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Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

Your body is the
most priceless possession,
take care of it


Average Stay

1 week

Duration of Hospital Stay

2 days

Duration of Operation

2-4 hours

Type of Anesthesia

General Anesthesia

Recovery Time

2 weeks

Who's a good candidate for a tummy tuck?

Optimal tummy tuck patients are in good health and at a stable weight (dramatic weight fluctuations can affect your result), with excess abdominal skin. If you sit up straight and have hanging skin, you’re a good candidate for a tummy tuck.

A common concern of people contemplating an abdominoplasty is whether they need to lose weight before surgery. The answer varies by the surgeon, but the most common stance is that you should be within 10–15 pounds of your goal weight. Many surgeons won’t operate on someone with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30, due to a commonly held belief about an increased risk of complications.

Tummy tuck surgery (abdominoplasty) can be safely performed in obese patients, with no increase in complications compared to non-obese patients. Some plastic surgeons are loosening their BMI restrictions. 

Other conditions, including advanced cardiopulmonary disease, cirrhosis, and uncontrolled diabetes, can reduce your candidacy.

Cigarette smokers are considered poor candidates since nicotine consumption constricts blood flow. If you smoke, plan to stop at least six weeks in advance of your surgery and avoid smoking during the healing process.

It's also important to have realistic expectations. While the goal of this surgery is typically to flatten the abdomen, a perfectly flat tummy isn't always possible.

What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is an outpatient surgical procedure that improves abdominal contours by removing excess skin and fat while tightening the underlying muscles.

Plastic surgeons take many approaches to tummy tuck surgery, and one procedure does not fit all.

In a traditional, full abdominoplasty, the surgeon:

  • removes excess fat and sagging skin from above and below your belly button  

  • tightens the remaining skin and muscles, creating a flatter tummy 

  • repositions the belly button 

Many people also opt for liposuction to sculpt the waist and flanks—although, there’s some controversy about whether this should happen before, during, or after a tummy tuck.

The procedure is especially popular among women who’ve been left with abdominal muscle laxity and excess skin after significant weight loss or multiple pregnancies. It’s often combined with diastasis recti repair, to bring the rectus abdominis muscles back together, or with a panniculectomy to remove an “apron” of hanging skin from the lower abdomen after massive weight loss.

Tummy tuck surgery can also be combined with a mons pubis lift, or with breast augmentation or a breast lift, as part of a full mommy makeover. 
A growing number of men who’ve lost a significant amount of weight are having tummy tucks, too.

What happens during a tummy tuck procedure?

Depending on its complexity, a tummy tuck procedure can take between 90 minutes and five hours. It’s usually performed under general anesthesia (fully asleep).

Your surgeon will start the procedure by making a long horizontal incision, just within or above the pubic area and below the bikini line. If there’s loose skin above the belly button, the surgeon may make a second incision around it.

The surgeon then separates the skin and underlying tissue from the muscles up to the bottom of the sternum, and at times over the rib cage, before lifting the skin and repairing the underlying abdominal muscles.

The upper abdominal skin is then pulled down, and the pelvic tissue, including the vulva, is pulled up, to give tighter abdominal skin when sitting.

A new opening for the belly button is created in the midline and anchored to the abdominal wall. Finally, excess fat is removed from the skin around the new opening, giving it an attractive "innie" look.

Excess abdominal skin is trimmed, and the remaining skin is sutured together.
When surgery is complete, gauze or other dressings may be applied to your abdomen and covered with tape or an elastic bandage.

You may also be asked to wear a compression garment up to 24 hours a day (except when you’re showering) for at least the first week, to reduce swelling as you heal.
Most surgeons use dissolvable internal sutures, except in muscle repair. If sutures are used on the surface of the skin, they should be removed at your first follow-up appointment, within a week of your surgery.

It’s likely your surgeon will insert surgical drains, to stop fluid from building up in and around the incision during healing. These clear plastic tubes are placed through small incisions below the main surgical incision.

What can you expect during tummy tuck recovery?

After an abdominoplasty procedure, our doctor recommends planning on at least two weeks of downtime and up to six weeks of total recovery time before you’ll be healthy enough for strenuous activity or exercise. If you can take more than two weeks off work, take it; you won't regret having the extra time to heal and get your energy back.

Post-op pain can be significant during the recovery period, so your provider will prescribe pain medication. You can expect to have swelling, bruising, and tenderness around the incision sites, especially during the first three days.

You also won’t be able to stand up straight for a week or two (don’t force it). There’s significant tightness across the abdomen. Many women who’ve had a cesarean would say a cesarean is worse than a tummy tuck. Others say [a tummy tuck is] worse than a cesarean. Either way, it’s similar.

During your healing process, you're going to need support. It’s especially important to have someone with you for at least the first five days; you'll continue to need help the following week, as well, to avoid unnecessary complications.

The recovery is indeed difficult. For the first five days, you will need assistance to sit, stand, and do everything. You might also need help getting in and out of your compression garment to bathe as well as fastening it again afterward. 

Even though you may not feel like getting out of bed, you’ll be encouraged to get up and move around a few times a day in order to increase circulation and prevent blood clots, which can cause serious complications.

Recovery can also be emotionally difficult (patients often get what’s called “the TT blues”), so be sure to have a cheerleader on your team.

Tell a trustworthy friend that you’re having surgery. Share your reasons for having it, so they can understand, provide emotional support, and help you stay focused on your goals on those days when you’re not feeling 100%.

 It will take time for your body to fully heal—and while you may resume your normal activities two to six weeks following surgery, you’ll need to take things slowly.

You can’t push the recovery process, because you’ll hurt the result. Keep in mind too that doctors recommend you don’t lift anything heavy (like a small child) for the first four to six weeks afterward.

Can a tummy tuck scar be easily hidden?

The scar generally runs from hip bone to hip bone, but it’s typically very low on your abdomen, just above the pubic area, so it’s easily concealed by underwear or a bathing suit (even a bikini).

You can talk with your surgeon about placement and length, but there’s no guarantee that the incision won’t need to be a little longer than you hoped. If you have a lot of excess skin, your surgeon may also need to make a vertical incision.

To get an idea of how far your scar will extend, sit up straight, engage your core muscles tightly, and pinch any excess skin with both hands, starting at your belly and working your way out toward your hip bone. Wherever you’re able to stop pinching is where your scar will likely end.

The scar will be permanent, but it will fade over time and become less noticeable. Your surgeon will give you instructions to care for your incisions, which should help minimize scarring. They might also recommend a scar treatment.
The key is to avoid any undo force on the incision—so avoid straining, bending, twisting, and lifting for at least four to eight weeks. If you protect the incision, it should ultimately look like a fine line.

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