Tummy Tuck

PlasticSurgery.com Staff Report © 2005-2009

You’ve probably heard that "beauty is only skin deep." While this adage may be true, it is often what’s under the skin that influences a person’s appearance. Today, many of us are unsatisfied with the shape and size of our abdomen. Despite persistent dieting, exhaustive exercise, and other "hard-to-follow" regimens, stubborn fat deposits seem completely immune. Fortunately, there’s a surgical way to address these conditions and achieve a more defined, flatter, and youthful-looking abdominal region. A great option is the tummy tuck. Commonly referred to as "abdominoplasty," a tummy tuck is a popular plastic surgery procedure used to tighten overly-stretched abdominal muscles and skin, creating a smoother, flatter appearance. Whether stretched by factors such as weight gain, weight loss, or pregnancy, the abdomen frequently fails to return to its original shape. A tummy tuck tightens the abdominal muscles and removes sagging, excess skin and accumulated fatty tissue. As an added benefit of this procedure, the waistline will even become smaller.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), tummy tucks were among the most popular procedures performed on women in the United States during 2004. Women had 90 percent of the 11.9 million cosmetic surgical procedures performed on Americans, with over 140,000 who opted for abdominoplasty.

Even though the information on PlasticSurgery.com can provide you with a good introduction to the procedure, when considering a tummy tuck, we recommend that you consult a plastic surgeon with experience in this type of surgery. The following pages provide some important elements you should understand regarding the abdominoplasty.

Choosing a Tummy Tuck Surgeon:

As you search for the right tummy tuck surgeon, be sure to do a background check of each candidate. If a doctor is board certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), it means that he or she has received extensive surgical training, and has completed one of the most rigorous training programs amongst all medical specialty-training programs. This includes graduating from an accredited medical school and completing at least five years of additional residency. The training means that the plastic surgeon has met the requirements needed to perform plastic surgery on any area of the body. As a major surgical procedure, it is important to understand all that is involved with tummy tuck surgery and to select the right plastic surgeon to perform the procedure.

Full versus Partial Tummy Tuck:

Generally, there are two different surgical techniques that can be used for abdominoplasty. In what most plastic surgeons refer to as a "full tummy tuck," a precise surgical incision is made across the lower abdomen directly above the pubic area. Following this initial incision, a second incision is made around the patient’s belly button as a means of loosening the surrounding skin. Next, the patient’s skin is separated from the abdominal wall, and the surgeon will pull the loose abdominal muscles from the left and right flanks, suturing (stitching) them together. After the tightening and suturing of the abdominal muscles is completed, any excess skin is removed and a new opening is made for the modified position of the belly button. To complete a full tummy tuck, any remaining incisions are closed with sutures and/or staples. To keep the abdominal region clean and free from infection, surgical gauze is placed over the surgical site.

The alternative tummy tuck technique designed to treat problem areas existing below the belly button is referred to as a "partial tummy tuck." This less invasive form of abdominoplasty is frequently performed on an outpatient basis and typically requires a local form of anesthesia. Depending on the patient’s desired outcome, as well as his or her physical appearance, the surgeon may recommend that either a partial or full tummy tuck be done in conjunction with liposuction. Occasionally, liposuction alone may offer the most desirable results.

Depending on whether you get a full tummy tuck or a partial tummy tuck, the desired outcome, and the preoperative condition of the patient, a tummy tuck usually requires about two to five hours to complete. Furthermore, while many abdominoplasty procedures are performed in a hospital setting, some may be conducted in an office surgical suite.

Post-Tummy Tuck:

Most tummy tuck patients take several weeks to feel completely back to normal. However, patients who are in good physical condition will experience faster recovery times. Those who undergo abdominoplasty are generally able to return to work after two weeks, while others may require up to four weeks to recuperate.

Many plastic surgeons recommend that tummy tuck patients begin a program of light exercise immediately following surgery. This will help to reduce swelling, decrease the possibility of developing blood clots and enhance skin tone. At the same time, vigorous exercise, such as lifting heavy objects, should be put off until it may be done comfortably and the plastic surgeon has provided their consent to do so.

Many prospective tummy tuck patients express concern over scarring. Just like many cosmetic surgical procedures, scars do result from tummy tuck surgery. While the resulting scars may appear to worsen during the first few months following a tummy tuck, they should eventually become less discernable. Although you may want to keep in mind that in some tummy tuck cases, it may take up to a year before scars flatten out and lighten in color. If you are curious as to what the final outcome of your procedure will look like, your plastic surgeon will be able to provide you with tummy tuck before and after photos to view.

Directly following tummy tuck surgery, patients should expect some degree of swelling in the abdominal region. Furthermore, it is likely that the patient will experience some pain and discomfort that may be controlled by various pain medications. In an effort to reduce any pain and discomfort associated with the tummy tuck, two to three days of bed rest is commonly recommended. During this time, most plastic surgeons will provide the patient with an "abdominal binder," which offers support to the abdominal region. Furthermore, the plastic surgeon will provide additional instructions for various activities such as showering, changing the surgical dressings, and walking.

Every surgical procedure has its own set of risks and side effects. For a tummy tuck, the most common include, bleeding, potential reaction to anesthesia, and infection. Some scarring is to be expected with a tummy tuck. Furthermore, scientific evidence exists that proves smoking increases the risk of complications, may delay healing, and could potentially lead to larger scars. To decrease the likelihood of experiencing any of these risks, it is recommended that the patient closely follow all the instructions provided by the plastic surgeon.

Tummy Tuck Costs:

Surgeon fees may be determined by region – whether the surgical practice is in an urban, suburban or rural area. A comprehensive tummy tuck cost figure may be obtained while consulting with your plastic surgeon. In an effort to make the tummy tuck surgery more affordable, many plastic surgeons offer a variety of financing options.