Is your tummy looking flabby even after you have reached your target weight through diet and exercise? You may find yourself thinking–if only it were taut enough so you can see the results of all your hard work. You are not alone. New moms also find the skin around their stomach saggy and stretchy after giving birth. Men are not immune to this either. As people age, they begin to have sagging skin in the abdominal region. The good news is there are modern-day medical solutions in the form of a tummy tuck.
In this article, you will learn (1) what is a tummy tuck surgery, (2) the different types, (3) the benefits and risks, (4) tummy tuck myths, (5) if a tummy tuck surgery is for you, (6) how to prepare for it, (7) what to expect before and after surgery, (8) aftercare and recovery, (9) maintaining your tummy tuck, (10) what to do when it goes wrong, and (11) potential costs.
What Is Tummy Tuck Surgery?
Abdominoplasty, or what many refer to as a tummy tuck, helps with loose skin and excess fat in the lower abdominal area to give you a slimmer, tighter contour. The plastic surgeon will make a horizontal incision near your pubic hairline during a standard abdominoplasty procedure because it is easy to hide scars.
Based on the excess skin that needs to be removed, the surgeon will decide on the incision length and shape. The surgeon will then contour the underlying abdominal muscles, tissue, and skin as well as move your belly button. Lastly, the surgeon will pull down the upper abdominal skin to close the skin incisions using sutures, skin clips, tapes, or adhesives.
Women who have had several pregnancies often favor the standard abdominoplasty. For better-looking results, the doctor will usually suggest contouring the lower area with liposuction to reshape the abdominal wall and tighten the underlying muscles. They may also reuse the same line created by the cesarean section to avoid further scarring.
Different Types of Tummy Tucks
A mini abdominoplasty is for patients who only need a small amount of fatty tissue or excess skin removed on the lower abdomen. This procedure is less invasive but offers excellent results compared to the traditional method. A mini tummy tuck is ideal for people who have reached their optimal weight and body shape but still have a small protrusion below the belly button. The doctor then makes a smaller incision with limited scarring without having to reposition the navel.
High Lateral Tension or Extended Abdominoplasty
This extended alternative is for people who need a large part of their fatty tissues or skin removed in their “love handle” regions. This abdominoplasty requires a longer incision covering the entire width of the stomach and extends to the rear of the hips. Here, the surgeon will remove and reposition the navel as well as tighten the underlying muscles. The patient will need to stay at the hospital overnight for recovery.
If you have lost a lot of weight or have undergone bariatric surgery, consider a panniculectomy, a non-cosmetic surgical procedure that removes a substantial amount of skin and tissue. The excess skin in this area is typically referred to as the “apron,” which is known to cause skin rashes, irritation, and unpleasant odor. A panniculectomy is not a cosmetic procedure, but it can give great aesthetic results when performed together with a tummy tuck and liposuction.
Reverse Tummy Tuck
This procedure involves making an incision on the upper abdomen below the breasts. It is suitable for people with a toned lower stomach but has a soft, shapeless, protruding skin on the upper stomach area. The physician will make two small incisions or a long one below or in the breast folds. It includes removing the excess fat and skin and tucking the abdomen upwards to the breast area. A reverse tummy tuck is ideally performed with a mini-abdominoplasty to give your abdomen a makeover. Some women also undergo this procedure together with breast augmentation
Benefits and Risks for Tummy Tucks
The outcome of abdominoplasty is age-dependent. So, before deciding whether or not to undergo the procedure, talk to your plastic surgeon in length to know all the benefits and possible risks of a tummy tuck. Here are some of the pros and cons:
- Flat and Toned Abdomen. Abdominoplasty can restore your lower abdomen from flabby and misshapen to flat and toned so that you can enjoy a more youthful-looking body.
- Tighten Weakened Muscles. Abdominal muscles weaken and separate due to pregnancy, previous surgeries, and weight fluctuations. An abdominoplasty will realign your muscles and tighten them for a more contoured abdomen.
- Reduce Appearance of Skin Lesions and Imperfections. Because it smoothens the stomach, a tummy tuck can also diminish stretch marks and other blemishes.
