updated July 25th, 2014
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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.
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 become pregnant
- 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.
Because of the way that pregnancy stretches the skin and separates the abdominal muscles, diet and exercise can be inadequate in tightening the abdominal area after childbirth. Muscle tone and skin elasticity may be poor, especially after multiple pregnancies. For many mothers who struggle to slim down after pregnancy, surgical treatment is often the most effective way to achieve the desired shape and tone. Tummy tuck surgery restores the pre-pregnancy figure, sometimes incorporating liposuction to remove the stubborn excess fat that can remain after childbirth.
If you have tried unsuccessfully to regain your pre-pregnancy figure through exercise and diet, we invite you to use DocShop to locate a premier cosmetic surgeon who can answer your questions about plastic surgery and determine whether a tummy tuck after pregnancy is right for you.
Significant Weight Loss
People who have lost a significant amount of weight may enjoy much improved health, but the weight loss can also have undesirable aesthetic effects. Loose, sagging skin and overstretched abdominal muscles can make a person feel nearly as self-conscious about his or her body as a higher weight. Indeed, some people become so discouraged and disheartened that they lose the will to continue their healthy lifestyle, regaining the weight they worked so hard to shed.
Plastic surgery procedures such as a tummy tuck can create a physique that better reflects the efforts someone has made to lose weight. Thousands of bariatric surgery patients, as well as people who have lost significant weight by other means, have opted for tummy tuck surgery to address extra sagging skin or poor elasticity. Furthermore, body lift, arm lift, thigh lift, and butt lift procedures can be combined with abdominoplasty to achieve more comprehensive body contouring following significant weight loss.
The Aging Process
As a person ages, the skin loses some of its natural elasticity and the muscles gradually weaken. The aging process often has a pronounced impact on the abdominal region, resulting in a flabby, sagging midsection. For some, the loss of definition in the stomach area is a source of self-consciousness, as they begin to appear older and less fit than they feel. In such cases, a tummy tuck can have a rejuvenating effect on the entire body. Thanks to the tightening and streamlining of the abdominal area, post-tummy tuck patients enjoy looking younger and healthier.
The overall shape of one's body and the areas where pockets of fat tend to accumulate are largely determined by genetics. For some people, the bothersome flab that gathers in the abdominal region may not be reflective of their true level of activity and fitness. Even a person in his or her 20s, 30s, or 40s may be genetically predisposed to stubborn abdominal roundness; fortunately, plastic surgery can address this. The best way to determine whether abdominoplasty will be effective in your particular case is to discuss your cosmetic goals and your medical and family history with a qualified plastic surgeon.
Factors That Impact the Cost of a Tummy Tuck
Because tummy tucks are completely individualized treatments, it is impossible to provide a single total that applies across the board. Tummy tuck cost varies according to several factors, and it can range in price from $3,000 to $12,000.
The cost of a tummy tuck will depend on many different considerations, including:
- A patient's particular needs
- The specific type of tummy tuck procedure a person chooses
- The experience and reputation of the plastic surgeon
- Any advanced technology or surgical techniques that may be used
- The geographic location where the procedure takes place
- The type of anesthesia a patient selects
When patients receive their initial treatment estimate, they should remember that there are probably additional costs not included in this quote. Anesthesia, the anesthesiologist's fee, and the surgical facility fee are typically billed separately. Patients should ask their surgeons about these additional costs before their procedures to get a better idea of the final price.
Abdominoplasty is considered an elective cosmetic procedure. As such, it is not covered by insurance companies. However, most cosmetic surgeons have allied themselves with one or more financing companies and can offer reasonable payment options to patients. Medical credit cards, such as CareCredit TM and AccessOne® often offer no-interest and fixed-interest plans to qualified patients. There are also medical financing companies that can help patients find lenders for their plastic surgery, just as they would to purchase a new car or a new home. Often, the office team at a surgeon's office will help patients find a payment option that works for their budget, and they can even assist them in filling out necessary paperwork.
Most doctors accept cash, check, and credit cards, and many offer their own financing options. For example, patients may be able to set up a fixed or no-interest repayment schedule with approved credit. Some doctors also offer discounts when procedures are paid for in full at the first appointment. Of course, each doctor is different, and individuals should ask their surgeon about his or her financing options.
How to Choose a Surgeon
After the decision to undergo abdominoplasty, the choice of plastic surgeon is the most vital consideration. The results of a tummy tuck could last the rest of a person's life, so it is important to choose a doctor who will provide a beautiful, natural outcome. Additionally, with a top-quality surgeon, patients are likely to have fewer risks and a faster recovery.
