What Is A Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure in which excess skin and fat from the abdomen is removed, and the six-pack muscles are tightened to flatten the stomach area. The umbilicus is preserved and brought out through a new incision. Tummy tucks can often be combined with liposuction of the abdomen, flanks, and back.
Who is a Good Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?
Tummy tuck patients ideally are in good physical condition. They may diet and exercise but still have areas of sagging skin and fat that don’t respond to these efforts. Women with widened abdominal muscles and stretched skin due to their pregnancies are usually very good candidates. Patients may still be appropriate candidates if they are slightly overweight and lack skin elasticity.
If you are planning on having (more) children or are planning on losing a significant amount of weight, you should wait until you are finished having children and your weight has stabilized at its lowest point before getting a tummy tuck.
How Do I Prepare for a Tummy Tuck?
As mentioned above, patients should wait until they are done having kids before having an abdominoplasty. Patients will also have the best results if they obtain their lowest possible weight prior to surgery and maintain it. Regaining weight after surgery may lead to suboptimal results.
The day before surgery, you may be asked to eat only a liquid diet and to drink a laxative. This will help you to empty your bowels so that your surgeon will be able to tighten your muscles as much as possible during surgery.
What Goes Into The Abdominoplasty Procedure?
Abdominoplasties generally take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to complete. Patients are placed under general anesthesia for the entire case.
A large incision is made from hipbone to hipbone (occasionally larger for extended abdominoplasty or smaller for mini-abdominoplasty), and a smaller incision is made around the umbilicus/navel. A “flap” of skin and fat is elevated from the underlying abdominal muscles. The muscles are then sewn together in the midline to create a firmer, flatter abdomen as well as a narrower waistline. The flap of skin and fat is then pulled down over the flattened muscles, the excess is cut off, and the belly button is placed in its new position. The incisions are repaired, and drains may be left to remove any fluid under the flap as it heals.
What Is The Recovery After Abdominoplasty?
Most patients will be able to go home the same day. Only rarely is an overnight stay in the hospital required – more common when multiple procedures are combined. Recovery time can range from 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the patient. Patients will have to stay flexed at the hips in a “beach chair” position for several days. After that, they will be allowed to slowly straighten their abdomens (this allows for proper healing before stretching out the incision). There may be a drain in place that is usually removed within 1-2 weeks as drainage decreases.
A scar will form from one hip to the other where the incision was placed. Over time, the incision generally softens and fades. Usually it is low enough to be hidden within underwear or a bikini. Scar massage starting at 3 weeks will help to soften it faster, and silicone gel or strips may be of use with any hypertrophic scars.
It is very important to maintain your weight with diet and exercise after surgery in order to maintain your results.
What Are The Risks Of Abdominoplasty?
There are always risks associated with surgery and anesthesia, and the anesthesiologist will discuss these with you. Every effort is made to minimize them. Risks related to abdominoplasty include:
- Suboptimal aesthetic result
- Poor scarring Loose skin (especially with weight fluctuation after the surgery)
- Abnormal skin sensation (most commonly in the middle lower abdomen)
- Need for revision surgery
Patients may occasionally notice that their abdominoplasty scars become more raised or widened with time. These patients may benefit from a scar revision to improve the appearance.