The tightness of the abdominal muscles may change over time from weight gain to pregnancy. Looseness in the stomach region can stand in the way of your self-confidence. If your efforts to flatten and improve your mid-section have not produced your desired result, you may be an excellent candidate for a tummy tuck at Signature Plastic Surgery & Dermatology.
What is a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, flattens the abdomen by removing fat and skin while also tightening the stomach muscles. Patients choose a tummy tuck in order to remove unsightly fatty tissue and skin which results in a flatter abdomen. As far as cosmetic procedures go, abdominal surgeries are fairly common, as thousands are performed each year across the country.
Candidates for a Tummy Tuck
Patients that have experienced radical weight loss, pregnancy, past surgeries, or aging resulting in a negative impact on the appearance of your abdomen, you may be a good candidate for surgery. Those in good health, with excess fat and skin, are good candidates. Patients that are planning on having more children should wait before receiving an abdominoplasty.
Before undergoing surgery, patients will need to have a consultation with Dr. Shah, a double board-certified plastic surgeon. The consultation visit for abdominoplasty is your opportunity to learn everything you need to know about your proposed procedure. During your consultation, Dr. Shah will go over your options, allow you to ask any questions, and perform a physical exam. A staff member will provide you with the schedule of fees.
Are there different types of tummy tuck procedures?
There are different methods or types of tummy tucks. During your consultation with Dr. Shah, the two of you will discuss your options depending on your situation. Here are brief descriptions of the various methods:
- Traditional or full tummy tuck — This method involves one long incision, usually spanning from hipbone to hipbone, that addresses loose sagging skin on the lower abdomen. A second incision is made up around the belly button area to address sagging above the belly button. A traditional tummy tuck allows tightening across the entire abdominal area and removes a good deal of excess skin and underlying fat. Abdominal muscles are usually brought back to the center and re-attached. Liposuction is often added to remove some pockets of fat.
- Mini or partial tummy tuck — This procedure is for patients who don’t have lots of excess, sagging skin, but still want to remove a small pooch in the lower stomach area. Only the lower incision is made, and it usually won’t span the same length as with a full tummy tuck.
- Lateral tension tummy tuck — This is similar to a traditional tummy tuck, but the high lateral tummy tuck uses both horizontal pulling as well as vertical pulling and tightening. This works to slim the contour and it can tighten the skin above the navel to a higher degree.
- Reverse tummy tuck — This rare method involves an incision below the breasts or at the breast crease. It is focused on tightening the skin from the navel to the breasts.
- Extended tummy tuck — This method takes the lower incision from the full tummy tuck and extends it past the hipbones. The incision may wrap around the flanks to better address them, or it can extend all the way around to the back to allow tightening and tissue removal of the upper buttocks. Extended tucks could be deemed a combination with a thigh lift or buttock lift.
"Absolutely grateful for all the reviews that encouraged me to see Dr. Shah. Just four days after my procedure, and I can sincerely say that with every time I have contacted Dr. Shah's office, met with him, and the procedure itself, I have been impressed and very happy! Dr. Shah has a wonderful, attentive manner and his staff is excellent. All of my appointments and calls have been timely, professional, and everyone has gone out of their way to make me feel at ease."
How should I prepare for a tummy tuck?
Tummy tuck surgery with Dr. Shah is major surgery, so you’ll prepare as you would for any surgery. That means you’ll stop taking any blood thinners, anti-inflammatory medications, aspirin, and most herbal supplements for at least one week prior to your surgery. These can create excessive bleeding and subsequent bruising. If you smoke, you’ll need to stop for at least two weeks prior and two weeks after your surgery. Smoking causes your blood vessels to constrict, and this impedes healing.
With a tummy tuck your real preparation is for your recovery. When you return home, you’ll be hunched over — standing up straight will be a challenge for a few days. Climbing stairs will be out, as well, so you need to prepare to sleep downstairs if you normally sleep upstairs. You want to create a recovery nest filled with comfy pillows, blankets, and entertainment galore, as you’ll need to lay low for at least the first week. This is no time to “tough it out” and rush your recovery or do things on your own. You won’t be able to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for a while, so you’ll want to enlist assistance for most things around the house. Reaching up will also be a no-no, so prior to your surgery it’s a good idea to bring any common items you may need, such as plates or glasses, down within easy reach.
It's important to follow Dr. Shah’s post-surgery instructions carefully, and these involve preparation prior to your surgery. Doing so will allow your long incision to heal as cleanly as possible.
Tummy Tuck Surgery
All tummy tuck procedure types are considered outpatient procedures and performed under general anesthesia. First, Dr. Shah makes a coordinating incision based on the type of tummy tuck being performed. Then, he will remove the appropriate amount of tissue and skin. Next, Dr. Shah will stitch underlying muscles and the fascia beneath the skin into a new, tighter position with permanent sutures.
