Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is a very common cosmetic operation performed by our office staff.
Often many factors lead to the development of loose abdominal skin, such as major weight loss, multiple pregnancies, and even genetic predispositions. These loose areas may persist despite proper diet and exercise, and they can make the abdomen appear disproportionate with the rest of the body. Prior to embarking on these types of procedures, it is generally best to have maximized your results with weight loss through a proper diet and exercise program in order to achieve the most optimal of results.
Abdominoplasty surgery can be divided into two categories: mini-abdominoplasty and full-abdominoplasty.
A “partial” or mini-abdominoplasty typically requires only a single incision, and the area of dissection is not as extensive as in a full abdominoplasty. This is because during a mini-tummy tuck procedure, the position of the navel is not moved (translocated). This procedure is designed for patients who have less extensive looseness to the abdominal wall, and looseness that is only below the navel.
While it can be used to tighten the lower abdominal region quite well, it is not very effective for tightening looseness to the upper abdominal region. Although the incision is usually shorter than the incision made during a full tummy tuck, its length and shape will depend on the extent of treatment as well as the contours of your body.
A full abdominoplasty is designed to tighten the skin above and below the navel. A full abdominoplasty usually involves removing the loose skin and fatty deposits from the level of the umbilicus (belly-button) to the pubic region, as well as tightening the vertical muscles of the abdomen (rectus abdominus fascial plication.) This will give the abdomen a firmer look and feel and often remove much of the area of the abdominal skin that is affected by stretch marks, though, perhaps not all in every patient.
An abdominoplasty can be performed alone, or in conjunction with liposuction to further improve body contouring. For safety reasons, when liposuction is performed in conjunction with abdominoplasty, there may be limitations as to how much fatty tissue may be suction removed at the same time. Neither procedure should be considered as a treatment for obesity. Future pregnancies and substantial changes in weight following a tummy tuck, as well as the presence of scars from prior surgeries may decrease the effectiveness and longevity of treatment.
It is important to realize that there will be a permanent scar from abdominoplasty surgery. With a mini-abdominoplasty, the incision is usually in the area just above the pubic hairline, somewhat longer than a c-section type incision. With a full abdominoplasty, the incision is substantially longer and often spans from hip to hip, and there is usually a second scar around the outer edge of the belly button.
In order to prevent fluid build up as you heal, drainage tubes will likely be placed in the abdominal soft tissues, and will remain in place for approximately two to three weeks. Internal sutures are often used to “quilt” the abdominal skin to the musculature, in order to maximize the stability of the abdominal wall and reduce the amount of fluid buildup, facilitating healing.
After surgery most patients will be instructed to wear for several weeks a compression garment, which is similar to a girdle. This tight-fitting garment will help to reduce swelling by preventing fluid build up, as well as provide comfort and support as you heal. As with any major surgical procedure, you will likely experience pain, bruising, and swelling, most of which will subside in a few weeks.
While you may not be able to stand fully upright for a few weeks, it is important that you begin to walk for short periods soon after your procedure to facilitate blood flow. Your stitches will generally dissolve internally over a few months. However in cases were non-dissolving sutures are required, they are usually removed in 7-10 days. Most patients are able to return to work in one to three weeks, depending on the extent of the procedure that is performed.
However, it may take six to eight weeks before you feel able to return to full normal activity. And we generally recommend waiting three months before attempting any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting. Although you will have a permanent scar, it will slowly fade over time. It is important to realize that if you become pregnant or experience substantial weight gain or loss, the results from your procedure may be compromised. However, with proper diet and exercise, the results from a tummy tuck can be maintained for several years.