Tummy Tuck Cost
by Dennis Hurwitz, MD
Senior Sectional Editor
updated July 25th, 2014
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A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, can cost between $3,000 and $12,000 depending on the surgeon you choose, the geographic location of the surgeon's practice, the scope of treatment, and several other factors.
Throughout our lives, perhaps no other area of the body is subject to as many changes as the abdomen. Weight loss and gain, pregnancy, and other experiences can all take a toll on the skin, muscles, and other tissues of the midsection. Meanwhile, the condition of these tissues reaches a point at which exercise and dieting cannot change the appearance of the midsection, and surgery becomes necessary to achieve satisfactory aesthetics and comfort.
Abdominoplasty can involve different combinations of techniques, all intended to help patients achieve a lean, toned midsection. The procedure almost always includes liposuction, tightening of underlying muscles, and removal of excess skin, all performed to various extents. With so many possible variations on a tummy tuck, it can be difficult to pin down an exact price one might expect to pay.
In general, you can expect that the cost of a tummy tuck will be most affected by the surgeon you choose, the scope of treatment, and the reason for treatment. In some cases, a physician may determine that a tummy tuck can provide medical benefits. This is especially true of patients who have experienced massive weight loss following bariatric surgery. Under these circumstances, insurance coverage can apply. In other cases, patients may simply wish to achieve a cosmetic enhancement, and should expect to have to pay for the procedure out of pocket. In either case, it pays to do your research and make choices that will bring you genuine long-term satisfaction.
Competition, Demand, and the Price of Plastic Surgery
The National Center for Policy Analysis Reports that the cost of medical care covered by insurance has doubled since 1992. The consumer price index (the price of all goods) rose by 50 percent, but the index of plastic surgery prices has risen only by about 20 percent, despite the fact that there were 40 times more plastic surgery procedures performed in 2008 than in 1992. In short, the cash pay healthcare market has much more competition, which has resulted in relatively stable prices.
J. Barry Boyd, MD is a plastic surgeon practicing in Winter Park, Florida. He said that in his 25 years as the medical director of a facility certified by the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgical Facilities, he has seen this trend provide great benefits to patients.
"Compared to the insurance-hospital-government health care delivery model, looking at safety, quality, and cost, I am a big believer in the private, fee-for-service, specialty center model," he said. "The multiple patient care and economic benefits are obvious."
What is Satisfaction Worth to You?
Before deciding upon a surgeon and a scope of treatment, you have to contemplate what a quality operation is worth to you personally. For the majority of patients I see, their desired procedure will create a budget crunch. The money isn't sitting under a pillow waiting to be used. Paying upfront for treatment that will bring you true satisfaction might mean that you have to drive a less flashy car for a couple of years, or wait to upgrade from an apartment to a house for a little while longer.
Justin is a patient of mine who underwent body contouring after massive weight loss. He took time to meet with several surgeons, and eventually achieved what he felt were life-changing results by carefully weighing his options and choosing to invest in what he felt would provide the greatest satisfaction.
"If I was in the same situation again, I would pay whatever I could to have the surgery," Justin said. "Even though I had lost a lot of weight, I had a lot of extra skin that was uncomfortable, and often caused rashes. Now, I have more confidence at 33 than I did at 18. There is no price too high to help you build self-confidence and be at peace with yourself. If you are considering body contouring, this is a life-changing decision. This is not the time to go fishing for a deal. I met with two other highly regarded plastic surgeons before Dr. Hurwitz. They had the experience and the credentials, but lacked the passion, artistry, and results Dr. Hurwitz brings to every patient. Choose your surgeon carefully, based on experience, results, character, and passion."
Choosing a Plastic Surgeon
As a general rule, patients should expect to pay more for the most experienced surgeon. This is further augmented if the surgeon is an internationally recognized expert. However, you should not be discouraged from approaching high-caliber practices. They may offer options that could provide you with beautiful results that fit nicely within your budget.
