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Abdominoplasty, commonly known as a tummy tuck, is a surgical procedure performed by a plastic surgeon to remove excess skin and fat from the abdominal area and tighten the underlying muscles.

Abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck surgery, is a procedure that aims to improve the appearance of the abdominal area by removing excess skin and fat, tightening the abdominal muscles, and restoring a firmer and more contoured abdominal contour. It is commonly performed on individuals who have loose, sagging skin and weakened abdominal muscles due to factors such as pregnancy, significant weight loss, or aging.

An abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is a major surgery that removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen. The surgery also tightens muscles. It can be appropriate for women who have had many pregnancies or anyone who has lost a lot of weight.

Who are the best candidates for an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)?

A tummy tuck is suitable for both men and women who are in good general health overall and are at a stable weight. It’s best to be a non-smoker.

A tummy tuck shouldn’t be confused with a liposuction (the cosmetic surgery used to remove fat deposits), although your surgeon may choose to perform liposuction as part of a tummy tuck. Women who have muscles and skin stretched after several pregnancies may find the procedure useful to tighten those muscles and reduce that skin. A tummy tuck is also an alternative for people with a history of obesity and who’ve had significant weight loss, but still have excessive fat deposits or loose skin in the abdominal area.

When should you avoid an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)?

If you’re a woman who is still planning to have children, you may want to postpone a tummy tuck until you’re through bearing children. During surgery, your vertical muscles are tightened. Future pregnancies can separate these muscles once again.

If you’re still planning to lose a significant amount of weight, don’t have a tummy tuck right away. Wait until your weight has stabilized.

It’s important to note that a tummy tuck causes scarring on the abdomen. The length of the scar, which is along the bikini line, depends on the amount of extra skin. With minimal extra skin, the mini abdominoplasty results in a short scar.

Your plastic surgeon will discuss all these options with you when you go for the consultation. You and your surgeon will discuss the results you want, and the surgeon will determine the appropriate procedure during your consultation.

How is an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) done?

Depending on the results you want, this surgery can take anywhere from one to five hours. Surgery is generally done as an outpatient procedure. If you are traveling out of town to a facility to have the procedure done, you’ll be asked to stay overnight at a hotel. Liposuction may or may not be recommended at the same time.

You will receive general anesthesia, which will put you to sleep during the operation. It’s important to have someone with you who can drive you home. If you live alone and you’re sent home after the procedure, you also will need someone to stay with you at least the first night after the surgery.

  • Complete abdominoplasty: This option is for patients who need the most correction. The incision (cut) is made at the bikini line, at about the same level as your pubic hair. The length of the scar depends on the amount of extra skin. Your surgeon will then manipulate and shape the skin and muscle as needed. You will also have an incision around your navel (belly button) with this procedure, because it’s necessary to free your navel from surrounding tissue. Drainage tubes may or may not be placed under your skin. These will be removed in a few days as your surgeon sees fit.
  • Partial or mini-abdominoplasty: Mini-abdominoplasties are done with shorter incisions and are often performed on people who have less excess skin. Your belly button most likely won’t be moved during this type of procedure. Your skin will be separated between the line of incision and your belly button. This procedure generally takes one to two hours. As with the complete abdominoplasty, you may or may not have drainage tubes after surgery.
  • Circumferential abdominoplasty: This surgery includes the back area. When there is a lot of excess fat in the back as well as the abdomen, you may have either liposuction of the back or circumferential abdominoplasty. The latter procedure allows for the removal of both skin and fat from the hip and back areas, which improves the shape of your body from all sides.

After your partial or complete tummy tuck, your incision site will be stitched and bandaged. Your surgeon may have you wear an elastic bandage or compression garment after surgery. If so, it’s very important that you follow all of your surgeon’s instructions on wearing this garment and caring for the bandage. Your surgeon will also tell you about the best way to sit or lie down so you’ll be in the least amount of pain.

If you’re exceptionally physically active, you’ll have to severely limit strenuous exercise for four to six weeks. Your doctor will advise you on this as you go through the healing process. Generally, one week off work after the surgery is sufficient for most people to recover properly. Again, your doctor will help you determine this.

How should I prepare for an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)?

