A tummy tuck — also known as abdominoplasty — is a cosmetic surgical procedure to improve the appearance of the abdomen.
During a tummy tuck, excess skin and fat are removed from the abdomen. In most cases, the connective tissues in the abdomen are tightened with sutures as well. The remaining skin is then repositioned to create a more toned look.
You might choose to have a tummy tuck if you have skin that's accumulated around the area of your belly button and a weak lower abdominal wall. A tummy tuck can also boost your body image.
Why it's Done
A flabby abdomen is caused not only by the accumulation of fat, but also by the poor elasticity of the skin, excess skin, and the stretching of the inner girdle of connective tissue (abdominal fascia) and abdominal muscles that extend from the ribs to the pubic bone. This inner girdle, which holds the internal organs in place, is responsible for the tone and appearance of the abdomen.
Your abdomen is more likely to protrude after your abdominal fascia has been stretched during pregnancy or significant changes in your weight. A tummy tuck can remove loose, excess skin and fat, and tighten weak fascia. A tummy tuck can also remove stretch marks and excess skin in the lower abdomen below the belly button. However, a tummy tuck won't correct stretch marks outside of this area.
You might consider a tummy tuck if:
- You have excess skin that's accumulated around the area of your belly button
- You have a weak lower abdominal wall
- Liposuction didn't adequately improve the appearance of your abdomen
- You previously had a C-section and have retracted scarring
- If you've previously had a C-section, your plastic surgeon might be able to incorporate your existing C-section scar into your tummy tuck scar.
A tummy tuck can also be done in combination with other body contouring cosmetic procedures, such as a buttock lift (belt lipectomy).
A tummy tuck isn't for everyone. Your doctor might caution against a tummy tuck if you:
- Plan to lose a significant amount of weight
- Might consider future pregnancy
- Have a severe chronic condition, such as heart disease, diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome
- Have a body mass index that's greater than 40
What you can expect
A tummy tuck is done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility. During a tummy tuck, you'll be asleep and comfortable with the aid of general anaesthesia — which renders you unconscious. In some cases, you might be given an analgesic and be moderately sedated (partially asleep).
During the procedure
Your plastic surgeon will make incisions to remove most of the skin and fat between your bellybutton and pubic hair in a horizontal oval or elliptical shape. The fascia, which overlies the abdominal muscles, will be tightened with permanent sutures.
Your plastic surgeon will then reposition the skin around your belly button. Your bellybutton will be brought out through a small incision and sutured in its normal position. The incision from hip to hip above the pubic hair will be stitched together and will leave a scar that falls along the natural crease within the bikini line.
During the procedure, you might be given an antibiotic to prevent infection.
The procedure typically takes about three hours.
After the procedure
After a tummy tuck, your abdominal incision and your belly button will likely be covered with the surgical dressing. Small tubes might be placed along the incision site to drain any excess blood or fluid.
Your bed will be positioned to keep your upper body slightly raised and your knees at an angle for the first few days after surgery. Members of your health care team will also help you walk as early as the first day after a tummy tuck to help prevent the formation of blood clots.
You'll likely feel moderate pain, which will initially be controlled by intravenous pain medication. It's normal to have swelling in the surgical area for about six weeks. In some cases, swelling might take up to three months to resolve. Drains might be left in place for a week or two after surgery. Your doctor or a member of your healthcare team will show you how to empty and care for your drains. You might need to continue taking an antibiotic and anticoagulant for 10 days after your tummy tuck.
You'll wear a supportive abdominal garment (abdominal binder) for about six weeks after your tummy tuck. This will help prevent fluid buildup and provide abdominal support while you heal. Your doctor will explain how to care for your scar.
For the first three months after a tummy tuck, you'll need to take care when moving and avoid positions that strain your incision line — such as quickly bending at the waist — to prevent the re-opening of the wound. In addition, you'll need to schedule follow-up visits with your doctor for the next year.