For example, I perform abdominoplasty that is considered state of the art, and have learned from the absolute masters of this craft. I have been invited to attend the Annual Brazilian Congress of Plastic Surgery as a guest speaker eight times out of the last 10 years, and I will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming event. I have significant credentials, and a track record of providing patients with outstanding results. Cost relates to quality, and I charge what I'm worth.
However, if a patient schedules a consultation with me and finds that they cannot afford my services, I have recruited a brilliant young surgeon who has my stamp of approval, and is excellent in his own right. If it is a case in which experience makes a significant difference, I will recommend that the client consider undergoing surgery performed by me. However, we stand by the quality of this office, and if my protege is capable of meeting the patient's needs, we can discuss this option further.
My colleague Dr. Boyd encourages anyone considering plastic surgery to concentrate on potential results rather than cost when searching for a doctor.
"Safety and quality are more important than ‘cheap,'" Dr. Boyd explains. "Consulting with an experienced, reputable surgeon is very important. Most practices offer financing programs to assist with any cost concerns."
You have everything to gain by exploring your options with high-profile plastic surgery practices. Don't be afraid to start your search for a surgeon at the top tier.
Scope of Abdominoplasty Treatment
I classify tummy tuck surgery as limited (sometimes called a "mini tummy tuck"), standard, or extended. In general, all tummy tuck procedures require liposuction (the surgical removal of fatty tissue) and abdominal plication (the tightening of the abdominal wall). There are several methods of performing liposuction. I use a method called VASERlipoTM, which uses ultrasound to liquefy fat before it is removed, and it costs several hundred dollars more than standard lipousction.
Depending upon the amount of liposuction needed, a limited tummy tuck can cost between $5,000 and $6,000. A limited tummy tuck focuses on the lower abdomen. An incision is placed between the hip bones, allowing your surgeon to tighten the abdominal muscles and remove excess skin and fat. Finally, the skin is sutured closed.
A standard tummy tuck addresses the same areas as a limited procedure, but also includes the upper abdomen, or the area above the navel. The cost can range from $8,500 to $10,000. This procedure involves more dramatic repositioning of overlying skin than a limited tummy tuck, and often requires the cosmetic alteration of the skin to create the appearance of a navel once tissues have been removed and sutured closed.
A tummy tuck can be considered "extended" when it involves liposuction in the flanks (sometimes called the love handles), and can carry a price of $11,000 to $12,000, depending on the amount of liposuction needed. This requires the patient to be turned during surgery, and this must be performed carefully to ensure the patient's safety. It also requires special skill and precautions to ensure that the results look even and symmetrical.
Paying for Your Tummy Tuck: Insurance Coverage versus Out-of-pocket Expense
Abdominoplasty is a unique surgery in that it can provide both practical and aesthetic benefits. As such, a patient's insurance plan may actually contribute, if not completely cover, the cost of surgery. Patients qualifying for insurance coverage of tummy tuck surgery typically have a functional impairment dealing with excess skin, such as a rash, boils, infections, or backaches due to the weight of the excess tissue. In most cases, we can anticipate that the insurance company will cover a panniculectomy. This is similar to a limited tummy tuck. Basically, insurance will cover the removal of just enough excess skin to resolve the issue, and this rarely results in a favorable aesthetic outcome. In this case, we might suggest that a patient self-pay for a greater extent of treatment that will help them achieve better-looking results, and we usually offer this additional treatment at a discounted rate. Usually, a letter requesting pre-authorization needs to be submitted before scheduling a consultation. That way, you can arrive prepared to talk about what expenses, if any, will be required to achieve satisfying results.
If your abdominoplasty is ineligible for insurance coverage, there are several ways pay for your treatment. You can pay with cash, check or credit card, and there are several third-party financing companies. Some practices finance surgery themselves. It goes without saying, but if you choose to finance your procedure, understand your obligations and keep up with your payments.
