TUMMY TUCK ABDOMINOPLASTY
What is a tummy tuck?
For individuals who are self-conscious about loose, drooping skin around their midsection or for those with weakened abdominal muscles due to pregnancy or weight loss, tummy tuck surgery may be the best way to achieve a firmer, more youthful figure. Although not considered a weight loss procedure, a tummy tuck can refine a person’s contours when diet and exercise are not enough to eliminate stubborn excess tissues and fat cells.
Tummy tuck surgery, also known as abdominoplasty, removes excess fat and skin and, in most cases, restores weakened or separated muscles creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer*.
A flat and well-toned abdomen is something many of us strive for through exercise and weight control. Sometimes these methods cannot achieve our goals.
Even individuals of otherwise normal body weight and proportion can develop an abdomen that protrudes or is loose and sagging. The most common causes of this include:
Significant fluctuations in weight
During tummy tuck surgery, clinically known as abdominoplasty, a plastic surgeon removes loose skin, tightens the abdominal muscles, and eliminates stubborn deposits of fat. This proven surgical treatment can be thoroughly customized to meet the unique needs and goals of each individual patient. There are several variations of tummy tuck surgery, each designed to target certain areas of the body or specific issues. An experienced plastic surgeon can thoroughly explain these options and help patients arrive at a treatment plan that will gives them natural results and an improved sense of confidence.
Abdominoplasty candidates should:
Be in good general health
Carry excess weight in the midsection
Have loose or droopy skin around the abdomen
Have healthy expectations of the surgery, which can be discussed with the plastic surgeon
Commit to maintaining the results with a stable diet and regular exercise
Abdominoplasty candidates should not:
Have serious medical conditions which could be compromised by undergoing a surgical procedure
Plan to lose a significant amount of weight
Feel pressured into undergoing the procedure by someone else
Ultimately, a good candidate for the tummy tuck procedure is an adult who is not far from his or her ideal body weight, with an abdominal area that has not adequately responded to diet and exercise.
The Tummy Tuck Procedure
Tummy tuck surgery takes several hours, depending on the type of procedure being performed. A partial abdominoplasty takes about an hour and half to complete, while other types of tummy tucks take two to five hours. Scarring is inevitable, though your surgeon will carefully plan the location of your incisions in order to minimize the visibility of your surgical scars. Follow your surgeon’s pre- and post-operative instructions closely to help minimize the size and darkness of your scars and increase the likelihood of a smooth and quick healing process. The incisions are made to allow the surgeon to remove excess skin and tighten the abdominal muscles, producing a flatter, firmer abdomen.
Creating the Incisions
The number and length of incisions that are made by a tummy tuck surgeon will vary, depending upon the specific procedure being performed. There are different kinds of tummy tucks to address different kinds of aesthetic complaints. The mini tummy tuck, for example, involves a single, very small incision that is made below the navel. By contrast,circumferential abdominoplasty surgery requires an incision around the circumference of the waist line, since it involves the removal of loose hanging skin from the entire hip area, including the back. Traditional tummy tucks involve one incision along the front of the abdomen from one hip bone to the other. All incisions are carefully planned prior to surgery to improve the chances that the resulting scars will be easily hidden beneath underwear, bikinis, and other swim wear. You can speak with your surgeon about altering the position of your incisions, based on your body type and lifestyle preferences.
Naval Reattachment and Sculpting
Most tummy tucks involve changing the position of the naval in order to make the tightened skin of the abdomen appear more natural. To detach the navel, a second vertical incision is made across the abdomen’s central section. Depending on what your surgeon thinks will create a more appealing result, another small incision is made to either reattach your existing naval or artificially sculpt a new one. Naval reattachment and naval sculpting are surgical art forms, and surgeons more experienced with abdominoplasty surgeries will generally achieve better results.
Tightening of the Muscles
It is common for the abdominal muscles to become more lax as the patient ages. During abdominoplasty surgery, your cosmetic surgeon has the opportunity to tighten sagging abdominal muscle mass, as well as remove packets of excess fat and skin from the stomach area. Through the surgical incisions, the skin is separated from the abdominal walls. Theabdominal muscles are pulled closer together and stitched into a position that will give them a more toned appearance. Tightening the abdominal muscles also tends to narrow the waistline.
After abdominoplasty surgery, particularly if you are lucky enough to have a very subtle scar, it may look like the loose skin around your stomach has been tucked into your body. It hasn’t. It has actually been removed. Following the tightening of the abdominal muscles, the skin is stretched downward, and excess skin is trimmed away. Sometimes liposuction is used to remove any unwanted fat pockets before the skin is pulled taut.