Smoking can increase the risk of complications and delay healing. If you smoke, you will have to stop for a certain period as determined by your doctor. It is not enough to just cut down on smoking. You must completely stop using all forms of nicotine — gum, patches, and e-cigarettes — for at least one month before surgery and for two weeks after. The longer, the better, in terms of the time between when you stop smoking and when you have surgery.

Make sure you eat well-balanced, complete meals. Don’t try to diet excessively before the surgery. Proper nutrition is important to proper healing.

As part of your pre-operative consultation, your surgeon may instruct you to stop taking some of your medications that thin your blood and dietary supplements for a certain period before and after the surgery. This includes aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). You must let your surgeon know if you’re taking any blood thinners.

Make sure you set up the safest, most comfortable recovery area to meet your needs before you undergo the surgery. Your home recovery area should include:

  • A supply of loose, comfortable clothing that can be put on and taken off very easily.
  • A telephone within easy reach.
  • A hand-held shower head and bathroom chair.

Abdominoplasty – Frequently Asked Questions

How is abdominoplasty surgery performed?

Abdominoplasty surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon makes an incision across the lower abdomen, usually from hip to hip, and another incision is made around the navel. Excess skin and fat are then removed, and the underlying abdominal muscles are tightened using sutures. The remaining skin is repositioned, and a new opening for the navel is created. Finally, the incisions are closed with sutures.

What is the recovery like after abdominoplasty surgery?

The recovery period after abdominoplasty surgery can vary depending on the extent of the procedure and the individual patient. Patients may experience swelling, bruising, and discomfort in the abdominal area. Pain medication may be prescribed to manage any post-operative pain. A compression garment is usually worn to provide support and help reduce swelling. Strenuous activities and heavy lifting should be avoided for several weeks. Your plastic surgeon will provide specific post-operative instructions to promote optimal healing.

Are there any risks or complications associated with abdominoplasty surgery?

Like any surgical procedure, abdominoplasty surgery carries potential risks and complications. These can include bleeding, infection, poor wound healing, scarring, asymmetry, changes in sensation, blood clots, and dissatisfaction with the cosmetic outcome. It is important to discuss the potential risks and complications with your plastic surgeon during the consultation process.

Will abdominoplasty surgery result in permanent weight loss?

Abdominoplasty surgery is not a weight-loss procedure. While some weight may be lost due to the removal of excess skin.

How long does abdominoplasty surgery take?

The duration of abdominoplasty surgery varies depending on the extent of the procedure. Generally, it takes around 2 to 4 hours to complete. However, more complex cases or additional procedures performed in conjunction with abdominoplasty can extend the surgical time.

Will there be visible scarring after abdominoplasty surgery?

Yes, abdominoplasty surgery leaves a permanent scar, but the incisions are typically made in areas that can be concealed by underwear or swimwear. The scar usually extends horizontally along the lower abdomen, from hip to hip. The length of the scar will depend on the technique used and the amount of excess skin to be removed. Your plastic surgeon will make efforts to minimize scarring and provide instructions on scar care to promote optimal healing.

Will I have drains after abdominoplasty surgery?

Drains are commonly used after abdominoplasty surgery to remove excess fluid and prevent the accumulation of fluid in the surgical area. These drains are usually temporary and are typically removed within a week or two following the surgery.

How long will it take to see the final results of abdominoplasty surgery?

The initial results of abdominoplasty surgery can be visible immediately after the procedure, but it may take several weeks to months for the swelling to fully subside and the tissues to settle into their final position. The final results can usually be appreciated around 3 to 6 months after surgery, once the healing process is complete.

Will I need to wear a compression garment after abdominoplasty surgery?

Yes, wearing a compression garment is an essential part of the recovery process after abdominoplasty surgery. The compression garment provides support to the treated area, helps reduce swelling, and aids in the contouring of the abdomen. Your plastic surgeon will provide specific instructions on how long you should wear the compression garment.

Can I get pregnant after abdominoplasty surgery?

While it is possible to conceive and carry a pregnancy after abdominoplasty surgery, it is generally recommended to wait until you have completed your family before undergoing the procedure. Pregnancy can potentially stretch the abdominal muscles and skin, affecting the results achieved through abdominoplasty. It’s best to discuss your plans for future pregnancies with your plastic surgeon during the consultation.