Tummy tuck surgery is also known as abdominoplasty. This procedure removes excess fat and skin, restores weakened abdominal muscles and creates a smoother and firmer abdominal appearance. A tummy tuck is a major surgical procedure in which excess skin is removed and underlying tissues are tightened. The goal of a tummy tuck is to give a smooth, toned and flat abdominal region.
Common causes of loose or sagging soft tissues in the midsection:
- Aging: Age related issues include loss of elasticity in the skin, which leaves a sagging and deflated look. Overtime, skin can develop stretch marks, discolorations and laxity.
- Heredity: Some individuals naturally have a “softer” abdominal region due to heredity, carrying more fat cells in the midsection and having less muscle definition. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to tighten up the midsection if one is naturally predisposed to carry weight there.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, rapid stretching of the abdominal wall, skin and musculature leaves loose, sagging skin with or without stretch marks. In addition, to accommodate the size of the growing baby, the abdominal muscles are stretched and sometimes separated. This leaves poorly defined abdominal musculature after delivery. Excess skin tissue with poor elasticity contributes to a soft and sagging midsection.
- Weight fluctuations and weight loss: Weight fluctuations and significant weight loss causes the abdominal skin to stretch and deflate, challenging the elasticity. Some people have worked very hard to lose a lot of weight, but are disappointed in their results, due to excessive hanging skin and poorly defined abdominal musculature.
Candidate for Tummy Tuck Abdominoplasty: The ideal candidate for a tummy tuck procedure includes individuals who desire:
- Removal of excess, sagging or hanging skin
- Tightening of the abdominal musculature
- Reduction of waist circumference
- Increased self confidence in tighter fitting clothes or bathing suits
- Improved appearance of the midsection after significant weight loss or after pregnancy
Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) Surgical Procedure
The tummy tuck begins with an incision along the bikini line. This incision serves to access and excise soft tissues, while being located in a region so that the incision can be easily hidden under clothing, undergarments, or a bathing suit. The incision runs horizontally and the length will be determined by the amount of skin that needs to be removed. Some individuals require a second incision around the navel to removed excess skin in the upper abdominal region.
Once the abdominal skin is lifted, sutures are placed to strengthen and tighten the muscles of the abdominal wall. The surgeon creates an internal corset to provide strength and definition to the abdominal wall. Excess, hanging skin is removed completely, eliminating the sagging tissues that were over the midsection. Then, the skin is pulled down to meet the bikini line incision and sutures create a tightened and toned look.
It is often necessary to reposition the belly button, so that the abdominal proportions are maintained. A new opening for the belly button is created and the belly button is sutured into position. If the shape of the belly button has been altered (something that often happens after pregnancy), the surgeon will correct for a pleasing appearance.
What to Expect During the Tummy Tuck Surgery
The tummy tuck begins with a thorough consultation with the plastic surgeon, in which patients have the opportunity to discuss questions, concerns and expected outcomes. One should note that individuals who are planning future pregnancies or expecting substantial weight loss, would be wise to postpone the procedure for a future date. It is advised that a tummy tuck procedure be performed after all pregnancies are completed and after weight loss has already been achieved. Additionally, a tummy tuck will not remove individual stretch marks. However, if the area of skin to be removed is covered in stretch marks, then these stretch marks are permanently removed along with that area of skin.
Generally, a tummy tuck procedure takes 3-4 hours to complete. The patient is placed under general anesthesia to ensure patient comfort and safety throughout the procedure.
Many individuals choose to undergo a tummy tuck in combination with another procedure, such as liposuction or as part of a Mommy Makeover procedure. These options can be discussed with the surgeon during the consultation.
What to Expect After the Tummy Tuck Surgery
The tummy tuck requires a few weeks of recovery, with ongoing follow-up appointments to monitor healing along the way. After surgery bandages and gauze dressings will be applied over the incisions to protect healing. In addition, oftentimes patients are wrapped in elastic bandages or compression garments to decrease swelling and provide support for the abdominal musculature as they heal. The surgeon may place small drainage tubes to remove any excess blood and fluid from the area.
Due to the extent of surgery involved in a tummy tuck, pain should be expected for the first several days. The surgical team will provide instruction for medication management and surgical healing.