What Is A Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)?


A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is a cosmetic surgery procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen and tightens the underlying muscle. It is ideally suited to people who have overhanging, loose skin as well as excess fat. A tummy tuck is a costly surgical procedure that can require quite a lengthy recovery time, so it is important to research the procedure thoroughly.

Tummy tucks are popular with both men and women and is particularly popular with women who have had children. The ideal tummy tuck candidate is someone who has got stubborn fat on their abdomen that they are unable to get rid of with diet and exercise as well as saggy or loose skin. As with any cosmetic surgery procedure the ideal candidate should also have realistic expectations about what the surgery can achieve.

Pregnancy can cause the skin around the abdomen to lose its elasticity and become saggy. Women who have had caesarean deliveries or multiple pregnancies are often good candidates for a tummy tuck because the effects on their abdomen cannot be reversed with diet and exercise. For many women, a tummy tuck can give them back the figure they had before they had children and give them a renewed sense of confidence.

People who have lost a significant amount of weight can also be good candidates as they may be left with loose, overhanging skin around their stomachs. This can lead them to still feel incredibly self-conscious about their bodies despite losing a lot of weight. A tummy tuck can remove this excess skin and enable them to enjoy the benefits of losing weight.

As we age, our skin loses its natural elasticity and muscles become weaker. This can also have a dramatic effect on the abdomen, which can look flabby even if the person is a healthy weight. A tummy tuck can also address this problem.

In some cases, people are genetically predisposed to store fat in certain areas of their body. These pockets of fat are often very resistant to diet and exercise and can cause low self-esteem. A tummy tuck can also address this problem.

Like liposuction, a tummy tuck is not a way to lose weight so the procedure is not suitable for people who are obese. If you are planning on losing a lot of weight, then you are better to wait until you have reached your target weight before you consider having a tummy tuck as you may need further surgery to remove any additional excess skin. Women who have not yet had children or are planning on having more children are also advised to wait for this reason.

The best way to discover if you are a suitable candidate for a tummy tuck is to speak to an experienced plastic surgeon.

A tummy tuck is a major surgical procedure so does carry an increased risk of complications and more downtime than some other cosmetic surgery procedures.

Risks can include the following:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve or skin damage
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Blood or fat clots
  • Friction burns
  • Drug reactions e.g. to medication or anesthesia
  • Complications as a result of anesthesia
  • Excessive fluid loss which, if left untreated, could lead to shock
  • Fluid Accumulation

Before you decide whether or not a tummy tuck is right for you, you will need to have a consultation with a surgeon. During the consultation the surgeon will be able to answer any questions you have about the procedure and go through the risks and complications so you are able to make an informed decision. The surgeon should also take a full medical history at this stage to make sure there is nothing that excludes you from undergoing surgery. You will also be given a consent form to sign. Make sure you read this and any associated information you are given very carefully.

A tummy tuck is usually performed under general anesthetic although they are sometimes performed under sedation where the area being treated is numbed but you remain drowsy but awake.

Your surgery will usually take place in a hospital environment, as it is a fairly invasive procedure, and may involve an overnight stay.

A full tummy tuck will take between two and five hours depending on how much work is being done and whether or not it is being combined with other procedures such as liposuction. A mini tummy tuck will take significantly less time, between one and two hours.

The number and type of incisions you have during your surgery will depend on the type of tummy tuck you are having. The mini tummy tuck, also called a partial abdominoplasty, involves only a single incision made below the navel on the lower abdomen whereas a full tummy tuck involves a larger incision along the front of the abdomen from hip bone to hip bone. A circumferential tummy tuck involves the removal of loose hanging skin from the entire hip area, including the back, and requires an incision that cuts across the entire waist line. Your surgeon will carefully plan the positioning to ensure the resulting scars will be as easily hidden as possible.

Most tummy tucks, except for very minor partial abdominoplasty surgeries, also involve repositioning of the belly button. To do this a second incision is made across the abdomen to detach the navel. Depending on what your surgeon thinks will create a more appealing result, another small incision is made to either reattach your existing naval or artificially sculpt a new one.

Tummy tuck surgery also allows the surgeon to tighten sagging abdominal muscles. After the incisions have been made then the surgeon separates the skin from the abdominal wall to reveal the muscle. He/she is then able to pull the muscles closer together and stitch them back into a position that will give you a more toned stomach and defined waistline.