As needed, the skin around the navel and the navel itself will be adjusted. Finally, Dr. Shah will close the abdominal incisions. Depending on the type of tummy tuck and the patient's body the procedure can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours.
Tummy Tuck Before and After
Tummy Tuck Recovery
Immediately after the tummy tuck, we will wrap the abdomen in surgical dressing, and Dr. Shah may choose to place drains or tubes. This is to allow excess fluid to exit the surgery site. The abdomen will be swollen and sore after the effects of IV medication subside.
Patients have to keep drains in place for a week or two. In order to support abdominal tissue healing, patients wear a compression garment for several weeks. It is very important that after the tummy tuck you keep your abdomen bent to allow for healing. In most cases, patients can resume normal activities, including light exercise, within the first month after abdominoplasty.
When can I get back to my normal activities?
As mentioned above, any strenuous exercise or lifting needs to wait for six weeks. But returning to normal stuff such as driving and walking up and down stairs will vary by the patient. Obviously, you cannot drive if you’re still taking your prescription pain medication. But within 10 days or so, you should be good to go with most activities. Pain will be your barometer on what you can and cannot do, and you need to listen to it. It’s key to not place any unnecessary stress on your lower incision.
How can I minimize my incision scars from my tummy tuck?
These surgeries create a lengthy incision scar. That is unavoidable. Dr. Shah tries to minimize the appearance of the lower incision by dropping it down to the pubic area. This enables the patient to hide the incision under a bathing suit bottom or underwear. If there is a belly button incision, it often can be made from within the belly button to eliminate a visible scar.
There are a couple keys to minimizing the appearance of incision scars. First, don’t place any stress on your incisions. Wear your compression garments and avoid movements that you can feel pull on your incisions. Second, keep sunlight off your incisions. Third, massage your incisions. After the wound is fully closed and sutures are removed, it helps to massage the incision and the surrounding tissue. Use lotion so that your fingers don’t stick to your skin but slide freely.
Results of Abdominoplasty
It is important to note that results are not immediate and become more noticeable over time. It can take up to three months for swelling to completely subside. As your body heals, you will see more and more of your new self. Maintaining your weight with a consistent diet and exercise will yield longer-lasting results.
Tummy Tuck Alternatives
In some cases, patients need to remove additional fat before tightening the muscles and skin. Therefore, some patients elect to combine tummy tuck surgery with liposuction or Vaser Lipo. Additionally, a tummy tuck is not the ideal choice for everyone. We offer non-surgical options including Endymed 3DEEP treatment, as well as CoolSculpting. They are not intended for the same dramatic results that are possible with abdominoplasty.
What are the risks of an Abdominoplasty?
A tummy tuck with Dr. Shah is major surgery, so it involves all the risks associated with surgery: excessive bleeding, poor wound healing, infection, blood clot formation, and the like. These issues are very rare.
The main possible risk or complication is the incision. This procedure creates the longest incision in cosmetic surgery, stretching from hipbone to hipbone. This area isn’t overly vascularized, and it doesn’t have as many nerve endings as more sensitive areas of the body, so it tends to heal efficiently. But there is a risk that the incision will not heal evenly.
You may have heard the term “dog ears” in reference to the incision with a tummy tuck, which can lead to protruding skin at the extreme ends of a closed incision. These can develop in surgeries that involve skin tightening and require elliptical incisions, such as tummy tuck surgery. Some patients are prone to developing dog ears while others are not.
The expertise of Dr. Shah, who has double board certification in both plastic surgery and general surgery, is important here. He works to reduce pressure on the skin during suturing, which keeps scars thin and helps them fade effectively. It also helps if the patient keeps her skin healthy, as proper skin care helps to keep the skin pliable.
We advise our patients to wait at least six months after their tummy tuck before worrying about possible dog ears. This allows the incisions to fully settle and heal. In this time, the extended skin can have time to resorb, and the incision can fully flatten.
Can a tummy tuck be combined with other procedures?
A tummy tuck is combined with a breast lift and liposuction in Dr. Shah’s mommy makeovers, which address the body areas most impacted by the stresses and changes of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. This is a popular combination of procedures into a single surgical session.
You could also combine a tummy tuck with a thigh or buttock lift. To include an outer thigh lift and potentially a buttock lift, Dr. Shah would extend the tummy tuck incision beyond the hipbones to the flanks, and possibly around to the back.
Liposuction is already a part of most tummy tuck procedures, as Dr. Shah uses it to remove pockets of fat for some patients.
If you’re interested in combining procedures, bring this up during your consultation with Dr. Shah. The two of you can discuss your options. It is important to remember, however, that tummy tucks already involve a significant recovery.