Training and Affiliations
A qualified plastic surgeon should have at least five years of medical training, with at least two of them focused on plastic surgery. For best results, patients should also look for a doctor who has been working professionally for several years. Additionally, they should always choose a doctor who is accredited by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Other affiliations, such as membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and various state medical boards, are also good indications of a doctor's experience and trustworthiness.
A qualified surgeon should also have hospital privileges. All hospitals run complete background checks, so if the doctor does not have privileges, there is serious cause for concern. Additionally, when the doctor is certified to work at the hospital, there is a safe place for to go in the unlikely event that a there are surgical complications.
While all plastic surgeons are permitted to perform tummy tucks, patients should look for a doctor who performs this procedure on a regular basis. Additionally, it is important to find a surgeon who has the experience and tools necessary to perform several types of tummy tucks, including full, mini, endoscopic, extensive, and circumferential procedures. If a patient wants to combine their tummy tuck with another form of body contouring, they should find a doctor who has significant experience with these procedures as well.
Many doctors have before-and-after galleries of their past procedures. Potential new patients should take a look at these photos and ask themselves whether they think the surgeon's work is satisfactory. They can also check the doctor's record with the state medical board to make sure that he or she adheres to the highest safety standards and surgical techniques. Each state has slightly different policies. In some states, patients may be able to view these records online, but in others, they may need to request copies through the mail.
An Accredited Surgical Center
While a doctor's affiliations are definitely important, individuals should also check to make sure the doctor operates at a fully accredited center. If the doctor does not perform procedures in a hospital, they should look for accreditation by the American Associations for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Centers. This accreditation indicates that the facility follows all proper safety protocol.
A Personal Connection
Tummy tucks are very personal procedures, and therefore it is important for patients to choose a surgeon with whom they feel comfortable. When talking to potential doctors, individuals should ask themselves:
- Does the surgeon take all the time I need to answer my questions, or do I feel rushed in the office?
- Does the doctor listen to my personal concerns?
- Does he or she seem willing to tailor my procedure to meet my goals or do they offer a one-size-fits-all procedure?
- Is the doctor pressuring me to undergo procedures I do not want?
- Do I feel relaxed in the office? Does the staff and doctor greet me with a smile?
While safety and experience are, of course, the top concerns, a personal connection is also important when it comes to achieving outstanding cosmetic results.
The Initial Consultation
Once a patient has chosen his or her plastic surgeon, they will have a complete, personalized consultation. The exact timing of this appointment will depend on the doctor's schedule and personal preferences. Some doctors schedule the first appointment months before the procedure, while others like the consultation and the tummy tuck to follow in close succession. Whatever the timeline, pre-surgical consultations include several components.
Assessing Your Physical Health
First, the surgeon will take a patient's medical history and conduct a physical exam. This will help him or her to determine candidacy for abdominoplasty and reduce a patient's risks. It is important for patients to be honest and thorough when discussing their medical history. They should tell their doctor about any past medical conditions and current medications. Although underlying conditions do not necessarily preclude patients from a tummy tuck, the doctor may need to take extra precautions to accommodate certain health needs. Patients should also tell their doctors if they smoke. Again, this will not necessarily keep them from undergoing treatment, but they will need to stop smoking for the weeks before and after the surgery.
During the physical exam, the doctor will look at a patient's skin type, elasticity, and thickness. The doctor may also ask the patient to bend over or move around a bit so that he or she can observe the muscles in motion and determine how much they may need to be tightened.
Discussing Your Cosmetic Goals
Once a surgeon has a good understanding of the patient's physical needs, they can discuss the aesthetic goals for the procedure. The doctor may take some pictures, and together they will determine the right treatment for the patient's needs. Considerations include the degree of correction he or she requires, where the incisions will be placed, budget, and physical health. After the doctor has developed a personalized treatment plan, the patient will have the opportunity to accept or decline the proposed procedure.
Types of Tummy Tuck
There are several types of tummy tucks available, and the doctor will help each patient choose the right one for his or her individual needs. Options include:
- Traditional tummy tucks are the most commonly performed type of tummy tuck surgery. They involve the creation of a hip-to-hip incision, as well as incisions around the belly button. Because they address the patient's entire abdominal area, they often involve moving the belly button to ensure natural looking results. Traditional tummy tucks are commonly combined with abdominal liposuction.