Eliminating Stretch Marks
Often, it is possible to eliminate or improve the appearance of stretch marks during the skin removal, depending on the location of the incision. Any stretch marks located slightly below the navel are often removed along with the excess skin while the remaining stretch marks often appear less prominent after tummy tuck surgery. This is because the stretching of the abdominal skin flattens the stretch marks, decreasing the degree to which they indent the skin.
Closing the Incisions
When the abdominoplasty surgery is complete, the skin is sutured together using surgical stitches. With the stitches in place, your skin cells will coalesce at the site of incision, closing the wound naturally over time. A surgical drain will also be inserted at the site of incision at the same time that the stitches are put into place. Surgical drains speed up the healing process and often alleviate pain from the buildup of fluids beneath the skin. As your body attempts to repair the damage to the surrounding cells, fluids build up and can cause complications during the tummy tuck healing process. Your surgeon may feel that a surgical drain is a necessary precaution. The surgical drain is usually removed before the stitches, about a week after surgery. The tummy tuck stitches will normally be removed in stages over a period of two weeks following surgery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will gaining weight affect my tummy tuck results?
Although tummy tucks can give you a firmer, flatter belly, they do not prevent weight gain in the future. Unfortunately, if you gain weight after your procedure, it will likely affect your figure, although the weight may be more evenly dispersed across your body. To keep this from happening, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine.
Can I get pregnant after a tummy tuck?
Yes. Doctors recommend that you do not undergo abdominoplasty if you plan to get pregnant, since this can stretch out your skin and muscles, negating the effect of your procedure. However, if you do get pregnant, your previous tummy tuck will not affect the health of your baby, and it will not make your delivery more difficult.
Am I too old or too young to get a tummy tuck?
Doctors will not perform abdominoplasty on anyone under the age of 18. While it is certainly safe for patients in their 20’s to have a tummy tuck, some doctors may advise patients to wait until they are a little older, particularly women who think they may want to have children in the future. There is no cut-off age for abdominoplasty, but doctors will typically ask senior patients to undergo a complete medical exam before they agree to perform elective surgery.
Is there any way I can get my insurance company to cover my tummy tuck?
Unfortunately, abdominoplasty is never covered by insurance. (However, panniculectomy is sometimes covered, particularly if excess skin leads to infection or significant discomfort.) Most doctors offer flexible financing options, making tummy tucks and affordable option, even without insurance.
Can I wear a bikini after my tummy tuck?
In some cases, doctors are able to create incisions that will be hidden underneath a bikini. However, in most cases, scars will be visible with a bikini, and you may feel more comfortable in a one-piece swim suit or a higher cut two-piece. Whatever you choose, you will have a flatter, more contoured body to show off at the pool or the beach.
Will I lose weight after my tummy tuck?
As stated above, tummy tucks are not weight loss procedures, although you may look as though you have lost a significant amount of weight. Following abdominoplasty, you may lose a negligible amount of weight with the removal of excess skin. You may also find that it is easier to keep off excess pounds, since your flatter, sleeker figure can serve as an incentive to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Why do I need to wear a compression garment?
Most doctors require their patients to wear a compression garment or bandage after surgery. This garment helps in several ways. First, it will support your stomach and back, decreasing your discomfort as you move your newly repositioned abdominal muscles. It can also prevent your muscles from moving out of place. Additionally, the garment helps your skin contour to the new curves of your stomach, and it can prevent fluid from developing underneath the skin.
How long will I need to wear my compression garment?
The amount of time you wear your garment will depend on your needs and the recommendation of your doctor. Some patients can stop wearing it after two weeks, while others wear it for up to eight weeks following the surgery.
Can I get a tummy tuck after a C-section?
Absolutely! In fact, because mothers who have had C-section frequently struggle with loose abdominal skin and damaged muscles, tummy tucks can be ideal treatments for these women. However, most doctors recommend that you wait at least six months after the caesarian before you undergo abdominoplasty.
Can I get a tattoo over my scar?
Yes. In fact, many men and women conceal their scars with a tattoo. However, if you choose to do so, you should wait until you are fully recovered. If you are not the inking type, rest assured that your scars will fade, and most patients do not feel the need to hide the marks with a tattoo.
Will a tummy tuck affect my existing tattoo?
If you have a tattoo across the treatment area, the design will likely be affected. In some cases, the doctor may be able to move the tattoo or work around it. However, his or her ultimate goal is to give you the figure you desire. To access the muscle and remove enough skin, he or she will probably have to take off part of the tattoo as well.
I think I want a tummy tuck, but I’m not sure. How do I find out if the procedure is right for me?
Schedule an appointment with an experienced cosmetic surgeon. He or she can discuss your goals, health, body type, and mental preparedness. Together you can determine if a tummy tuck is the optimal way to achieve a sleeker figure.