When speaking with a patient who wants a tummy tuck surgery, I am often asked, “Can I get by with a mini tummy tuck?” First of all, what is a mini tummy tuck? I define it as a tummy tuck that only tightens the skin, and possibly the muscle, of the abdomen below the belly button. This allows for a short scar that is placed as low as possible to minimize its visibility.
Who can get by with this type of operation? The answer: Someone who only has loose skin and muscle below the belly button. Anyone who also has loose skin or muscle above the belly button – and that includes most women who have had two or more children – won’t have as good of a result with this more limited procedure. That kind of patient does best with a traditional tummy tuck that involves an incision that is longer than the mini tummy tuck incision, but that is also very low and also tends to heal well.
Almost every patient wants as short of a tummy scar as possible. What exactly is it that determines how long a tummy tuck scar must be? Two things are involved:
1) How much skin is being removed in the up and down direction plays a major part in how long the tummy scar must be. Generally the tummy tuck incision that runs across the lower abdomen must be between 2 and 2 ½ times longer than the amount of skin that is being taken out in the up and down direction. In a traditional tummy tuck, the amount of skin that is being taken out in the up and down direction extends from a point just below the top of the pubic hairline to just above the top of the belly button. If the tummy tuck incision is shorter than 2 – 2 ½ times this distance, there will usually be a bunching up of the skin just beyond each end of the incision over the hip region. If a person decides that they must have as short an incision as possible, can the surgeon just take out less skin in the up and down direction? The answer is yes, but you may not look as good. Also, because the surgeon will not take out the belly button opening, you will need another up and down, inch-long scar, located between the belly button and the tummy tuck scar to close the opening. Most patients find that this additional scar doesn’t look very good and that it is much better to have a slightly longer tummy tuck scar.
2) The second thing that determines how long a tummy tuck scar must be is that its length must be sufficient to remove all of the excess skin in the lower tummy, even if the incision extends onto the hip. Otherwise you will have a bundle of loose skin over the hip that detracts from one’s appearance.
I hope that these answers are helpful to both women and men considering a tummy tuck. There is no substitute for a consultation with a plastic surgeon to address a person’s individual anatomy and desires, but these thoughts may help to answer some questions prior to meeting with the doctor.