- Mini tummy tucks (also called partial abdominoplasties) are intended for patients who are within 10 percent of their ideal body weight and are content with making alterations only to the part of the abdomen that is below the navel. Mini tummy tucks require only a single small incision. They usually do not involve repositioning the navel. Partial abdominoplasties result in less dramatic changes to the appearance of the abdomen than other types of abdominoplasty surgery, but also offer a shorter recovery time than most tummy tuck procedures.
- Endoscopic tummy tuck surgery is performed on patients with weakened abdominal muscles, little abdominal fat, and no noticeable loose skin around the stomach area. Endoscopic tummy tucks involve the use of a tiny camera attached to a slender tube, called an endoscope, which is inserted into the site of incision. An endoscopic abdominoplasty results in the least noticeable scarring because the incisions only have to be large enough to allow for the insertion of the endoscope and the surgeon's tools. This tummy tuck technique is employed in tummy tucks for men and women who suffer from rectus diastasis, a disorder that involves the separation of the abdominal muscles at the midline of the belly.
- Extended tummy tucks involve the removal of 'love handles' on either side of the waist as well as the removal of fat and excess skin from the stomach area. The incision is usually low so that even if the scar extends behind the hips, it will not be visible, even when one is wearing low-rise clothing. This procedure allows for the treatment of a larger area than the traditional tummy tuck. In order to address the lifting of the entire lower body area, a circumferential tummy tuck is usually required.
- Circumferential tummy tucks is a type of body lift. Circumferential tummy tuck surgeries are often sought by patients who have undergo gastric bypass surgery. Massive weight loss is often accompanied by a significant loss in skin elasticity. Some insurance companies will cover part of the cost of a circumferential tummy tuck surgery. The presence of sagging skin may be a health issue as well as an aesthetic one, as fungus can form between the folds of the skin. Circumferential abdominoplasty can involve the removal of excess skin from the thigh, buttocks, and hips, as well as the central abdominal area. The scars for this type of procedure extend to the back.
Before the Procedure
After a patient has selected a surgeon and the optimal procedure, there are certain steps he or she should take to insure good results, low risks, and a speedy recovery.
Eating a healthy diet before a tummy tuck has a twofold purpose. First, good nutrition can boost the immune system and speed recovery. Because protein is one of the most important nutrients for healing, patients should eat a diet high in lean proteins such as chicken, fish, eggs, yogurt, and light cheese. Individuals should also eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and vitamin rich-foods to boost overall health and stimulate the healing process. They should bear in mind, however, that while most vitamins are essential to health, high doses of Vitamin E can actually cause complications during your recovery. Individual doctors may recommend certain foods to eat or avoid as patients prepare for surgery.
In addition to stimulating healing, a proper diet is also important because it promotes overall health and instills patients with good habits. Although tummy tucks can have dramatic results, future weight gain can increase the size of a patient's abdomen. Beginning healthy habits before the treatment can help ensure long-lasting results.
Patients should never try a crash diet or extreme weight loss before a tummy tuck. These regimens are impossible to maintain over a long period, and they will deprive the body of nutrients that are essential for healing.
Individuals should also begin a regular exercise routine in the weeks before their surgery. Again, this serves several purposes. With increased muscle mass and a faster metabolism, patients will face an easier, faster recovery. Additionally, a leaner, more efficiently functioning body can help to prevent weight gain in the weeks following surgery when patients must avoid strenuous physical activity. Finally, as with diet, beginning an exercise routine establishes good habits so that patients can enjoy long-lasting results after their tummy tucks.
Smoking constricts blood vessels and reduces the flow of oxygen throughout the body. Therefore, smokers face a higher risk for surgical complications, and they typically have a slower recovery than non-smokers. Tummy tuck candidates should stop smoking for at least two weeks before and two weeks after their surgery. Even with this cessation, smokers still have a higher rate of complications, and doctors encourage patients to stop smoking entirely before their abdominoplasty.
Certain medications, vitamins, and nutrition supplements can increase the risk for surgical complications such as blood clots. Patients should alert their doctors if they are taking hormone replacement therapy, birth control, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or post-cancer treatments. Doctors may advise patients to stop taking these medications several weeks before their procedure, or they may recommend alternative medications. Additionally, patients should not take the following medications and nutrition supplements five days before their procedures:
- Blood thinners
- St. John's wart
- Green tea extract
- Garlic supplements
- Any medications that contain aspirin
Preparing for Your Recovery
Following a tummy tuck, patients typically have extensive downtime, and they should prepare accordingly. They should take at least two weeks off from work, arrange for a ride home from their surgery, and assemble all the supplies they may need during their recovery. These supplies include compression garments, bandages, and over-the-counter pain medications, as well as healthy, convenient foods. If possible, abdominoplasty patients should arrange to have someone stay with them for a few days to help them change their drainage tubes, prepare food, and complete various household tasks.
