis tummy tuck, which entails an additional vertical incision from your original belly button to the bottom of your breast bone (where your bra usually sits).
A new belly button is created and your skin edges are sutured in layers.
Mini Tummy Tuck
This technique is reserved for those individuals that do not have enough excess skin to perform a full tummy tuck. The degree of dissection and abdominal muscle tightening is the same as a full tummy tuck. The only difference is that not as much skin is removed as a full tummy tuck. The scar is not as long as a full tummy tuck. The original belly button is not removed, but it may sit a little lower than it did originally.
- Moderate to significant pain is expected. This is well controlled with over the counter and prescription medications.
- You will not be able to stand up straight for the first week. You will need somebody to help you for at least the first few days. Getting in and out of bed and chairs will require assistance.
- Typically, two small surgical drains will be temporarily placed. These will be removed in clinic usually 1-2 weeks after surgery. Specific care instructions will be provided to you.
- You must wear a compression garments for at least 6 weeks.
- It is important to avoid straining on the toilet during the first 6 weeks. Stool softeners are recommended.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach, strenuous activity, heavy lifting (>5 lbs), or sexual activity for the first 6 weeks.
- You may return to work (desk job) 2-4 weeks later. This timeline depends on your comfort level.
Possible Risks with a Tummy Tuck
- A fluid collection (seroma) may form under the skin of your abdomen. The risk decreases significantly with surgical drains.
- There may be poor scarring if the incision area does not heal properly. We can often correct this with a second operation.
- Numbness at the central lower abdomen and is expected and may not full resolve over time.
- Other surgical complications such as risk of infection, bleeding, blood clots or reaction to the anesthesia.