Geographic Location of Your Doctor's Practice
The physical location of your surgeon's practice affects the price of abdominoplasty in more ways than one. First, the cost of living in a specific area has a huge impact on the price of plastic surgery. Therefore, it is safe to assume that abdominoplasty performed in Manhattan will cost more than the same procedure performed in Lubbock, Texas.
If your surgeon does not have a private surgical suite, and your surgery must take place in a hospital, it could incur a cost difference of hundreds of dollars. However, facilities in many states will actually offer a discount to patients paying out of pocket. This is especially true among facilities in Maryland, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Vermont. If you consult with a surgeon who performs in a hospital, be sure to ask about any potential discounts you can expect as a cash-pay patient.
Anesthesia is administered to prevent the patient from experiencing pain as the surgeon creates incisions, removes excess tissue, and carries out the other steps of a tummy tuck procedure. It can be administered either by an anesthesiologist or by a nurse. In many cases, anesthesia expenses are charged by the hour. Anesthesia performed by an anesthesiologist can cost $450 per hour or more. Having a nurse administer the anesthesia can provide a cost savings, incurring fees of about $300 an hour or more. In my experience, there is no issue or concern with the quality of anesthesia administered by a nurse.
But in some cases, paying for an anesthesiologist is money well spent. It can either give the patient increased peace of mind, or provide practical benefits. For example, if you have high blood pressure, are diabetic, or have a chronic illness, there is a higher risk of blood loss, and you might be better off with an anesthesiologist. Be prepared to discuss your medical history in great detail during your consultation so your surgeon can recommend the best means of administering anesthesia.
Your downtime following a tummy tuck procedure will depend on the extent of your treatment, and during that time, there are several essential expenses. Some are included in the total cost of your treatment, while others are not. I provide a free elastic support garment for each of my patients to wear as they recover, helping to facilitate proper healing. If that elastic support garment must be replaced, it can cost from about $50 to $100.
Some medication for pain management will be necessary after surgery. With insurance, pain medication can cost under $100 for a prescription, but can cost several hundred if you are paying out of pocket.
I personally include two follow-up visits in the cost of a tummy tuck treatment. During these visits, I provide VelaShapeTM treament, which uses ultrasound to expedite the reduction of swelling, smooth out any irregularities, and flatten scars to promote attractive results. If you need more than two visits, these sessions can cost $50 to $100 each.
Because a tummy tuck can require one to four weeks of recovery time, patients should also consider the cost of time off work. If the recovery time that your procedure is expected to require will exceed the amount of vacation time you have saved up, it is practical to consider those lost wages part of the overall expense of a tummy tuck.
Many patients considering abdominoplasty or other cosmetic surgery procedures think that paying for a procedure means that no matter what, their surgeon will do whatever is needed to eventually provide the desired result. In reality, this is not the case.
While a surgeon's credentials and reputation can certainly be a great indication that your surgery will provide satisfying results, it is not a guarantee. Surgery is never 100 percent predictable in its outcomes. I and most surgeons I know, as experienced as we are, cannot actually guarantee what we do. I stand behind what I do, and that's my best warranty. If there are some problems with unfavorable scarring or contour problems, you should expect some further expenses involved in revising your results, but they should be small compared to the cost of your original surgery.
While no surgeon can absolutely guarantee results that will meet your expectations beyond a shadow of a doubt, you can definitely reduce your risk of unfavorable results by refusing to settle for a less reputable surgeon based on price alone. In simple terms, the greater the need for revision, the greater the cost following payment for the initial surgery. Therefore, the importance of choosing an excellent and reputable surgeon cannot be overstated.
Education: Your Best Bet in Achieving Satisfaction through Liposuction
Today, consumers of all stripes have a virtually endless wealth of information at their fingertips. If you are considering abdominoplasty, it pays to do your research and discover credentialed surgeons in your area who have earned a reputation for delivering superior results. Don't hesitate to schedule consultations with more than one surgeon, and don't hesitate to approach high-profile practices - they may be able to accommodate your budget better than you think.
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