The thought of tummy tuck surgery can be scary or overwhelming for someone who is not familiar with the procedure. DocShop breaks down the abdominoplasty procedure in detail to give you a better sense of what to expect. For information that pertains to your tummy tuck surgery specifically, such as the price of treatment, you should consult a cosmetic surgeon during an in-person patient consultation.
Abdominoplasty surgery can be performed using either general or local anesthesia; most surgeons prefer that the tummy tuck be performed while the patient is completely sedated, for safety reasons. This is because when the patient is unconscious, the abdominal muscles are completely relaxed, allowing the surgeon to complete the procedure with greater speed and ease without being hampered by unexpected muscle or bodily movement. Localized anesthesia is used in occasional cases of mini tummy tuck surgery, which is a shorter and less invasive surgery.
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. The abdominal 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.
Combining Tummy Tuck with Other Procedures
The tummy tuck procedure can vary from patient to patient, especially if someone chooses to have abdominoplasty at the same time as another cosmetic treatment. For more comprehensive results, a tummy tuck can be combined with a number of procedures, including:
- Liposuction: During liposuction, a popular and minimally-invasive procedure, a plastic surgeon will use a small cannula to vacuum out stubborn fat cells that seem immune to diet and exercise. Doctors often use liposuction as part of a tummy tuck to remove excess fat cells in the abdominal region. However, patients may also choose to have liposuction performed on another trouble area, such as the hips, buttocks, thighs, or upper arms. There are several variations on the traditional liposuction procedure, including tumescent and ultrasound-assisted liposuction. A plastic surgeon will select the right one to meet a patient's particular needs.
- Breast procedures: Once they have achieved a flatter stomach, many women feel that their drooping breasts do not correspond with their enhanced midsection. For this reason, patients may choose to have breast augmentation, breast lifts, or breast reduction in conjunction with their tummy tucks. Men who suffer from gynecomastia, which causes them to develop abnormal breast tissue and fat deposits, can also benefit from male breast reduction.
- Thigh lifts: Many patients who choose to undergo tummy tucks after massive weight loss also have loose skin and damaged muscles on their upper thighs. With a thigh lift, a plastic surgeon can tighten and contour this area via incisions on the groin or outer thigh. Following the surgery, these incisions are usually hidden under clothing and swim suits.
- Butt lifts: A butt lift can give someone a fuller, more voluptuous rear that enhances their trim, flat stomach. There are several variations on the butt lift procedure, and a doctor will carefully select the one most suited to each patient's needs. The doctor may simply perform liposuction on the surrounding areas, making the bottom stand out more. In some cases, he or she can isolate the fat cells and inject them into the cheeks to give them a rounder, more pleasing shape. Some doctors may also use silicone butt implants to achieve the desired results.
- Arm Lifts: Like thigh lifts, arm lifts are primarily designed to target the excess skin and loose muscles that may result from weight loss or simply from age and gravity. During this procedure, a doctor will create an incision along the back of the arm, in the armpit, or running down the inside of the arm. Then he or she will tighten and refine the muscle structure and trim away excess skin.
- Panniculectomy: Panniculectomy is very similar to traditional tummy tucks. However, it is only designed to remove the pannicula, the excess skin hanging below the abdomen, and it does not tighten the muscles or relocate the belly button. Panniculectomy is especially appropriate for patients who have undergone massive weight loss and now have a significant amount of excess skin hanging below their abdomen. During this procedure, a doctor will remove the extra tissues through two incisions. The first runs between the hips and the other runs from the sternum to the pubic area. A doctor may perform this procedure by itself, but it is very often done in conjunction with tummy tucks.
- Full body contouring: Tummy tucks are one the procedures most commonly included in full body contouring. This treatment allows patients and their doctors to choose two or more procedures to enhance and tighten a larger portion of their figures. Doctors most frequently recommend full body contouring to patients who have lost significant weight, leaving them with loose skin and weakened muscles across a large portion of their bodies.
- Mommy makeovers: Like full body contouring, mommy makeovers enable patients and their doctors to develop their own, personalized treatment plans. These procedures primarily target the stomach and breasts, the areas most commonly affected by pregnancy and breast feeding. Thus, tummy tucks are one of the most popular procedures to include in a mommy makeover.
Some doctors may perform these procedures at the same time as a tummy tuck, while others may advise patients to wait several months in between their cosmetic treatments.
