Tummy tuck at a glance
- A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, flattens the abdomen by removing excess skin and fat while tightening abdominal wall muscles.
- An unappealing tummy is often caused by stretching of the muscles and connective tissues that are responsible for the tone of the abdomen.
- Full recovery time lasts around six weeks or more, depending on how the individual heals.
What is a tummy tuck?
An abdominoplasty, or a tummy tuck, is a common cosmetic surgery that removes skin and fat from the abdomen area to achieve a smoother and more defined abdominal profile. It may also restore weak or separated muscles in your abdominal wall. A tummy tuck is not a means of losing weight. Both men and women who are in good health can get a tummy tuck.
A flabby belly can be caused by more than just an accumulation of fat. The inner girdle of connective tissue that hold internal organs in place determines how toned or flabby the abdomen, or tummy, appears. This inner girdle and muscles in the abdomen can stretch and result in an unappealing tummy.
Denver patients typically undergo a tummy tuck when diet changes and exercise fail to rid unwelcome fat and tissue. Heredity, pregnancy, aging and substantial weight fluctuations may cause excess fat and tissue that is unresponsive to diet and exercise.
Formerly obese patients who have lost weight but still have excess skin or fat deposits may chose to get a tummy tuck. Tummy tucks do not address or reverse present stretch marks, although patients may notice a slight improvement of any stretch marks that existed in the removed tissue, such as those below the navel.
Tummy tuck procedure
After the surgeon administers general anesthesia, he or she makes an incision on the torso. During a full abdominoplasty, called a traditional tummy tuck, the surgeon makes the incision point horizontally between the belly, the navel and pubic line.
Once the skin is open, the surgeon loosens the skin within the abdominal wall up to the ribcage. The upper skin from the abdomen is stretched and pulled down so that any excess skin is trimmed off and sutured together. Depending on how much the abdomen stretches, the surgeon may mark the new position of the navel. The navel typically remains at the same location.
The surgeon removes extra tissue, skin and fat, and inserts sutures to help tighten up the muscle. Liposuction may be performed at this time. Finally, the incisions are sealed with sutures, clips, tapes or skin adhesives.
Immediately following surgery, the abdomen is dressed in an elastic bandage or compression garment that supports the new muscle shape while also reducing swelling. Patients will experience aching pain and swelling during the week following surgery. Numbness, bruising and fatigue are also possible.
Full recovery from a tummy tuck typically takes the longest time of any cosmetic plastic surgery procedure. Standing upright a week following the surgery may be challenging, if not impossible.
Patients must limit strenuous activities for a minimum of six weeks, and sleep at an elevated angle for two weeks. Some individuals take a full month off of work following the procedure, which may be particularly necessary if their job involves physical activity. Patients who have fairly sedentary jobs can return to work in two weeks.
Tummy tuck patients can expect a complete recovery a few months after surgery.
Risks and considerations
Scars from a tummy tuck never fully heal, although they will become less noticeable over time. Women planning future pregnancies will likely be discouraged from a tummy tuck, as the results will not remain permanent. Similarly, people planning to lose a significant amount of weight should avoid a tummy tuck until after the weight loss.
Tummy tucks also carry the standard surgery risks such as infection, excess bleeding or blood clots and adverse reaction to anesthesia. Patients with diabetes, poor circulation or heart, lung or liver disease may be more likely to experience complications during a tummy tuck. Patients in good health to begin with will likely respond and recover safely.
There is a chance that an individual just doesn’t heal properly. An additional surgery may then be required to correct and assist in the healing process in this instance. Other risks include:
- A scar from the incision will remain after the procedure and vary according to the individual, but it is generally along the bikini line and not often visible
- Reduced feeling in the abdominal area due to the procedure’s affect on sensory nerves; usually disappears in the months after surgery
- Fluid buildup beneath the skin, known as seroma, can occur and require drainage
- Skin tissue death or damage, called tissue necrosis, can occur to fatty tissue.