What’s a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck is a procedure which restores a flat, toned appearance to the abdomen. Excess skin is removed from the abdomen. If necessary, the separation between the underlying abdominal muscles is also reduced; this is almost always included in a tummy tuck. It may be chosen by women after their final pregnancy, by people who’ve lost a significant amount of weight and are experiencing excess baggy skin as a result, or by those whose abdomens are saggy due to aging.
If you’re considering a tummy tuck, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that a tummy tuck is right for you, then proceed. To help you in your decision-making process, we have some information about the risks and benefits of having a tummy tuck at Tummy Tuck: Risks and Benefits.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective surgery with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the surgeon who will perform your surgery if you decide to proceed.
How it’s done
A tummy tuck is done under general anesthesia. After the anesthetic takes effect, the skin is thoroughly cleaned with a liquid which may temporarily stain the skin yellow, and an incision is made. You will have previously discussed the incision location with your surgeon, and it will be made in the optimal location to allow the result you want; in most cases, it will be made horizontally along the thigh creases and just above the pubic hairline. Excess skin is removed. The underlying abdominal muscles are usually sutured together to reduce the separation between them. The abdominal skin is tightened, and a new opening is created for the belly button. Then the incisions (at the bottom of the abdomen and around the belly button) are sewn closed using several layers of sutures; the outer layer may consist of fine suture, skin adhesive, or medical tape. Nothing other than skin is inserted into or removed from the abdomen itself; if you have excess fatty deposits in the abdomen, you can consider combining your tummy tuck with liposuction to remove them (this is common).
Preparing for the procedure
Choosing your surgeon
When choosing a surgeon, you want a highly-trained professional with experience in this type of surgery. A member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has received at least six years of surgical training after medical school, with three of those specifically in plastic surgery. Look for the designation “ASPS” after the surgeon’s name. Also, choose a surgeon with whom you feel comfortable and safe, and who listens to you and tries to understand your goals. If you have friends who’ve had cosmetic surgery, and you like their results, ask for a referral. While cost may be a consideration, don’t allow this to override more important factors in your decision. Your safety and the quality of your results are worth a little extra spending.
Getting ready for surgery
You will have at least one appointment with your surgeon before your surgery, during which you’ll discuss your options, ask any questions you have, and make the decision about proceeding with the surgery.
The day before your surgery, you should eat and drink enough healthy food and water, and get enough sleep the night before. You will need to stop eating 8 to 12 hours before your surgery. If you smoke, you should stop for at least 24 hours before the surgery. If you take daily medications to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, you will likely be asked to stop those for 24 to 48 hours before the surgery (proceed as directed by your doctor, and don’t stop any medication without talking to your doctor first).
You will stay at the surgical center in the recovery room for several hours following surgery, for the anesthesia to wear off. You should then plan to spend 24 to 48 hours recovering at home with minimal activity, and your activity will be reduced (no strenuous exercise or lifting heavy objects) for about a week or two following surgery. You may have a thin tube called a drain placed under your skin, to prevent excess fluid from collecting and delaying your healing. You can resume your normal activity at the direction of your surgeon, who will see you for at least one postoperative visit several days after surgery. If sutures were used to close the skin, they’ll likely be removed at this appointment. If drains were placed, they will also likely be removed by your surgeon at this visit, unless there’s a need for them to stay in longer.
Make sure you take it easy during your recovery! Too much activity could delay your healing and may lead to your scars not looking ideal. It’s also very important to take care of your incisions, keeping them clean and watching for signs of infection, and to wear your support garment to reduce swelling and allow healing. Even after you’re cleared to resume normal activity, you should expect to have some soreness and swelling for around 4-6 weeks after surgery. It may take a year or even longer for the incision lines to fully fade, though they will eventually become nearly invisible in most people.