Doctors have been performing abdominoplasty safely and effectively for many years. However, the treatment is a major surgical procedure, and, as such, it does involve an extensive recovery and careful post-surgical care. However, by following their doctors' instructions, patients can enjoy swift healing and minimal risks.
Following their tummy tucks, patients will need to rest for at least two weeks. They should plan to take at least this much time off from work, although they may require up to six weeks' recovery time if they have a more extensive procedure. Those with young children should arrange for childcare during this time. Moderate walking can aid the healing process, but individuals should avoid strenuous physical activity until otherwise instructed by their doctors. It is important for patients to maintain a healthy diet at this time to counteract the effects of their reduced activity level and to supply the nutrients needed for healing. Patients should also sleep with their heads elevated for at least two weeks after their surgery.
Following abdominoplasty, most surgeons place drainage tubes under the skin. Patients should empty these tubes at least two or three times a day, monitoring the discharge and alerting their surgeons if they notice significant amounts of blood or an unpleasant odor. They will also need to change their bandages several times a day. Most surgeons also advise their patients to wear a compression garment around their stomachs. Compression stockings can also help to minimize the risk of blood clots during the sedentary recovery time.
Many patients experience some constipation following their tummy tucks. It is important to drink plenty of water to minimize this effect. Drinking 8 to 16 glasses of water a day will aid the healing process, as well. Over-the-counter constipation medication can also help with post-operative regularity.
Medication after a tummy tuck can vary widely, depending on the specific procedure and the surgeon's personal preferences. Over-the-counter medication can help to minimize discomfort, and the doctor can also prescribe a more powerful drug, if needed. He or she may also recommend an antibiotic to reduce the risk of infection. Antibiotic ointments can help to minimize irritation around the incision sites, but some doctors do not like their patients to touch the incisions any more than necessary. Individuals should check with their surgeons before using these products.
After abdominoplasty, patients should avoid showering for 2 to 3 days or until otherwise instructed by their doctors. Until then, they should take gentle sponge baths. Even when showering is permitted, they should be cautious, especially around the incision sites. Some doctors recommend using a thin stream of water or even wearing compression garments in the shower. Baths, hot tubs, and swimming are strictly prohibited until after the incisions are healed, as these activities can significantly raise the risk of infection.
All tummy tuck procedures will leave some scarring, although surgeons are careful to minimize this effect as much as possible. To ensure less visible scarring, patients should avoid direct sun exposure on the incision sites. Petroleum jelly, silicone sheets, and silicone cream can also minimize the appearance of scar tissue.
People who smoke following their surgeries are much more likely to experience complications, infections, and unsightly scarring. Because smoking inhibits the flow of oxygen all over the body, abdominoplasty patients should not use tobacco products for at least 2 weeks after their surgeries. Of course, avoiding smoking for a longer period or quitting entirely will improve healing even further.
After surgery, patients sometimes feel a little down in the dumps. The long period of inactivity can be a little disconcerting for many people. Additionally, swelling, bruising, and scarring is a normal part of the recovery process, and some people wonder if choosing abdominoplasty was a mistake. As recovery progresses and the results of the procedure become apparent, most patients find that their mood and self-esteem improves rapidly, as well. However, those who experienced prolonged depression should discuss this with their doctors.
Under the proper conditions, the results of an abdominoplasty surgery can last for many years. Exactly how long you maintain your abdominoplasty results depends on how well you take care of your body following surgery. Living a healthy and active lifestyle will prolong your tummy tuck benefits for at least a decade after your initial surgery and probably longer.
Among the most important tummy tuck results are a flatter, more toned abdominal area and a smoother body contour. As with many other cosmetic surgery procedures, a tummy tuck can benefit a patient by improving self-image and self-confidence. It is, however, important to keep in mind the aesthetic limitations of the procedure. Communicating openly with your surgeon during the planning stages of your abdominoplasty can help ensure that you have realistic expectations and that your surgeon has a clear idea of the results you expect. Selecting a cosmetic surgeon who is experienced in performing tummy tuck procedures and following all post-surgical recovery instructions will decrease the likelihood of complications that could result in more conspicuous tummy tuck scars.
Tummy Tuck Scars
Post-surgical tummy tuck scars are unavoidable. The length and location of incisions, which depend on the type of tummy tuck surgery you undergo, will determine how visible and extensive the resulting scars will be. Tummy tuck scars range from a single small scar produced by a partial abdominoplasty to the more noticeable tummy tuck scars that circle a patient's abdomen after a circumferential tummy tuck procedure. Most abdominoplasty surgeries involve a scar from hip to hip and a scar around the navel. The larger the amount of skin you would like to have removed during the tummy tuck procedure, the longer the scar will be. Although tummy tuck scars can be fairly prominent, they are placed so that they are easily hidden by a person's underwear and swimsuit.