- Improve Your Well-Being. Just like other cosmetic procedures that enhance physical appearance, getting a tummy tuck can make you feel better about yourself and improve your confidence.
Possible Permanent Scar. There is a possibility that a permanent scar may result in the bikini area. However, this is easy to cover up with the right clothes and bathing suits.
Pregnancy May Affect Results – Because pregnancies weaken the abdominal wall, you will likely require a second tummy tuck procedure to reverse these effects. Most women who have been pregnant before their tummy tuck also report a feeling of “tightness” in their abdominal area.
Avoid Gaining Weight – Abide by a diet plan and specific instructions to help your body adjust to the impact of an abdominoplasty. Weight gain stretches out the abdominal wall, which will reverse the tummy tuck and create stubborn pockets of fat.
Swelling and Pain – There will be some swelling and pain after the procedure, but the surgeon can prescribe pain medications. Those who have undergone the process will feel tired and numb from the bruising that may last for several weeks.
Possible Complications – There is a risk that complications may arise, so you have to understand and consider them before making your decision. Top complications include infection and deep vein thrombosis. There is an increased risk of complications if you:
- Are a smoker
- Have lung, liver, or heart disease
- Have poor blood circulation
- Have diabetes
The doctor will ask you to sign consent forms that state you understand the procedure and all the possible risks, complications, and associated dangers before going any further.
Debunking Tummy Tuck Myths
If you are like most people, then you want to have a flat and toned tummy. However, did you know that genetics, lifestyle habits, and weight fluctuations play a role in having a firm and slim stomach? Here are four well-known tummy tuck myths that you need to know to help you decide if the procedure is right for you:
Myth 1: You Will Lose Weight With The Help of Tummy Tuck Surgery
Some people believe that a tummy tuck can make them lose a substantial amount of weight around their stomach area, but this is not true. This type of surgery is not a bariatric or weight loss procedure. Believe it or not, the ideal clients are patients who are at their best weight but still have sagging or protruding abdomens.
Still, some plastic surgeons use liposuction techniques during the surgery to reduce stubborn fat zones, which are resistant to exercise and diet. This strategy will undoubtedly improve the tone and contours of your tummy, resulting in a flatter, slimmer stomach, but it will not reduce the weight drastically.
If you want to undergo a tummy tuck procedure, you must first achieve your ideal weight and maintain it for about six months. Severe weight fluctuations can reverse an otherwise successful surgery.
Myth 2: You Get The Same Tummy Results From Diet and Exercise
Diet and exercise are great for weight loss, muscle building, and improving your overall wellness and health. But if you have been pregnant or have had fluctuating weight in the past, you likely now have weak abdominal muscles and stretched out connective tissues.
Stretched or excess skin around the abdomen cannot be tightened or reversed without surgery. If you are not satisfied with the results of healthy dieting and regular exercise, consider tummy tuck surgery to restore your stretched abdominal wall.
Myth 3: Only Women Can Have Tummy Tuck Surgeries
While it is true that more women undergo this procedure to get back to their trim figure after pregnancy, tummy tucks are for both men and women. Men also cannot fix loose skin and a protruding abdomen with diet or exercise.
If you are a man, you may want to consider a tummy tuck to improve your overall appearance and self-esteem. If you have lost all the weight you need, this procedure can put the final touches on a toned and tight abdomen.
Myth 4: Tummy Tucks Are Not For The Elderly
Tummy tucks are for everyone, young and old alike. However, since the elderly are likely to have underlying conditions, they need an experienced plastic surgeon to determine if they are the right candidate for the procedure. If you are in excellent health and want to get a makeover in your golden years, just make sure to get the sign-off from your doctor.
Is Tummy Tuck Surgery for You?
You are better qualified for a tummy tuck if you:
- You are in excellent health
- You are a non-smoker
- You are a woman past child-bearing age
- You were once significantly overweight
- You have a current BMI that is less than 33
You understand that you need to maintain your weight
- On the other hand, a tuck may not be right for you if:
- You have significant health issues
- You are a smoker
- You still have plans of getting pregnant
- You still have to lose a lot of weight
- You do not want scars on your stomach
Undergoing tummy tuck surgery is a personal decision. Just make sure that you are healthy enough to do it and fully aware of any potential repercussions.
