Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)
Tummy Tuck Quick Facts
- Best Candidates: People who are seeking to eliminate sagging skin in the abdomen
- Procedure Length: 1 to 5 hours
- Inpatient/Outpatient: Inpatient or outpatient
- Anesthesia: General or local with sedation
- Results: Permanent
- Procedures in 2020: 97,988 (source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)
The skin of the abdomen can become stretched during pregnancy, after weight gain or just from the affects of aging. This skin often lacks the elasticity to return to shape after weight is lost and does not respond to diet and exercise.
A tummy tuck (also called an abdominoplasty) is a body contouring procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the midriff and tightens the abdominal muscles. The majority of tummy tuck patients achieve a smoother stomach, a slimmer waistline and an improved body image.
The procedure information contained in this article will give you a good introduction to tummy tucks. Schedule a consultation with a Top Plastic Surgeon to receive a medical examination and discuss your options for abdominoplasty body contouring.
Tummy Tuck Overview
The natural process of aging can cause the skin to sag as it loses thickness and elasticity, underlying support fat thins out and levels of collagen in the skin decrease. People who have lost a large amount of weight after bariatric surgery, after pregnancy or from diet and exercise can also experience excess skin on different parts of the body. Skin that is stretched due to weight gain often lacks the elasticity to adapt to the body's new contours after the weight is gone.
Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is a surgical procedure to remove excess skin and fat from the front of the torso and tighten the abdominal muscles. A tummy tuck can be performed alone or in combination with other procedures to restore a more youthful appearance or achieve the look you had in mind prior to losing weight. Depending on the specific needs of the patient, a tummy tuck can be performed as part of an overall lower body lift or combined with liposuction, facelift, arm lift, breast augmentation, breast reduction or other procedures. These procedures may be performed at the same time or spread out over several months.
Removing sagging skin and excess fat from the abdomen can dramatically improve the shape of your body and provide a boost to your self-esteem. You will see an immediate difference in the contour of your stomach and will probably be more comfortable wearing certain items of clothing.
How a Full Tummy Tuck is Performed
During a full tummy tuck, or full abdominoplasty, a long incision is made just above the pubic area extending from hip to hip. Another incision is made around the navel to detach the belly button. The skin is then separated from the underlying muscles up to the ribs and the skin flap lifted to expose the abdominal wall. The abdominal muscles are pulled together and sutured to tighten and strengthen the abdomen. The skin is then stretched downward, the excess skin removed and the incision closed with stitches. The navel is stitched into place at its new position. Dressings are applied and a small surgical drain may be used to remove excess fluids.
A full tummy tuck usually takes from 2 to 5 hours to complete, depending on the individual nature of the surgery. The procedure may be performed as an outpatient procedure in your plastic surgeon's surgical facility, in an outpatient surgery center or in a hospital. General anesthesia is normally administered to allow you to sleep throughout the procedure.
How a Mini Tummy Tuck is Performed
If excess skin and fat are only present below the belly button, your plastic surgeon may recommend a mini tummy tuck, or partial abdominoplasty. During a mini tummy tuck, a much shorter incision is made above the pubic area and the skin is only separated up to the navel. The skin is then pulled down, extra skin removed and the remaining skin stitched together. The belly button may not have to be moved, though it may change in shape.
A mini tummy tuck usually takes 1 to 2 hours to complete and can often be performed as an outpatient procedure, allowing you to return home on the same day as the surgery. General anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation may be used depending on the preferences of you and your surgeon.
The best candidates for tummy tucks are people who are in good health and want to restore the appearance of their abdomen with tighter skin and an enhanced body contour.
Generally, the best candidates for a tummy tuck:
- Are in good health, both physically and mentally.
- Are well-informed about treatment options and have realistic expectations.
- Want to improve their appearance by reducing loose, sagging skin in the abdomen.