Liposuction is sometimes used to remove any unwanted fat pockets before the skin is stretched back over the abdominal wall and the excess skin and fat is removed. Stretch marks can also be improved and/or removed at this stage as any that are positioned below the navel are often removed along with the excess skin while the remaining stretch marks often appear less prominent after the skin has been stretched.

Once the surgery is complete the surgeon will stitch the original incision closed. A surgical drain will be inserted to allow excess fluid to drain away as build-up of fluid can lead to post-surgical complications. Dressings and support bandages will be applied.

Depending on what type of tummy tuck surgery you have you may be required to stay in hospital for one or two days. With a mini tummy tuck you are often able to go home after a few hours. You will need to arrange for someone to take you home as you will be in some pain and discomfort and will be drowsy from the anesthetic.

How long you take to recover will also depend on the type of surgery you have but there will be a significant recovery period with all forms of surgery. Most people are able to return to work after two weeks but for some it can take three to four weeks before they are able to resume normal activities.

Your drain will usually be removed after about a week with the stitches removed in stages over the following two weeks.

Immediately after surgery you will feel some pain and discomfort but this can be managed with painkillers. You will also be quite swollen around the abdomen area. The swelling may take a few months to fully subside. Bruising should disappear after a few days. Walking can be difficult at first but you should be up and around after a few days.

You will need to take it easy for a few weeks after surgery and should not do any strenuous activities such as exercise and heavy lifting until you are fully recovered.

Your scarring may look quite bad immediately after surgery but it will fade over time. Be prepared for this to take up to a year however.

In order to ensure that your recovery goes as smoothly as possible you need to make sure you follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions very carefully and con tact them immediately if you notice any signs of infection or if you experience bleeding or a sudden increase in pain.

There are a number of different types of tummy tuck surgery that your surgeon will discuss with you. Which one you have will depend on your concerns and the extent of surgery you need.

The types of tummy tuck surgery include:

  • Traditional Tummy Tuck
  • Mini Tummy Tuck
  • Endoscopic Tummy Tuck
  • Extended Tummy Tuck
  • Circumferential Tummy Tucks

Traditional Tummy Tuck

The traditional tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is the most commonly performed type of tummy tuck surgery. The surgeon will make a large hip-to-hip incision, as well as incisions around the belly button to allow for repositioning of the navel. This kind of tummy tuck will improve the entire abdominal region. Traditional tummy tucks are commonly combined with abdominal liposuction.

Mini Tummy Tuck

The mini tummy tuck, also known the partial abdominoplasty, focuses on the lower abdomen. It is ideally suited to people who are within 10 percent of their ideal body weight. Mini tummy tucks require only a single small incision. They usually do not involve repositioning the navel. Partial abdominoplasties result in less dramatic changes to the appearance of the abdomen than other types of abdominoplasty surgery, but also offer a shorter recovery time than most tummy tuck procedures.

Endoscopic Tummy Tuck

As the name suggests an endoscopic tummy tuck is performed using an endoscope (a tiny camera attached to a tube). The surgeon makes a small incision, just big enough to insert the tube through, which means there is less scarring. This type of surgery is only suitable for people with weakened abdominal muscles, little abdominal fat, and no noticeable loose skin around the stomach area.

Extended Tummy Tuck

An extended tummy tuck involves the removal of ‘love handles’ on either side of the waist as well as the removal of fat and excess skin from the stomach area. The incision is usually kept low so that even if the scar extends behind the hips, it will not be visible. This procedure allows for the treatment of a larger area than the traditional tummy tuck. In order to address the lifting of the entire lower body area, a circumferential tummy tuck is usually required.

Circumferential Tummy Tuck

A circumferential tummy tuck is a form of lower body lift. This type of tummy tuck is usually performed on people who have had lost significant amounts of weight, often as a result of gastric bypass surgery or gastric banding. Extreme weight loss often leads to loose, overhanging and saggy skin around the abdomen. Circumferential abdominoplasty can involve the removal of excess skin from the thigh, buttocks, and hips, as well as the central abdominal area. The scars for this type of procedure extend to the back.