Preparations for Tummy Tuck Surgery
If you wish to undergo abdominoplasty, you must plan for it carefully and ensure that you do follow-up care to achieve the best results. Knowing what to do before and after your surgery will guarantee a smooth and swift recovery process.
Generally, you prepare for the procedure several months in advance. In fact, many surgeons advise their patients to prepare for a full six months. You will first need to achieve your ideal weight and plan your aftercare. Preparing for a tummy tuck also means finding the most suitable plastic surgeon that will cater to your needs.
Some patients do not need half a year to prepare. But, if you do not know enough about the procedure, you need to give yourself time to plan, research, and get ready. Here is a quick guide to help you prepare for your tummy tuck surgery.
Four to Six Months Before the Procedure
You must be determined to exercise and develop healthy diet habits once you decide to get an abdominoplasty. Focus on healthy eating habits, drinking lots of water, and taking on an active lifestyle. If you are a smoker, you need to begin the process of quitting.
You must also limit your alcohol intake because, along with smoking, it can affect the body’s healing process and defense against infection. If you experience chronic stress, you must think of how to boost your health and immune response.
Within this timeframe, you also need to do your research and find a surgeon you will trust to do the procedure. Make sure that you work with a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in abdominoplasty.
Four Months Before the Surgery
During this period, you should have already reached your desired fitness level and weight. Being in good shape can help you recover quickly.
Because plastic surgeons have full schedules, you will likely need to book with your doctor months in advance. An excellent doctor is someone you are comfortable talking about your concerns, goals, and expectations. You must have the confidence that your chosen surgeon can help you have the tummy that you desire.
Three Months Before Abdominoplasty
If you have children and pets, you should also arrange for their care while you are in the hospital and recuperating. You need to create a support system to help you with post-surgery management and transportation after the procedure. At this point, you should have stopped smoking already and continued your wellness and health regimen.
One Month Before Tummy Tuck
You should spend the last few weeks before your abdominoplasty preparing for the recovery period. You and your surgeon must finalize the details of your surgery. At the initial recovery phase, you need to ensure you are at your most comfortable at home.
Your surgeon will prepare a list of supplies that you need while recovering. You may also consider stocking up on the following items because they will help during your recovery process.
- Gauze pads
- Extra pillows
- Over-the-counter medicines and ice packs for discomfort
- Comfortable underwear and clothing that is also easy to put on and remove
- Compression clothing if prescribed by your doctor
You may also need to prepare healthy easy-to-heat meals that you can eat while recovering. Doing so will eliminate any stress you may have about eating. It will also help you stay away from unhealthy foods and ensure that you stay within your doctor-approved diet. Be sure to also abide by the pre-surgery checklist.
What to Expect Before and After Tummy Tuck Surgery
You must understand everything about abdominoplasty before you undergo surgery. Additionally, you need to be realistic about its results. Here are some of the essential considerations before getting the procedure.
Analyze Your Motives. You must have a positive outlook about yourself and your goal. You want to have a shapelier and sculpted silhouette, and so you decide to lose the bulges and fat in your abdomen. Abdominoplasty is not the solution to having a new and better life, but it can be a means to motivate you into having a more positive outlook.
Manage Your Expectations. You will not instantly become a swimsuit model or look like your favorite celebrity. The outcome of your tummy tuck will depend on the following:
- Amount of skin and fat that you want to remove from your tummy
- Body frame
- Fitness level
- Skin elasticity
- Muscle tone
Be Mindful of Your Emotions. If you are undergoing deep emotional stress, check in with yourself first. You can delay the tummy tuck procedure until you are fully ready. Post-surgery can bring you pain, discomfort, and bruising that can add to your emotional stress. Your mental state can delay your healing process as your emotions can suppress your immune system.
During the first week of post-surgery, your tummy will be sore and bloated. It will feel numb for the first few weeks or months, but the sensations will slowly return. Do not use a heating pad because you can get severe burns. While you may also feel continually tired during the healing process, you can expect your energy to return after five to six weeks.
