Abdominoplasty or "tummy tuck" is a cosmetic surgery procedure used to make the abdomenthinner and more firm. The surgery involves the removal of excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen in order to tighten the muscle and fascia of the abdominal wall.
The stomach is often considered a "problem area" for many people. It susceptible to storing excess fat and causing problems like a belly "pooch" that most people are anxious to be rid of. Aesthetic problems of the abdomen often get worse following pregnancy or massive weight loss, as the skin struggles to contract back to its former tight and firm appearance, and the muscles loosen, often becoming separated. When sagging skin, loose muscles, and excess fat in the stomach area become a problem, a tummy tuck can be a solution to regaining a tight and beautifully contoured abdomen, often helping patients regain confidence and self-esteem.
A tummy tuck is a body contouring surgery that is not intended for simple weight loss, but instead for an overall aesthetic improvement of the stomach area. Unlike abdominal liposuction alone, a tummy tuck (also known as abdominoplasty) helps to improve skin, muscle, and fat for an overall comprehensive result. Stomach muscles that are stretched and separated from pregnancy can be repaired, and excess skin can be removed to improve sagging in the skin that is unable to contract back to normal on its own.
Everyone has different needs for abdominal rejuvenation, and because of this, there are several different options for tummy tuck procedures. Different types of tummy tucks include:
Endoscopic Abdominoplasty: A minimally-invasive procedure used to address only loosened stomach muscles which produces a very short scar.
Mini Abdominoplasty: A less extensive tummy tuck technique that can address up to moderate limited sagging skin, excess fat, and loose stomach muscles.
Full Abdominoplasty: The classic style of tummy tuck surgery, which addresses significant sagging skin, fat, and loose stomach muscles through a larger incision.
Extended Abdominoplasty: For patients with loose skin that extends to the sides of the body, an extended abdominoplasty can address a larger amount of excess skin and fat—and can even help improve the appearance of the upper thighs. The incision extends partway around the sides and back of the body
Circumferential Abdominoplasty: A tummy tuck technique that also addresses aesthetic issues of the buttocks and lower thighs. The incision for this procedure extends all the way around the circumference of the body.
Lower Body Lift: An extension of the circumferential abdominoplasty, this surgery involves intensive re-contouring of the lower body, removing excess fat and skin, and tightening the stomach, buttocks, and thighs. This procedure is best for people who have lost a great deal of weight and are left with sagging skin and poor contour.
Tummy Tuck Candidates
Good candidates for tummy tuck surgery are people with any amount of sagging skin and muscle looseness in the abdominal area that they would like to address. Patients who are only concerned with excess fat in the stomach area should consider fat reduction treatments alone, such as liposuction or CoolSculpting® treatments.
Prospective tummy tuck patients will need to be in general good health for safety reasons, and should be at or near a healthy weight before the procedure for good results. As with any plastic surgery, realistic expectations are key to enjoying the beautiful results of a tummy tuck and avoiding disappointment. Abdominoplasty can produce marked improvement, but it will not achieve perfection.
Tummy Tuck Procedure
Because there are so many variations on the tummy tuck, it is impossible to generalize the procedure for each technique. However, the classic technique is the full abdominoplasty, addressing excess skin, fat, and musculature between the pubic area and the belly button. Abdominoplasty is performed under general anesthesia, and the whole procedure takes approximately 2-3 hours.
For all techniques, incisions are made starting in the lower abdomen, and extend as far as necessary to achieve desired results. For full abdominoplasty, this usually means an incision extending from hip to hip. Through this incision, the surgeon will remove any necessary fat, and smooth the contours of the stomach. Loose muscles that have separated will be rejoined, and excess skin will be removed and tightened for a flat and aesthetically-pleasing contour. The belly button will also be repositioned and contoured if necessary.
Tummy Tuck Recovery
Most abdominoplasty procedures involve major surgery, and patients need to be prepared for a fairly lengthy recovery process. While heavy activity is to be avoided for several weeks, patients should be up and moving soon after surgery. Most patients are ready to return to work after about three weeks. Light exercise is encouraged as soon as patients are comfortable, but it will typically take six weeks are more until full activity levels are reached.
Following surgery, surgical drains may be placed in some cases, and a long-lasting pain injection or pain pump will be given to control discomfort. If drains are used, they will be removed after about a week. Swelling will persist for several weeks, gradually disappearing over the months following surgery, with the final results settling after about six months to a year. However, patients will be able to see preliminary results before this time.