Tummy tucks have grown much more popular in the last few years. More than 97,000 procedures were performed in 2020, a 56% jump since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This increase is a result of more people who choose body contouring after losing weight through bariatric surgery (extreme weight loss surgery) or by other means. People with excess skin caused by aging are also good candidates.
Liposuction can be used to contour the abdomen if excess fat is present and the skin remains tight. However, a tummy tuck is the best option if the skin is loose and saggy.
If you believe that you may be a good candidate for a tummy tuck, a qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate your condition, explain anything about the procedure you don't understand, answer all of your questions and help you decide if the procedure is right for you.
Tummy Tuck Risks
Tummy tucks carry the same risks as any surgery, which include infection, excessive bleeding and complications from the anesthesia. To reduce your risk, carefully follow all of your plastic surgeon's instructions, both before and after the procedure. Contact your surgeon's office immediately if you have any symptoms you believe may indicate a complication.
The most common risks associated with tummy tuck surgery (abdominoplasty) include:
- Blood clots
- Excess fluid collection (seroma)
- Pain, swelling or bruising beyond normal levels
- Excessive bleeding
- Numbness (usually temporary)
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Dissatisfaction with results
The scars left by a tummy tuck can extend from hip to hip and around the belly button if a full tummy tuck is performed. Scarring is usually less and isolated to the upper public line for a mini tummy tuck. Scars may be firm and pink for several weeks and may take up to 18 months to fade.
Tummy Tuck Costs
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the national average surgeon/physician fee for a tummy tuck in 2013 was $5,217. This figure does not include other costs, such as a facilities charge or anesthesia. Your plastic surgeon will provide you with complete information on costs and financing options at your consultation.
The total fee for a tummy tuck can vary considerably depending on the region of the country, the extent of the procedure and your specific needs as a patient. The cost of a tummy tuck is usually not covered by health insurance, as it is considered to be a cosmetic procedure — check with your insurance company to be sure.
Tummy Tuck Consultation
If you decide that you might benefit from a tummy tuck, the first step is to locate a qualified plastic surgeon and schedule a consultation. During this meeting, you will be examined by the doctor and discuss your options in detail. Be sure to ask any questions that you have about tummy tucks and your expectations for the procedure.
The surgeon should fully address all of your questions and offer advice on how to achieve your desired results. He or she should give you the full details of the procedure, including the benefits, risks, costs and recovery time. Be sure to ask to see before and after photos of the surgeon's recent abdominoplasty patients.
Be prepared to discuss your overall health and medical history. Bring a list of any vitamins and medications, both prescription and non-prescription, that you take. The doctor will also ask about existing medical conditions and allergies.
As the consultation concludes, you may wish to schedule your procedure, take some time to think or seek a second opinion. If you decide to proceed with the procedure, your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for your tummy tuck. These instructions will include guidelines for eating, drinking, and medications and vitamins to take or avoid before and after surgery.
Tummy Tuck Recovery
Normal symptoms experienced after abdominoplasty surgery include soreness, fatigue and mild to moderate pain, swelling and bruising. Any pain should subside quickly and be controlled with medication. Swelling and bruising may last for several weeks after surgery before subsiding. Contact your plastic surgeon's office immediately if you experience any severe swelling, bruising or pain. Fever can be a sign of infection, so use a thermometer to take your temperature frequently in the first few days after surgery.
You will probably wear a compression garment for 2 to 3 weeks to help the skin adhere to the new contour of the abdomen. A surgical drain may be used to remove excess fluids that collect at the site of the incision before being removed within a few days. Stitches on the surface will be removed in 5 to 7 days while deeper stitches will be taken out after 1 to 3 weeks.
For the first few days after your tummy tuck, take it easy, get plenty of rest and follow all of your post-operative instructions. You will be asked to sleep with your legs bent at the hip for several nights to reduce the strain on the stitches. Your surgeon may ask you to begin walking during the first week to prevent blood clots from forming in the legs. Most patients can return to work after 2 to 4 weeks but should avoid strenuous physical activity for about 6 weeks.