Walking daily can help to regain your energy and regular movement. Also, you may see a long scar post-surgery, but it will improve over time.
Pressure Around the Stomach
As a part of the natural healing process, you will likely feel tightness around your abdomen right after the surgery. You cannot avoid this feeling because the surgical procedure will affect some nerves. You may also feel some burning, itching, and random sharp pains as your nerves recover. Some muscle tightening may also occur because a tummy tuck involves removing parts of your skin and stitching it back together.
This tight feeling will last up to 12 weeks after surgery. However, you can expect the return of your usual sensory functions after a year. Be patient about the numbness or tightness that you feel around your abdomen.
How Much Weight Will You Lose After the Tummy Tuck?
If you have bariatric surgery before a tummy tuck, you can expect to lose about 3 or 4 pounds of excess skin from your stomach after the procedure. If your goal is to restore your abdomen due to age, pregnancy, injury, or natural weight loss, you can expect to lose up to five pounds of skin.
You can lose a bit more weight after abdominoplasty because the procedure also removes excess abdominal fat. When combined with liposuction, your surgeon can remove a few pounds of belly fat. However, be reminded that a tummy tuck is not a weight loss program. You need to achieve or get near your ideal weight before you undergo surgery.
Aftercare and Recovery From a Tummy Tuck Surgery
To ensure that you recover faster from the procedure, follow your doctor’s instructions regarding activities, diet, medications, and proper aftercare.
Sleeping can help in recovery. Daily walks can also help speed up the healing process as it boosts blood flow and prevents constipation and pneumonia. However, only after two weeks should you be walking a great deal. Walk only to the bathroom or to meals for the first two weeks. Stop any strenuous activities and exercises for up to two months. Avoid lifting anything like a backpack or briefcase, grocery bags, pet food bags, and even your child for the first six weeks post-surgery.
Ask your surgeon when you can drive again. Generally, you can go back to work three weeks after surgery. You can take a shower a day or two after the procedure, but make sure you consult your doctor. Usually the drains need to be removed before showering. You may also need to ask when you can be sexually active again.
Follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to diet because it is possible to experience irregular bowel movements after the procedure. Take fiber supplements daily and request a mild laxative if you have not moved your bowels after a few days.
Follow your surgeon’s advice regarding your medicines. If you have been using blood thinners before the surgery, ask your doctor if and when you can start retaking them.
Follow your surgeon’s instructions when cleaning your incision. If you want to hasten the healing process, do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. If you need to take deep breaths or cough, put a pillow over your tummy to decrease the pain and support your abdomen.
Showering and Bathing
Your surgeon may permit you to shower a day after your surgery, except if you have surgical drains. Typically, you are allowed to remove your dressings but not the skin tapes or Steri-Strips. You can dab them dry with a clean piece of cloth after you shower. The Steri-Strips will fall off eventually, so you do not need to remove them right away. Your doctor will explain how to take care of your incision, too. Take note that you cannot undergo any water activities like swimming or taking a dip in a hot tub for up two weeks after your procedure.
Your doctor may also advise you to wear a compression garment to reduce fluid buildup and swelling around your stomach. Some surgeons recommend wearing it for at least six weeks, but most physicians will request that you do not remove it even when you sleep.
A compression garment can lessen your discomfort during the first few weeks after surgery. At this time, the tissues are conforming and shifting to your new abdomen. Wearing a compression garment can help you in the recovery and healing process. Not only will it help you get better results, but it also helps with blood flow and circulation.
Sleeping on Your Back
If you are a side sleeper, you will need to be patient because you can only sleep on your back right after surgery to avoid undue strain on your stitches. Because your abdominal muscles are stretched tightly, you will have to sleep in a bent position. You can add pillows for support on your regular bed or sleep on a recliner to get into a comfortable V-shape position.
Tummy tucks require healthy blood circulation after your surgery, so your surgeon will advise you to quit smoking while you are healing. Nicotine works against you because it constricts your blood vessels, causing blood clots.
