Patients considering a tummy tuck are inundated with questions about the procedure and what to expect from the surgery. Among the many questions patients have, there are some that should be posed to the surgeon performing the surgery before the day of the procedure.
Am I a good candidate for a tummy tuck?
A frank, open discussion with your doctor is best for understand the procedure and proceeding safely. While a doctor will likely tell you if he’ll perform the surgery or not, it is best to ask him directly what may keep you from the surgery. In many cases, patients considering a tummy tuck will be asked to lose weight. Get specifics from the surgeon so that you can return once you’ve met the criteria if necessary.
What are realistic expectations for this procedure?
While patients tend to think surgery will fix all that ails them, it’s entirely possible that the tummy tuck procedure won’t create the effect they are envisioning. While the tummy tuck is a dramatic procedure that can dramatically change a woman’s shape, the procedure won’t remove pockets of fat from other parts of the body or change your bone structure. Be sure to understand what will likely change thanks to the procedure and, more importantly, what will not.
How much will it cost?
Cost varies wildly by surgeons for procedures like a tummy tuck. These costs hinge on many factors including the demand for a surgeon, his location and his experience. Often changing locations makes the tummy tuck procedure more affordable. This is particularly critical as tummy tuck procedures aren’t covered by insurance in most cases and will be paid for by the patient. There are medical loans available to help cover the costs of the procedure, however.
Outside of the surgical risks and recovery, a lingering concern for many women considering a tummy tuck is the amount of scarring that remains following the surgery. While the tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, procedure requires a large incision to complete, the scar often does not detract from the overall result in the vast majority of cases.
The Tummy Tuck Procedure
In a tummy tuck, the surgeon cuts a long incision that spans the distance from one hipbone to the other. He then removes a large portion of skin from below the navel. With the underlying tissue and muscles exposed, the surgeon uses stitches to tighten the muscles again before pulling the remaining skin down over the lower abdomen, creating a new belly button and finally closing the large incision with staples. The resulting scar stretches across the incision reaching from one side of the hips to the other, looking much like a large smiling face.
The Tummy Tuck Scar
The scar that is left from the procedure will be bright red and very obvious in the first months following surgery. As the scar continues to heal, it will fade in most cases to become a faint white line that is nearly invisible. In some cases, the majority of the scar is even hidden in the top of the pubic region. In some cases, the scar develops a raised, dark quality. These raised scars can be uncomfortable for patients, but fortunately then can be removed or diminished using laser technology.
Regardless of how the final scar develops, the patient is able to benefit from the location of the scar. The scar, although very large across the lower abdomen, is hidden completely by standard bikini swimsuits or underpants. While portions of the scar may be visible in certain swimsuits or undergarments, it is possible to cover the scar completely leaving no indication of the surgery outside of the flat, slender belly left behind.
The midsection often leads to concern on the part of women, especially following childbirth, but tummy woes can persist for many women from the time before they had children as well. The lumpy fat that can wind up on the midsection is a concern as well as the pouch that sticks out under the navel. Following childbirth, the tummy can show even greater signs of wear and tear. While exercise won’t effectively target pockets of fat or overstretched skin, liposuction and a tummy tuck can. The question is – which do you need?
Liposuction is a vacuum assisted way of removing fatty pockets from the body. The pouch of fat on your lower abdomen is the type of fat that is often removed using liposuction. Liposuction can also remove fat from the waistline and the upper portion of the tummy as well to achieve a flat, more athletic look.
Liposuction can make a dramatic difference in the amount of fat that shows up on the stomach and the midsection, but it has no effect at all on stretched skin. In fact, if the midsection has stretch marks and damaged skin from pregnancy or excessive weight gain, liposuction may be discouraged as the skin will not bounce back to the new, trim stomach area and will appear to sag unattractively.
Abdominoplasty, or a tummy tuck, on the other hand is designed to remove both fat and skin in an effort to smooth out the front of the stomach. Sagging skin and pockets of fat are removed from the lower abdomen and then the remaining skin and tissue is stretched down to cover the open area. This creates a long, smooth abdomen where bulky fat and skin had been. A tummy tuck repairs muscle damage as well as removing the excess tissue for a stronger, flatter stomach overall.
A tummy tuck can be a confusing and complex procedure. Fortunately, it’s not as overwhelming as it may first appear to be, especially if you’re willing to ask questions and seek answers about the procedure.
Q: Is a tummy tuck a good way to lose weight?
A: While some fat and skin is removed in a tummy tuck, it is not considered a weight loss surgery. Only a minimal amount of weight would be lost in the surgery – perhaps five pounds – but the overall look is dramatic as the tissue removed was making the stomach look pouchy and fat. Additionally many surgeons will only operate if the patient is within a close range of her healthy body weight.