By selecting a qualified cosmetic surgeon to perform your abdominoplasty and carefully following post-surgical care instructions, you can help to ensure that your scarring will be as discreet as possible. Even so, the success of your body's tummy tuck recovery process usually has a greater effect on the visibility of your scars. Note that smoking may lead to larger tummy tuck scars, in addition to the higher risk of developing complications after the surgery. If you smoke, it is very important that you quit for two weeks before and at least two weeks after your abdominoplasty. Exposing yourself to cigarette smoke causes the blood vessels in your skin to constrict, decreasing the amount of oxygen being delivered to the skin cells. This, in turn, will slow the body's immune response.
The general rule regarding tummy tuck scars is that the longer and more difficult the tummy tuck recovery process, the more noticeable the tummy tuck scars will be. Most tummy tuck scars become lighter and flatter with time, but they may appear to grow more noticeable before they begin to fade. This is a common experience for many abdominoplasty patients, and although you should feel free to contact your surgeon if you are concerned, it is usually just a natural step in the healing process. Tummy tuck scars never completely disappear. In the latter stages of the healing process, your cosmetic surgeon may recommend a cream or ointment to use on your scar.
Although a tummy tuck can have dramatic results and can greatly enhance your appearance and self-confidence, it is not a weight loss procedure, and it cannot prevent future weight gain. However, with proper maintenance, the results of your surgery can last for years to come.
One of the best ways you can protect the results of your tummy tuck is with your diet. While crash diets and strict calorie reductions are impossible to maintain, making consistent, healthy choices sets the foundation for a lifetime of health. To keep your svelte figure and protect your overall wellness, eat a diet that is high in lean proteins, whole grains, low fat dairy products, and fresh produce. Avoid processed foods and enjoy high fat or high sugar treats in moderation.
Physical activity is an equally important way to maintain your abdominoplasty results. Not only does exercise help burn calories and keep off extra weight; it can also aid in the healing process and help to tighten your abdominal muscles. As with diet, there is no need to commit to an extreme exercise plan. For optimal health, you should engage in moderate aerobic activity for 30 to 45 minutes a day, 5 to 7 days a week. Good activities include walking, jogging, swimming, and biking. Strengthening and flexibility exercises are a great way to supplement your aerobic routine.
If conventional diet and exercise fail to flatten your tummy, consider surgically treating the problem with a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty). Not only does tummy tuck surgery whittle your waistline by removing excess skin and fat, it dramatically improves - if it doesn't altogether eliminate- stretch marks. You'll look great, and feel even better. Learn more about the benefits of abdominoplasty, and find a physician in your area to discuss the procedure with you in more detail.
The aesthetic benefits of tummy tuck surgery are very rewarding. Stomachs that have been stretched beyond the limits of natural repair, either by pregnancy or weight loss, see marked improvement in shape, tone, and contour. Tummy tuck surgery narrows the waist and creates more desirable curves. In many cases, stretch marks below the navel are removed along with the excess skin at the close of the procedure, while the appearance of the remaining stretch marks is often improved when the skin of the abdomen is pulled taut.
A protruding belly can compromise self-confidence, especially during warm weather months when bathing suits and light clothing are par for the course. The results typical of tummy tuck surgery - slimmer midsection and contoured abdominal muscles - often dramatically boost self-confidence.
Excess Skin Removal
The age-related reduction in skin elasticity inevitably causes loose, often saggy skin that is especially exacerbated by weight loss surgery or pregnancy. Tummy tuck surgery will treat this loose skin, preventing it from becoming a health problem. Excess loose skin can evolve into more than a vanity issue; large folds of skin can become infected with fungus. Removing these folds eliminates the health risk faced by many bariatric surgery patients.
Tighter Abdominal Muscles
Certain tummy tuck benefits affect not only how your abdomen looks, but also how it feels - firmer and tighter. After pregnancy, or sometimes simply as a result of age, the abdominal muscles can begin to separate at the midline of the belly. This muscle laxity not only reduces muscle strength, but can also produce an appearance of general abdominal sagging. This condition is known as rectus diastasis. Exercise can alleviate the problem in its earliest stages, but when the damage is severe, often it can only be corrected through surgery. Endoscopic tummy tuck surgery can tighten the abdominal muscles without removing excess skin - a solution that produces much less visible scarring.
