What is a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic surgery procedure performed to gain a better abdominal profile. This procedure flattens your abdomen by removing excess skin and fat and tightens the abdominal muscles. Abdominoplasty is usually sought by women with loose tissues post- pregnancy or individuals with sagging abdominal skin after major weight loss.
The Ideal Candidates for Tummy Tucks
The ideal candidates for tummy tuck surgery are men and women who are in relatively good physical condition but are bothered by the loose skin or fat deposit in the mid-section that does not improve with exercise.
Pregnancy causes the skin and muscles to stretch beyond the point where they can still naturally return to their previous shape. Tummy tucks are particularly beneficial for women who find it very difficult to achieve a flatter abdomen.
People who have lost a lot of weight through exercise, diet or bariatric surgery and have excess skin in the abdominal area can benefit from tummy tucks. Older people are also considered as good candidates for this surgery.
The skin loses its elasticity with advancing age which causes the skin in the abdomen to sag. Tummy tucks can significantly improve the shape of the abdomen of older patients.
If you are considering a tummy tuck to enhance your looks, you should have realistic expectations from the procedure. While this cosmetic surgery can improve your appearance and promote self confidence, the outcome may not always match the exact image you have in mind. It is therefore very important to discuss with your cosmetic surgeon the kind of results that you expect from a tummy tuck.
All surgical procedures have their share of uncertainties, possible risks and complications. Each year, thousands of tummy tuck surgeries are carried out successfully. The results are generally positive when performed by a qualified plastic surgeon who is trained in body contouring procedures. However, we cannot discount the known risks as well as complications associated with tummy tucks.
Post-operative complications include infection and blood clots. Although the incidence of these complications is rare, there is still a chance for them to occur. Drainage and antibiotics are administered to treat infection; your stay in the hospital can be prolonged because of this. The risk of blood clots can be minimized by moving around as soon as it is safe to do so.
Poor healing, which results in unsightly scars, may require a follow-up operation. Smokers are advised to stop smoking because it increases the risk of complications and can slow the healing process. Make sure to follow your surgeon’s pre-op and post-op instructions because they are meant to decrease your likelihood of experiencing complications.
The costs of a tummy tuck can be anywhere from $5,000-$9,000. Additional procedures can be performed at the same time and, of course, that would mean that you would have to pay extra. When done with liposuction and breast augmentation, for example, the total price for the three procedures can range from $15,000 to $20,000.
Contradications to Tummy Tuck
Tummy tucks may not be advised for patients with serious health conditions, such as heart disease, severe obesity and a history of thromboembolitic disease. Cigarette smoking and unrealistic patient expectations are also considered as contradications to abdominoplasty.
Preparation for Surgery
During the initial consultation, your cosmetic surgeon will evaluate your overall health condition. He or she will assess the extent of fat deposits in your abdominal area as well as the quality of your skin tone. Be sure to disclose necessary information such as intake of maintenance drugs or vitamins and health supplements, habits such as smoking and if you have allergies.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding your tummy tuck. He or she will inform you of possible outcomes, risks, cost of the procedure, etc. If you have realistic expectations from the procedure and are prepared for a lengthy recovery time and possible consequence of a permanent scar, then a tummy tuck may be the right option for you.
Once you have decided to give a tummy tuck a go, your surgeon will schedule the procedure, and you will be given a list of pre-operative instructions. Diagnostic tests, such routine blood work and a cardiac work-up, are generally requested for patients who will undergo abdominoplasty.
Your plastic surgeon will likely ask you to discontinue taking certain drugs as early as 2 weeks prior to the surgery. These are usually the medicines that will increase bleeding risk, examples include: aspirin, blood thinners, Vitamin E and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The Tummy Tuck Procedure
Tummy tucks are often performed with general anesthesia, but it can also be performed using a local anesthetic with a sedative. This surgery takes about two to five hours.
Full Tummy Tuck
A tummy tuck usually begins with an incision across the abdomen, from hip bone to hip bone, just above the pubic area. Another incision is made around the belly button to free it from the surrounding abdominal tissue.
The skin will be detached from the abdominal wall to expose the rectus muscles or vertical abdominal muscles and fascia to be tightened. These are the muscles that have usually been stretched by previous pregnancies. The vertical muscles are then sutured or stitched into a new position; this will tighten the muscles and reduce the abdominal girth.
Once the muscles have been repositioned and tightened, the excess skin and fat are removed. The remaining skin will then be placed over the abdominal region and sutured into place. The belly button is then brought out and sutured into its new location. In most cases, liposuction is used to refine the treated abdominal areas.
Partial or Mini Tummy Tuck
Partial or mini abdominoplasty is an option for patients within 10% of their ideal body weight. This type of abdominoplasty is less invasive, the incision is smaller and it does not require an incision around the navel. Liposuction is sometimes used and the fat from below the navel is removed. This tightens the muscles from the belly button to the pubis.
If you weigh 20% more than your ideal body weight, it is quite likely that your plastic surgeon will recommend a full tummy tuck.
After the Tummy Tuck Procedure
Keep in mind that a tummy tuck is a major surgical procedure. Like any invasive surgery, you can expect a lengthy recovery time compared with minor cosmetic treatments. In majority of cases, it usually takes one to three weeks before returning to work and normal routine.
Some tummy tuck patients may need to stay in the hospital overnight, while others can be confined for one or two days. The length of hospital stay will depend on the extensiveness of the surgery.
During the first few days after abdominoplasty, expect swelling and some soreness on the treated site. You will be given pain relievers as needed. For the first few days post-procedure, narcotics are typically prescribed to manage pain, after which, non-narcotics should be sufficient to relieve discomfort.
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on when you can resume physical activity. Generally, tummy tuck patients are advised to engage in light to moderate activity four weeks after the surgery. Most post-tummy tuck patients can resume all physical after six to eight weeks.
During the first three to six months, the scars will appear to worsen. Its appearance may improve over time but will never disappear completely. You should ask your plastic surgeon if he or she can recommend topical preparations for your scars.
People who have had tummy tucks should maintain their result by appropriate diet and exercise. Women can have another tummy tuck if they have children again.