Q: Who are good candidates for a tummy tuck?
A: A tummy tuck is not suitable for all patients. It is a major surgery designed to repair the abdomen after the tummy region has undergone significant changes. The best candidates for a tummy tuck are those who have gained and lost a very large amount of weight as well as individuals who have had multiple children and who are not considering having additional children in the future. Additionally, a good candidate for the surgery is not significantly overweight and is healthy.
Q: How much scarring is visible with a tummy tuck?
A: Abdominoplasty, or a tummy tuck, can leave a very long, visible scar on the naked body. Fortunately, the scar, while crossing the entire portion of the lower abdomen between the hipbones, is easily hidden under most swimsuits and underwear styles. Over time, the scar that remains following the tummy tuck procedure fades away to a thin line that is almost invisible. If a scar is very visible, laser or additional procedures may be able to reduce the visibility of the scar.
The “Mommy Makeover” is a popular combination of plastic surgery procedure that repairs the damage left behind by multiple pregnancies. In a mommy makeover, a plastic surgeon combines a tummy tuck, liposuction and a breast lift or a combination breast lift and augmentation to restore a woman’s body. Each of the procedures targets an area that women simply can’t repair with diet and exercise following childbirth.
The Tummy Tuck
The tummy tuck is a major component of the mommy makeover. The mother’s abdomen has been stretched repeatedly by pregnancy. Not only is the skin slack and show signs of stretch marks, the layer of tissue and muscle underneath the skin is just as overstretched as well. This forms the unsightly pouch that so many mothers are forced to deal with even after losing the baby weight. The tummy tuck removes a significant portion of this damaged skin while pulling new skin into place to create a smooth abdomen. The muscles underneath are tightened as well to recreate a strong, flat belly.
Liposuction is employed to remove the excess pockets of fat that remain after motherhood. These pockets may be anywhere on the body, but often surgeons target the fat that has cemented itself to the mother’s thighs, waistline or buttocks. Liposuction can be used to create a smooth contour where the tummy tuck has smoothed the waistline as well.
The final surgery usually employed in a mommy makeover is the breast lift or augmentation. In the breast lift, excess skin is removed to recreate the natural breasts in a higher, perkier position. Other mothers opt to make the breast larger using silicone or saline implants. The total effect is a woman’s whose body has been repaired and balanced through the cosmetic surgery – her breasts are high and perky again. Her tummy is tight and flat and her contours are smooth again. Best of all, she is able to enjoy all of that along with her children.
Of the many cosmetic surgery procedures, the tummy tuck is one of the most dramatic. An invasive procedure, the tummy tuck requires a surgeon cutting into the deeper layers of the stomach to expose tissue and muscle. The surgeon tightens the muscle with stitches and then pulls the skin and tissue back into place before trimming away large excess panels. The end result is a stomach far smoother than most women have ever enjoyed prior to childbirth. The tradeoff for the dramatic results is the necessary recovery period from the surgery.
The Immediate Recovery
Immediately following the tummy tuck, the surgeon will likely leave drains in place through the incision to help drain away fluids as the incision heals in order to limit the swelling. The abdomen and incision area will be swollen and there will be significant discomfort as well. The surgeon will likely prescribe a pain medication as well to limit the pain during the first days of recovery.
After the procedure, a friend or family member should drive the patient home as she will have been under the influence of full anesthesia. The friend should stay for the first evening and day of recovery as well in order to help empty drains and support the patient as she moves around following the procedure. The drains and any removable stitches will be taken out by the surgeon at the first follow up appointment.
The Full Recovery
Recovering completely from a tummy tuck can take months. 90 percent of the recovery is complete in the first few weeks, but there will be lingering effects such as stiffness, some swelling and a feeling of numbness for months following the procedure.
Of the many cosmetic surgeries, tummy tucks are one of the few that may be partially covered by insurance. The purpose of a tummy tuck is almost entirely cosmetic, but there is some coverage by insurance companies in a few situations that are common for patients considering the surgery.
If the patient develops a hernia, the tummy tuck procedure may be partially covered as the surgery to correct the hernia is essentially the same as the procedure to remove excess skin from the abdomen. In a hernia surgery, the same incision can be made and the skin is peeled back so that the surgeon can adjust the muscle wall in order to reconstruct the tightness of the muscles and correct the hernia. This portion of the surgery is covered.
The removal of the excess skin that is necessary for the tummy tuck procedure as well as the repositioning of the belly button would be outside of the scope of the natural tummy tuck, but having even a portion of the procedure covered can make a difference for many patients.