Informed patients are the best type of patients - they are usually the happiest with their tummy tuck results when carefully research their procedure and have an idea of what to expect. Part of this research includes tummy tuck candidates exploring the risks, in addition to the benefits. Though the risk of complications during and after tummy tuck surgery is small, it's still important to consider all possibilities, including an unfavorable outcome.
The best way to decrease your risk of complications is to have your surgery performed by a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon, and follow all pre- and post-operative guidelines. Your surgeon can foresee potential complications and take steps to lessen the possibility of these occurring.
The most common risks include:
Bad Reaction to Anesthesia
General anesthesia, used during abdominoplasty surgeries, is considered slightly more risky than local anesthesia. It can cause an unpleasant or unexpected reaction; however, a qualified anesthesiologist should be able to identify emerging problems before they become worse.
Blood clotting is the body's natural way of controlling the amount of blood that is lost after an injury, but depending on their location, they can be dangerous. If a blood clot forms inside a blood vessel, it may complicate your circulation. If a blood clot travels to your lungs, brain, or heart, the result can be deadly.
Decreasing Your Risk of Blood Clots
There are several things you can do to decrease the risk of blood clots, prior to surgery. First, be completely honest in your medical history and other information you provide to your doctor. Be sure to give your doctor a list of all medications you take prior to the surgery. This will help your doctor determine if you are at an increased risk of developing blood clots following surgery. If you take birth control pills, you may want to discontinue their use during the preparation and recovery from tummy tuck surgery - talk to your doctor about this possibility before doing so.
After surgery, and during your recovery, most surgeons advise using compression stockings, pre- or post-operative leg massage, and short walks within a day or two of your surgery. Gentle movement is helpful and will speed your recovery, but too much exertion or vigorous activity can be detrimental.
Tummy tuck patients are at risk of developing an infection during and immediately following their surgery. A clean, sterile, operating room lessens the risk of contracting an infection during the surgery. Contrary to popular opinion, a patient in a cold operating room is actually more likely to experience an infection than a patient in a room-temperature or slightly warm operating room.
After surgery, the risk of infection increases if the surgical wound is not properly cared for. Your surgeon will have specific instructions for removing/changing bandages, exposing your wound to water, and keeping it clean. Note that it is normal to have some bleeding and leakage after surgery, but if the surgical wound is unclean, the risk of infection rises. Most infections following tummy tuck surgery are the result of the patient's failure to properly care for their surgical wound during their recovery.
Signs of an infection include:
- Pus around the incision area
- A greenish tint to the liquid draining from your incision
- Excessively steady drainage fluid
While an infection will prolong your tummy tuck recovery, they are treatable with increased drainage and antibiotics.
Tummy Tuck Drains
Most tummy tuck patients need drains after their procedure. The drains decrease the risk of seroma formation (i.e., fluid collecting between the muscle layer and the skin flap), which can cause infection. The drains create a point of exit for this fluid, reducing the risk of infection following tummy tuck surgery.
The drains are silicone tubes inserted into the abdomen through the tummy tuck incision or one or more specially made incisions. The tubes connect to bulbs that provide suction for excess fluid that accumulates during your recovery from surgery. The patient measures the drainage each day, keeping track of the amount and discarding it. The drains may be removed in as little as three to five days after surgery, though your surgeon may advise you keep them in for up to three weeks or more, depending on the amount of fluid that is draining. Some patients claim tummy tuck drains can be inconvenient, but physicians find them worth the inconvenience because they decrease the risk of infection.
Each patient will heal at his or her own pace. That being said, young patients in good physical condition typically heal faster than older or less physically fit patients. Tenderness, bruising, pain, and swelling usually subside after about four to six weeks. Patients who experience significant discomfort after six weeks have passed are considered to be healing slowly.
The healing of the abdomen may proceed at different rates; the operation site may heal later than the outlining sections of the surgical wound. In rare cases, irregular healing may lead to skin loss. Areas of skin that are slow to heal may die and need to be surgically removed and replaced with a graft. Should a patient experience these complications, they may suffer more prominent scarring. Patients who are unhappy with their tummy tuck surgery results because of slow healing may consider surgical revision.
Factors that may slow the body's healing process are:
- Smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke - decreases the size of blood vessels, complicating circulation of oxygen to the skin cells
- Infection - diverts the body's immune resources away from closing the incisions
Temporary Side Effects
Some side effects are to be expected following abdominoplasty surgery. While these unpleasant symptoms may cause some discomfort, they are not considered complications. Some of these side effects are triggered by your body's own immune system to augment the abdominoplasty healing process. The most common tummy tuck side effects include swelling and pain. Your surgeon will explain in detail the side effects you should expect after tummy tuck surgery. Tummy tuck healing problems do not occur often, but you should contact your doctor right away if you experience a sudden increase in the severity of your discomfort, or any side effects that were not discussed prior to surgery.
