What Is a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is a procedure to flatten the loose belly by removing excess skin and fat and tightening muscles in your abdominal wall. This cosmetic surgical procedure can massively improve the appearance of the abdomen and boost your body image.
It’s essential to distinguish abdominoplasty from liposuction (the body contouring procedure used to remove fat deposits), although it is often performed as part of a tummy tuck for more significant results.
Who Should Consider It?
In a nutshell, people should consider the tummy tuck procedure only as the last option when exercising, and dieting hasn’t helped them get rid of the excess skin and fat in their abdomen area.
Keep in mind: abdominoplasty is not for someone who is overweight. This procedure is suitable only for men and women who are at a stable weight and have good health overall.
The most common patients are:
- Women who want to tighten the muscles and reduce the skin that has stretched out after several pregnancies;
- Men or women who have been obese at one point in their lives but after significant weight-loss still have a bit of excess fat or loose skin in their abdominal area.
- Men or women who have had previous operations, have a genetic predisposition, or whose skin has stretched out due to aging.
Who Should Not Consider It?
There are two notable cases why you should wait with opting for the tummy tuck procedure:
- If you are a woman and still planning to have (more) children. During the abdominoplasty surgery, your abdominal wall muscles are tightened, and future pregnancies can separate these muscles and cause a hernia.
- If you are still planning to lose weight or are in the middle of your weight-loss journey. As mentioned before, abdominoplasty is not for overweight people – there are other weight-loss surgeries for that. Also, performing the tummy tuck surgery when your weight is unstable can cause unwanted results.
Mini vs. Full Tummy Tuck
Suppose you choose to have the tummy tuck procedure. In that case, it’s essential to discuss it with your doctor first because, depending on your current physical appearance and condition, there are two tummy tuck procedures to choose from: mini tummy tuck and full tummy tuck.
In short, during the mini tummy tuck procedure, everything takes place below the belly button: excess loose skin is removed, and underlying muscles are tightened again if needed. Generally, the recovery from a mini tummy tuck is shorter and quicker, and the scarring is less evident than with full tummy tuck.
A mini tummy tuck is the best option for you if:
- You are fit, close to or at your ideal weight, and in good health overall;
- You have loose skin only in your lower abdominal area;
- You have no loose skin or stretch marks above the belly button;
- You have little to none laxity of the abdominal muscles.
On the other hand, during the full tummy tuck, other areas of your belly, such as upper and middle regions, are targeted as well. For the best results, a full tummy tuck is often combined with liposuction. Compared to the mini procedure, a full tummy tuck provides a more significant transformation for your body.
A full tummy tuck is the best option for you if:
- You have loose abdominal muscles;
- You have stretch marks going along with extensive amounts of excess abdominal skin;
- You have loose skin all over your stomach.
How to Prepare for the Procedure?
The preparation for the tummy tuck surgery starts with a consultation with your plastic surgeon to review your medical history, examine your current physical condition, discuss your expectations, and map out a preoperative plan.
Some of the do’s and don’ts before the tummy tuck procedure may include:
- Limiting your alcohol and nicotine consumption. Smoking harms the blood circulation overall and especially in the surgery area, increasing the risk of tissue damage and slowing the healing process. Therefore, it’s strongly recommended to avoid smoking two weeks before and two weeks after the surgery.
- Maintaining a stable weight. You should be in as good health as possible, ideally maintaining the same weight for at least 12 months before the surgery. If you are significantly overweight, your doctor will ask you to lose weight before the procedure, since remarkable weight-loss after the tummy tuck might diminish the results.
- Avoiding certain medications. Supplements that can increase bleeding, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, and herbal supplements, need to be avoided.
- Taking medication to prevent complications. Shortly before the abdominoplasty procedure, you’ll need to begin taking blood clotting preventing medicine.
What to Expect from the Procedure?
Abdominoplasty is done under general anesthesia, and the whole procedure can take from 1.5 to up to 3 hours. The duration depends on the surgery’s scope, your specific anatomy, expectations, and the surgeon’s suggestions.
During the full tummy tuck, the surgeon makes a horizontal oval or elliptical incision between the pubic area to the hipbone. Depending on the surgery’s extent, the belly button (umbilicus) can be removed with a circular incision and later placed back. Either way, after the initial incision, a large part of the skin and fat are removed to get access to the abdominal muscles.
After adjusting and tightening the muscles, the surgeon will replace the skin around the belly button. During the first 12-24 hours after the operation, narrow drainage tubes will be placed to help fluid and blood to move out of the wound. Lastly, the incision will be stitched together, and the wound bandage is set.
In the case of the mini tummy tuck, only the belly button and incision skin is stretched. This part of the skin is stretched down, excessive skin is removed, and the wound is sutured.
Essential details about the tummy tuck procedure:
- Surgery duration: 1.5-3 hours
- Anesthesia: general
- Hospital stay: 2 nights
- Recovery time: 4-6 weeks
- Work leave required: 1-2 weeks
Recovery and Results
During the first days after the surgery, a feeling of pain and swelling in the operation area is expected. Your doctor will prescribe pain killers to handle the problem better. All in all, it’s essential to give yourself right after the surgery as much rest as possible to reduce swelling and accelerate recovery and healing. If you do that, possible numbness and other complications will fade out faster or will not even emerge in large volumes.
Typically, patients need to take about 4 to 6 weeks off from work and exercise and avoid driving for the first weeks. You’ll be given a particular type of corset or tummy-control pants to wear for the first six weeks to boost the healing and reduce the swelling. Also, keeping the nicotine and alcohol consumption bare minimum is crucial to feel better and induce better overall results.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you move around, try to avoid positions that burden or strain your incision line to prevent the reopening of the wound.
After your first few follow-up meetings with your surgeon and after getting a “green light” from them, you’ll be able to stop wearing the corset and move back to almost every aspect of your daily activities.
It’s also necessary to know that the tummy tuck procedure leaves scars that will gradually fade out, but they will never completely disappear. The good news is that the scar usually falls along the bikini line’s natural crease, meaning there’s nothing to hide or feel ashamed about.
Nonetheless, your stomach is more toned and slimmer after removing the excess skin and fat and what’s most important is that you will be more confident and happier. Especially if you can maintain a stable weight, the tummy tuck results are long-lasting and sturdy.
Risks and Complications
Like any other type of cosmetic surgical procedure, an abdominoplasty poses various risks and complications, too, such as:
- Unfavorable scarring and skin loss;
- Changes in skin sensation and color (for example, numbness and prolonged swelling, that usually diminishes after a few months);
- Poor wound healing;
- Fluid accumulation beneath the skin (seroma);
- Damage or death of fatty tissue;
- Tummy cramps or persistent pain;
- A collection of blood underneath the skin (hematoma);
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia;
- Blood clots;
- Breathing problems.
Therefore, it’s vital to weigh all the options with your surgeon before the procedure and make sure that the possible benefits you hope to get outweigh the complications. Either way, the tummy tuck is a cosmetic surgery that has helped thousands of patients find their confidence and self-love again, so it is definitely something to consider yourself as well.