Damaged Skin and Tissue
There are some insurance companies willing to pay a portion of the tummy tuck costs if the doctor can show that there is significant damage to the skin and tissue of the abdomen. There is great variability with this form of coverage and a conversation between the patient and the surgeon will be required as to the necessity of the surgery to lead a normal lifestyle and then there are insurance issues to work with as well.
Even if the insurance company is willing to cover a portion of the costs for the damaged tissue, it will likely be only a small part of the overall surgery. Patients considering a tummy tuck procedure should be ready to pay for the full procedure although for some there may be a possibility of saving a bit should they fit the criteria for the insurance companies.
There is a common misconception that tummy tucks are suitable for weight loss, and this is incorrect. In fact, surgeons will often not perform a tummy tuck procedure for patients who have considerable amounts of weight to lose. Large patients are not suitable for the tummy tuck procedure for many reasons – the least of which is their overall health.
Tummy Tucks for Weight
In a tummy tuck, the surgeon’s goal is to remove excess skin and some fatty deposits that have collected on the lower portion of the abdomen. This fat is in the layers of the skin, and by simply trimming off the skin that is wrinkled, scarred and bulging, the surgeon is able to pull the muscles together and lay down the skin with a smooth, polished appearance.
For patients carrying a substantial amount of weight around their midsections, only a small percentage of the weight is in the layers of skin. Another large portion of the fat is in the layers of tissue under the muscle. This fat cannot be removed through a tummy tuck and the result is not the smooth abdomen that the patient is seeking. A tummy tuck can remove excess skin from the abdomen, but not significant amounts of fat.
Tummy Tucks and Patients
Patients seeking tummy tucks are encouraged to lose any weight prior to the procedure. The weight should be off and the patient should be able to keep that weight away for some time – up to a year – before the procedure. Should a patient lose more weight after the surgery the procedure will be ineffective. As skin as natural stretch, gaining weight again following a tummy tuck procedure will simply lead to increased weight and the reforming of fatty pockets on the abdomen.
While most women opt for a fully tummy tuck, for others, a mini tummy tuck is sufficient to remove the excess skin and tissue that develops on the lower abdomen. The mini tummy tuck is a procedure very similar to the full tummy tuck, but in the miniature version, less skin is removed and the naval is left in its original position. The mini tummy tuck is designed to simply work on the area of the lower abdomen where the full tummy tuck is appropriate for a woman who has endured greater trauma on the skin and tissues of the abdomen.
The Mini Tummy Tuck Procedure
In a mini tummy tuck, the surgeon makes an incision between the hip bones, although it may be slightly shorter than the incision made for the larger version of the surgery. The surgeon will then tighten the muscles of the lower abdomen as necessary and carefully pull the skin taunt over the lower portion of the body. He will them trim away the excess in order to leave the lower abdomen smooth without loose skin or tissue.
The incision will be stapled or stitched and the procedure is complete. Through the mini tummy tuck, loose skin on the lowest part of the abdomen can be addressed without the patient enduring the more dramatic form of surgery. Without the removal and replacement of the belly button, the healing from the mini tummy tuck is faster as well.
Benefits of the Mini Tummy Tuck
While the mini tummy tuck may not remove all of the damaged tissue of the abdomen and may leave many stretch marks behind, the most affected area is addressed more easily though this procedure, and many women looking for faster recovery periods with a less invasive surgery find that the mini tummy tuck is ideal for their situations.
When a patient schedules a tummy tuck, the procedure to remove the excess fat and skin from her lower abdomen is a complex one that must be performed in a hospital or certified surgery center. The surgeon performing the procedure will consult with the patient prior to the procedure to ensure that the patient’s safety is of utmost concern and that all precautions are being considered for the long-term effectiveness of the procedure.
The Tummy Tuck Process
On the day of the surgery, the patient will be sedated using a general anesthesia. The surgeon will then cut a wide arch across the patient’s lower abdomen. This wide incision spreads from one hipbone to the other across the pubic region. The surgeon will then cut away a large section of skin reaching up to the belly button in some cases.
The skin removed contains stubborn fatty pockets or a pouch, as well as skin damaged in pregnancy or large weight gains and losses. Once the skin is removed, the surgeon will take advantage of the opening to carefully repair any muscle separations noted in the abdominal wall. Using strong stitches, the surgeon will bring the muscles back together. Repairing the muscles makes the abdomen stronger and flatter as well.
Then, the surgeon will dissect the belly button before pulling the exposed edge of the skin down to the original incision. The surgeon will smooth the skin over the abdomen, cut a new space for the belly button and use a serious of staples or stitches to affix the skin of the abdomen to the skin across the hipbones. This creates a smooth, defined waistline that is free of most stretch marks and fatty deposits generally left behind by pregnancy.