A tummy tuck, known technically as abdominoplasty, is one of the most popular elective plastic surgical procedures available. It is a major surgical procedure that can significantly reduce a bulging abdomen and strengthen the muscles of the abdominal wall, creating a more toned and trim abdomen with refined contours. Because of the scope of the procedure, it is important that you have a basic understanding of the process to ensure that it will provide you with the results you desire and to help you properly prepare.
A full tummy tuck requires a horizontal incision in the area between the pubic hairline and navel.
Through this incision, weakened abdominal muscles are repaired and sutured and excess fat, tissue and skin is removed.
Your plastic surgeon draws underlying muscle and tissue together and stitches them, thereby narrowing the waistline and strengthening the abdominal wall.
In a full tummy tuck, a second incision around the navel may be necessary to remove excess skin in the upper abdomen.
After surgery, the patient has a flatter, trimmer abdomen. Scars are permanent, but will fade with time.
The Ideal Candidate
Like most procedures, a tummy tuck is most effective on individuals who meet certain criteria. Though these factors will not exclude you from eligibility, understanding why they play a significant role in the results of the procedure will help you determine if a tummy tuck is your best option.
The ideal candidate for a tummy tuck is someone who is in relatively good shape but has specific problem areas on their body that diet and exercise can’t treat. A tummy tuck is not a weight-loss procedure, which is why it benefits individuals who are looking to refine the look of their abdomen, not completely change its volume and shape.
If you plan on losing a significant amount of weight or becoming pregnant, it is recommended that you wait until your body size and weight have stabilized before undergoing the procedure.
Many women especially those who have gone through pregnancy may experience a condition known as diastasis recti, a vertical separation of the muscles of the abdominal wall. This condition can only be corrected through surgery. A tummy tuck can help restore the pre-pregnancy look of the abdomen and strengthen the abdominal wall.
Preparing for Your Procedure
The first step of your process will be choosing an experienced board certified plastic surgeon.
During your consultation, your surgeon should determine if a tummy tuck will give you the results you desire. Your Plastic surgeon will want a standard series of tests to determine if you are healthy enough for the procedure. Your abdominal region will be closely examined to assess the extent of the work that will be required.
You will be asked about your medical history, including any preexisting conditions, your current medications, your smoking or drug habits, and any other factors that can affect the procedure and your recovery. You will also be informed about the type of anesthesia that will be used, the location where your procedure will be performed, and the cost of the procedure.
During your tummy tuck, your surgeon will make an incision more or less from hip to hip and another around the navel. Some of the abdominal skin will be separated from the abdominal wall allowing the exposed abdominal wall will be tightened and reinforced with sutures. With newer techniques, some liposuction is often a component of the procedure which is designed to reduce the amount of skin separation or elevation required for the procedure.
The abdominal skin will then be redraped over the now-tighter abdomen, and any excess skin will be removed. A new navel aperture will be cut depending on where it looks most natural. The skin that has been trimmed and tailored will then be stitched in place. The site will be cleaned and dressed. In some cases a small tube or drain will be temporarily inserted into the surgical site to help drain away any fluids.
On average, most tummy tucks take about three hours to complete, depending on the extent of the work required.
Your Recovery and Results
The first few days after your procedure will be the most uncomfortable. With modern anesthesia and other advances, many patients after abdominoplasty can go home the same day as their surgery. In some cases, a one night or 24 hour stay may be desirable. Any pain or discomfort you may experience can be controlled with medication. Some form of abdominal support or compression is usually recommended which might be a surgical abdominal binder, a custom support garment or Spanx
Your recovery time depends on your overall health prior to the surgery, the extent of the procedure, and your body’s natural recovery rate. Some individuals are able to return to normal function of daily living after just a few days. It takes 2 to 3 weeks for your incisions to heal securely and 6 weeks or so for the muscle repair to get solid. For this reason, we recommend limited strenuous activity for the 1st 3 weeks after surgery and avoiding heavy abdominal exercises for 6 weeks. Regardless of the time it takes, it is important that you rest and not place any unnecessary stress on your body or abdomen.
Once you have fully healed, your abdomen should look trimmed and tight, and feel stronger. The final results of your procedure will take a few months to become fully apparent but will last for years and can be maintained through regular exercise and a proper diet.