Here are some issues you are likely to experience if you do not stop smoking after your surgery:
- Loss of stomach skin
- Hard lumps caused by dead fat cells
- Blood clots
- Thick, broad scars
- Delayed wound healing
- Permanent damage to small blood vessels
- Increased pain
- Life-threatening complications like pneumonia, heart attack, and stroke
Chewing nicotine gum or smoking e-cigarettes is also not recommended. It is also recommended that friends and family smoke outside as secondary smoke is dangerous, too. Ask your doctor when you can smoke after your surgery, but it usually takes about six weeks before you can pick it up again.
Maintaining Tummy Tuck Results
Although a successful surgery can help with your dream figure, you need to take care of your body for long-lasting results. Continue reading to know what you need to do to maintain a slender waistline.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
A healthy diet is vital if you want to maintain excellent tummy tuck results. Aside from eating right before the surgery, you also need to add nutrients for a fast recovery. Your body needs fuel to help your wounds heal faster. Here are some tips you can follow:
- Stay away from sugar
- Practice moderate eating
- Make healthy meals at home
- Reduce junk foods and prepare healthy snacks instead
- Consume healthy carbs such as legumes, whole grains, potatoes, beans, and green vegetables
- Avoid starchy carbohydrates like pasta, white bread, processed foods, and baked goods
- Drink plenty of water
- Get enough sleep
Regular exercise is an essential component of maintaining your tummy tuck. Following a workout regimen will help you enjoy your new figure without fear of gaining weight. Apart from eating healthy, you should exercise regularly, at least thrice a week, and ensure that you engage your core muscles with strength training.
Talk to Your Doctor
Talking to your plastic surgeon is an opportunity to share your thoughts about the results of your tummy tuck. Your doctor will help you understand what is achievable and what is not. For example, the procedure will not remove your stretch marks or make you lose a lot of weight, but it can help you strengthen and tone your abs. Your doctor can also advise on how you can maintain your abdominoplasty results.
What Can Affect Tummy Tuck Results?
A long-lasting abdominoplasty is possible, but you need to take care of your body. Weight gain and pregnancy are some of the sure-fire ways to undo the great results you can achieve with abdominoplasty.
A tummy tuck can transform your protruding stomach into a taut and smooth one. However, if you gain excessive weight, you risk reversing your abdominoplasty results. If you want your results to be long-lasting, you need to make some lifestyle changes. While weight fluctuations are natural, you must strive to prevent gaining an excessive amount.
Fat cells cannot return to where your doctor removed them, so you can expect to gain weight in other body parts like the breasts, buttocks, arms, and legs. You may also gain weight around your organs–and this is something a liposuction or tummy tuck cannot remove.
Here are some reasons why you may gain weight after your procedure:
- Lifestyle – Not leading a healthy lifestyle will render your tummy tuck unsuccessful. You need to focus on establishing healthy habits to look and feel your best. Regular exercise and a balanced diet are necessary if you want to maintain your new waistline.
- Hormones – Monthly hormone fluctuations are normal, but unbalanced hormones can lead to a dramatic weight increase. If you live a healthy lifestyle but are still gaining weight, talk to your doctor about balancing your hormones.
- Stress – Stress can lead to binge eating and sleepless nights, resulting in dramatic weight gain. It can also cause your hormones to fluctuate. Journaling, meditation, therapy, and exercise are some examples to help combat stress.
- Fluid Retention After Surgery – Water retention between organs can also happen post-surgery. If you have a bloated appearance in some parts of your body, like your hands and feet, you need to speak with your doctor to determine the cause.
Weight fluctuations, if not excessive, are not a problem. However, if you gain more than 10 pounds, you may experience stretched skin and muscles, and your tummy may start bulging again. While options like a tummy tuck revision exist, there may be complications during the surgery, so it is better to avoid it altogether. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will make you enjoy your abdominoplasty for many years to come.
Pregnancy is a joyful occasion. However, if you have already had a tummy tuck procedure, it is likely that hormonal fluctuations will cause new fat deposits, and your results will be reversed.
