In today’s world, millions of people across the globe are thinking about strategies to enhance their appearance. For many, removing excess belly skin and fat and tightening tummy muscles has become one such solution. In fact, statistics indicate that there were 129,753 tummy tucks performed in 2017. This marks an increase of 2% from the previous year and illustrates the growing popularity of this appearance-enhancing cosmetic procedure.
If you’re considering a tummy tuck to help optimize your appearance and confidence, understanding the fundamentals of this procedure can mean the difference between a good tummy tuck experience and a great one. The following checklist can help you achieve a better tummy tuck and enjoy a better experience overall.
Understand what exactly are tummy tucks
A tummy tuck (also known as an abdominoplasty) is a cosmetic procedure that reshapes and flattens the abdominal area. It does so by removing excess fat and skin, as well as tightening the muscles in the abdominal region, the end goal being a tighter and firmer abdomen.
Understand what kinds of tummy tucks are available
Depending on the patient’s aesthetic objective, plastic surgeons will recommend one of the following three types of tummy tucks available:
Full or classic tummy tucks
Classic tummy tucks (which are also referred to as full tummy tucks) are utilized when individuals want to address the sections above and below their belly button, the full length of the abdominal wall. Patients who opt for a full tummy tuck often want to resolve general roundness and excess skin. With this procedure, one horizontal or u-shape incision, and possibly a second incision, are made above the pubic area and the belly button, respectively, to remove excess skin and tighten muscle. Full tummy tucks present the most natural-looking outcome, and can include a much firmer abdomen.
Mini tummy tucks
Mini tummy tucks involve less extensive incisions compared to a full tummy tuck and are intended to improve only the lower belly, below the patient’s belly button. This makes the procedure ideal for people who want to rid their bellies of a “pooch”, tiny bulge or stretch marks in the lower abdominal region only. Plastic surgeons can tighten loose muscles through a single low horizontal incision (typically without an incision around the belly button), and remove excess lower abdominal skin, resulting in a firmer, smoother lower belly.
Extended tummy tuck
The extended tummy tuck is considered when the goals of the procedure are to address the abdomen while simultaneously targeting the flanks and hips. To perform this procedure, the surgeon extends the horizontal incision more laterally as well as often incorporating a longer, vertical incision, which enables the surgeon to remove excess skin from the upper and lower abdominal region as well as the flanks while tightening the abdominal wall. This procedure is often ideal for those patients who have had multiple pregnancies or have lost lots of weight, either through diet and exercise or through weight loss surgery.
Determine which procedure is right for you
Deciding which procedure is right for you will be contingent upon several factors and is best done in consultation with a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Some of them include your desired results, overall skin quality, body type and location of excess skin on the body. The amount of excess skin will also determine which procedure is most appropriate. Finally, any scarring attained from a previous cosmetic procedure or surgery can determine which kind of tuck the patient qualifies for.
Learn the risks involved
There are several risks involved with these procedures. Some of them include:
- Prolonged swelling
- Fluid accumulation
- Skin loss
- Skin discoloration
Assess whether you are an ideal candidate
The ideal candidates for tummy tucks are those who:
- Lack abdominal tone
- Have a belly that is protruding and abdominal muscles that are stretched
- Have loose, excess, sagging or hanging belly skin
- Are at a stable weight
- Physically healthy
- Have realistic expectations about the surgery
Choose the right plastic surgeon
Patients should feel empowered to choose the plastic surgeon that will provide the best and customized services they deserve. Asking prospective plastic surgeons the questions below can help you determine whether a plastic surgeon can help meet your needs and attain your aesthetic goals:
- Are you board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- How many years of experience do you have?
- Can you show me some examples of your surgical work?
- What can I expect in terms of results post-surgery?
- Is your surgical facility accredited by a state or nationally accredited agency?
Prepare for the procedure
Every abdominoplasty is different, and this means that each patient will need to confer directly with his or her Plastic Surgeon to ensure that the procedure is performed as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. Generally, there are several things that patients may be required to do. Some of them include:
- Getting a medical evaluation or lab testing
- Adjusting current prescription or medicinal intake or taking specific medications
- Cessation of smoking
- Temporary disuse of drugs and supplements that could increase bleeding (such as herbal supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs and aspirin).
Most tummy tucks are performed on an outpatient basis and allow patients to return home after only several hours of surgery. For more invasive tummy tucks, an overnight hospital stay may be required.
Understand what happens during recovery
For the first week after surgery, patients can anticipate some soreness and discomfort, lots of rest and limited activity. During recovery from a tummy tuck, bandages or dressings might be applied to your incisions. Additionally, patients may be wrapped in compression garments or elastic bandages. This will help support the abdominal region and limit inflammation during the post-surgery healing period. Some patients may have thin, small tubes placed beneath the skin to drain excess fluid or blood that may have collected. As a patient you may also be given specific instructions regarding things like:
- Which medications to take to reduce susceptibility to infection and aid healing
- How to take care of the surgical drains and site
- Specific concerns to be aware of regarding your general health and the surgical site
- When you should confer with your plastic surgeon
Anticipate any potential scarring
Scarring will depend on the type of tummy tuck performed and the length, location and number of incisions. Also, women who have previously undergone cesarean section may find that their existing scars are incorporated into the abdominoplasty scar. Scars do not disappear completely, and the scar from this procedure will take from several months to a full year to fade. To reduce scarring, it is imperative for patients to avoid subjecting the surgical incision to excessive motion or force during the healing period. Patients should ask their surgeon which steps to take to reduce scarring.
Learn what to expect in terms of results
Initially, the results of the cosmetic procedure might not be visible due to factors like the patient’s inability to stand upright or swelling. It usually takes several weeks or longer to see the final results.
Anticipate procedure costs
The average price for this procedure is roughly $8,000-$10,000, though costs vary widely. Cost can be impacted by a surgeon’s experience levels, expertise and geographical region in which the procedure is performed. Total costs should also factor in fees for anesthesia, medical tests and post-surgery garments, as well as prescription medications.