Tummy Tuck Swelling
A tummy tuck procedure is not a simple cosmetic treatment; it is a major surgery. It is normal for a patient to experience some uncomfortable side effects after an abdominoplasty procedure. Tummy tuck swelling is to be expected in the days following your abdominoplasty. The degree of swelling depends on the type of procedure that was performed and on your unique characteristics as a patient. Your cosmetic surgeon will give you guidelines on how to minimize post-tummy tuck swelling. A compression garment or abdominal binder will help keep tummy tuck swelling under control, as will a regimen of gentle movement (to improve your circulation and help the healing process along).
Your abdominoplasty results, including a flatter, smoother abdomen, will become more obvious as tummy tuck swelling decreases. Talk to a qualified cosmetic surgeon to discuss your concerns about tummy tuck swelling.
Tummy Tuck Pain
One of the more common but manageable tummy tuck problems is post-operative pain. Your cosmetic surgeon can prescribe pain medication if you need it. When you wake up from the anesthesia, your abdomen may be swollen and painful; if you've undergone the surgery as an outpatient, you should be sure to take your pain medications as instructed rather than waiting until the pain sets in. Over time, the tummy tuck swelling and pain will lessen and eventually disappear. The rare complications of tummy tuck procedures include conditions that are often signaled by increased pain, so be sure to contact your surgeon if your pain level starts to escalate. Also, be sure to contact your surgeon if the pain does not lessen within six weeks of your tummy tuck surgery. Problems can occur if your incision is healing too slowly.
Tummy Tuck Bruising
In addition to abdominoplasty swelling and pain, it is common for patients to experience bruising in the treatment area. The bruising usually fade within two weeks of surgery.
More serious risks of tummy tuck surgery, including infection and blood clots can occur. Talk to your doctor about the possible complications of surgery, and contact your surgeon immediately if serious signs develop after surgery.
Tummy tucks are recognized for their high success rate and low risks for complications. However, if you are feeling apprehensive about your upcoming abdominoplasty, a look at the statistics may reassure you.
Low Complication Rate
In 2010, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons® (ASPS) conducted a comprehensive survey of 3,681 abdominoplasties conducted between January 1, 2010 and September 22, 2010. Out of these surgeries, there was a 4.7 percent complication rate; 163 patients experienced 173 different complications. In descending order of frequency, the most common complications were:
- Infection (1.63 percent of all patients)
- Hemorrhage (1.17 percent)
- Pulmonary embolism (0.19 percent)
- Fluid overload (0.33 percent)
- Rule out deep vein thrombosis (0.30 percent)
- Hypoxia (0.24 percent)
- Pulmonary dysfunction (0.22 percent)
- Rule out pulmonary embolism (0.22 percent)
- Severe hypotension (0.16 percent)
- Deep vein thrombosis (0.16 percent)
While the complication rate for tummy tucks is somewhat higher than that for less extensive forms of cosmetic surgery, as you can see from these numbers, the risks are still quite low. Your chances for complications can be further reduced by choosing a highly experienced plastic surgeon and by precisely following all post-surgical instructions.
Additionally, the complication rate is higher for patients who undergo multiple procedures at once, for smokers, and for diabetics. 
Thanks to improved techniques, technological advances, and a growing awareness of the benefits of abdominoplasty, the popularity of this procedure has soared in recent years. The ASPS reports that there were 111,986 tummy tucks performed in the US in 2013. In 2012, there were 106,628 such procedures, and in 2000, there were only 62,713. In 13 years, tummy tucks have increased in popularity by a whopping 79 percent. Thanks to this increase, abdominoplasty is now the fourth most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the US. 
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that across the nation, the average cost for abdominoplasty is $5,391. The procedure typically takes between two and five hours, and patients are usually back to work in two to four weeks.
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.
 Higdon, Kent K. and Grotting, James C. "How Safe Is Abdominoplasty in 2010?" <http://meeting.aaps1921.org/abstracts/2011/33.cgi>
 2013 Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Statistics (American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2013) <http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Documents/news-resources/statistics/2013-statistics/cosmetic-procedures- national-trends-2013.pdf>
 2013 Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank Statistics (American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 2013) < http://www.surgery.org/sites/default/files/Stats2013_3.pdf>
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