Although it is improbable that you will have pregnancy issues after your abdominoplasty, plastic surgeons do not recommend getting pregnant after the surgery. You will have increased chances of having stretch marks because the skin will need to accommodate a growing baby.
Here are some tips on what to do if you get pregnant after abdominoplasty:
- Inform your obstetrician that you had a tummy tuck.
- Let your surgeon know that you are pregnant because they may have tips for you to maintain your tummy tuck results.
- Eat healthily and monitor your weight gain.
- If you are giving birth through a caesarian section, you can request that your plastic surgeon be present to preserve the abdominoplasty results and reduce scarring.
You will likely need touch-up surgery after childbirth to tighten the abdominal muscles and remove the excess skin. During pregnancy, you may also notice that your baby bump will not show after a tummy tuck. It is because your muscles are now tighter, so your stomach will not look as large.
What to Do When a Tummy Tuck Goes Wrong
Abdominoplasty is a well-known procedure for achieving a flat and taut tummy. Numerous surgeons are offering the service, but not everyone has the experience and skills. A tummy tuck can go wrong, although rare.
If you are unhappy with the results of your tummy tuck, request a revision surgery to address any concerns about post-surgical issues. Some plastic surgeons are specialists in revision surgeries. They know how to make the corrections to fix any unsatisfactory outcome.
Signs of a Bad Abdominoplasty
- Unsatisfactory Abdomen Shape. An excellent tummy tuck surgery should make you feel happy with your slimmer and smoother stomach shape. In case of a bad tummy tuck, you will see lopsided contours and uneven shapes. You will also experience unnatural fullness around the upper abdomen because of skin tension imbalance. Ask your surgeon for revision surgery to address your complaints.
- Improper Navel Positioning. A haphazardly done abdominoplasty can result in the improper positioning of your navel. It may be too high, too low, unbalanced, deformed, or too shallow. Your surgeon can correct it without undergoing a secondary tummy tuck.
- Scar Is Too High. Many surgeons will try to minimize scarring, but an inexperienced doctor may make an incision that sits too high. If you are unhappy with the scar placement or appearance, you can ask for an abdominoplasty revision.
How to Avoid a Bad Tummy Tuck
Research and Choose the Right Plastic Surgeon. – Check the doctor’s experience and credentials and review before and after photos of their past clients. A skilled plastic surgeon will not have any qualms about showing you their previous work.
Prepare for Faster Recovery. – Strive for excellent results by being responsible for the preparation and recovery. Follow your doctor’s specific instructions to minimize complications and enjoy a positive outcome.
Costs Involved in a Tummy Tuck Surgery
In 2019, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that a traditional tummy tuck could cost around $6,000. However, this price does not include the costs of operating room facilities, anesthesia, and other related expenses. In the Los Angeles area, the surgeon’s fee is about $9,000 plus anesthesia fees or charges, and overnight at the recovery center. Making the total cost of about $14,000. Top considerations for the computation of surgeon fees include:
- Geographical Location of Clinic
- Type of Surgery Performed
Abdominoplasty costs will also involve the following:
- Anesthesia fees
- Medical tests
- Surgical facility or hospital costs
- Surgeon’s fee
- Post-surgery garments
Does Insurance Cover Tummy Tuck Surgery?
Generally, abdominoplasty is a cosmetic procedure, but insurance companies may cover the surgery cost if it is a medical necessity. Sometimes, your surgeon will ask you to undergo a full tummy tuck to reduce your back pain or repair ventral hernias. A full abdominoplasty can also improve the stress caused by urinary incontinence and boost weight loss.
If your bariatric procedure resulted in excess skin, your health insurance could pay for an abdominoplasty to remove it. If the skin is getting in the way of your legs, preventing your ideal weight maintenance or causing you pain, your insurer may cover it as well.
Find a Tummy Tuck Surgeon Near You
A tummy tuck has both benefits and disadvantages, and admittedly, it is not for everyone. But if you believe that you are the best candidate to undergo abdominoplasty, your next step is to get in touch with the right surgeon within your area.
Dr. George Sanders is a board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in abdominoplasty in the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas. If you live in and around these areas, consider having a skilled and experienced doctor perform your tummy tuck surgery.