Tummy tuck surgery (also known as abdominoplasty) remains one of the most popular abdominal sculpting procedures in America, and for good reason: According to the cosmetic resource website New Beauty, this procedure boasts a 92% patient satisfaction rating. Most people who are eligible candidates for tummy tuck surgery have absolutely no regrets about investing in this procedure. Still, as is the case when having any type of surgery, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before you take the plunge. That’s why we decided to create this guide, which covers just about everything you need to know about abdominoplasty.
Am I a Good Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?
Before you book a tummy tuck consultation, you should make sure that you’re eligible to have this procedure. Many people have misconceptions about tummy tuck surgery—that it’s a weight loss procedure, for example, or that it’s a simple operation—and this can cause them to develop unrealistic expectations for this surgery.
Tummy tuck surgery is intended for use on people who are a healthy weight. You should be within 25 pounds of your ideal weight before you schedule this procedure. If you don’t lose most of your excess body fat before having tummy tuck surgery, your surgeon won’t be able to remove all your loose skin and flatten your stomach properly. It’s only medically safe to remove about 5 to 8 pounds of fat via liposuction. Ergo, while liposuction is often used in conjunction with tummy tuck surgery, there are limits to how much it can reduce the size of your belly. Additionally, it’s important to understand that tummy tuck surgery is intended for patients who have a significant amount of loose skin on their lower stomach. If you have a small deposit of stubborn belly fat you want removed, but you have good skin tone, you should probably elect to have liposuction instead. Liposuction is less invasive and comes with a shorter recovery period.
All tummy tuck candidates must be in good overall health and be nonsmokers. Any conditions that impair the body’s ability to handle general anesthesia or heal after sustaining injury (e.g., heart disease and diabetes) can make you an unsuitable candidate for this procedure. If you have any outstanding health conditions, talk to your doctor about how to manage them well enough to ensure that you can have surgery.
Generally, the ideal candidate for tummy tuck surgery is someone who has been overweight in the past, but who has since lost a significant amount of weight and therefore has excess skin where his or her belly used to protrude. Women who have had children also usually need to have tummy tuck surgery, both to remove stretched skin (and stretch marks) and to repair damage done to the abdominal muscles by pregnancy. Because the belly must expand extremely rapidly to accommodate a growing baby, the tissue between the abdominal muscles sometimes tears under the stress of pregnancy. Once this has occurred, only placing sutures within the damaged tissue will permit the muscles to heal. This is an essential step towards restoring the flatness of the abdomen because healthy abdominal muscles are needed to “compress” the organs, fat, and other tissues within the abdominal cavity. If the muscles are too damaged to perform this function, the patient’s belly will stick out even if she’s quite slim.
Finally, you should keep in mind that certain choices you make in the future, such as choosing to have another child, could compromise the results of your tummy tuck. Tummy tuck patients should therefore be done having children and they should be committed to maintaining a healthy weight.
What to Expect During Your Tummy Tuck Consultation
When you visit us for a tummy tuck consultation, we’ll discuss several different factors with you. This will allow us to create a personalized surgical plan that’s precisely tailored to meet your individual needs. You can expect to review all the following information during your consultation:
- Your surgical goals. We need to know what you’re trying to accomplish by having a tummy tuck so that we can make sure your expectations are realistic. We will also discuss your options with you; some people are eligible for a less invasive procedure known as a “mini” tummy tuck, for example, while others need a full tummy tuck but don’t need liposuction. We’ll let you know exactly what steps you’ll have to take to meet your cosmetic objectives.
- Your current health status. We’ll review your medical history to verify that you’re healthy enough to have this procedure. We’ll also discuss any medications you are taking and ask you about drug allergies. Prescribing preventative antibiotics and strong painkillers is normal procedure for tummy tuck patients, so it’s essential to rule out allergies.
- The potential risks and rewards of having this procedure. Tummy tuck surgery is a fairly safe operation, but all surgeries carry some slight risk of complications. We’ll let you know what the possible complications of abdominoplasty are and what you can do to prevent them. We’ll also discuss the medical benefits of tummy tuck surgery with you during your consultation. While this operation is seen as a purely aesthetic procedure by many people, it can actually help protect your health. Tummy tuck surgery can prevent the development of chronic back pain and dangerous ventral hernias. It can also be optimized to stop urinary incontinence.
- Your surgical history. If you have had any other kind of abdominal surgery in the past, we may need to alter our methods slightly when performing your tummy tuck.
- Your schedule. Tummy tuck surgery comes with a lengthy recovery time, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. We’ll help you figure out when is the best time for you to book two or more weeks off work in order to have your operation.
- Your lifestyle. As mentioned previously, tummy tuck patients have to be nonsmokers. This is the case because tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen available in the blood, thereby impairing the body’s ability to repair itself. This increases the risk of dangerous complications like blood clots, infection, and poor wound healing. If you smoke, you will have to stop three or four weeks before you have surgery. We will also review your use of alcohol and drugs to make sure you don’t have any lifestyle issues that might impair your immune system. Furthermore, we’ll need to review your activity levels. If you have a very active job or you’re the parent to small children, you will need to make significant adjustments to your lifestyle for two to three months after you have this procedure.
Once we’re done discussing all the above issues, we’ll take photographs of your abdomen. We’ll review these pictures while we plan your surgery.
What Happens During a Tummy Tuck
Depending on whether you need a full or mini tummy tuck, your surgeon will make either two incisions (one along the bikini line, the other around the navel) or one incision (along the bikini line). If you have elected to undergo liposuction as part of your tummy tuck, your surgeon will start by removing any excess fat that you have around your belly and flanks. He or she will then lift the skin in order to access the abdominal muscles. If you have sustained damage to the tissue in between your abdominal muscles, your surgeon will place sutures in this tissue. This will keep it closed and allow it to heal properly so that your abdominal muscles can work in unison once again. Finally, your surgeon will remove all the loose skin you have on your abdomen. During this process, stretch marks are also often entirely removed or smoothed out and made less visible. Once your skin has been pulled taut, your incisions will be closed and you will be ready to recover.
What to Expect During Tummy Tuck Recovery
Most people who have a full tummy tuck will have an outpatient surgery and return home the same day. You can expect to be very groggy for the first few days after your operation (owing to the effects of the general anesthesia), so you must arrange to have someone drive you home from the hospital.
During the first week after your surgery, you will probably experience some pain and swelling. However, if you take the painkillers you’re prescribed on schedule, this will help to prevent your pain symptoms from flaring up to a truly uncomfortable level. You will also be given aids to reduce swelling, such as a surgical drain and special compression garments to wear. Because you will be sore and may have to wear a drain, you should have someone at home with you to look after you during your first week of recovery. He or she will help you perform necessary tasks like going to the bathroom and getting food and water. Note that you should stock up on about two weeks’ worth of soft foods before your surgery. You might find that eating solid food makes you a bit nauseous owing to the lingering effects of the anesthesia and the swelling around your abdomen.
By the two-week mark, you should start to feel much better and may be able to walk around normally again, especially after you have your surgical drains removed. However, you should be aware that complete healing from tummy tuck surgery takes two to three months. Even if you feel fine, your deeper connective tissues still need time to completely regenerate and grow stronger. As such, you will not be able to engage in rigorous exercise or lift more than 25 pounds for two months after you have this operation. If you have small children at home, you will therefore need to arrange to have someone provide in-home childcare services for two to three months while you recover from your tummy tuck.
Enjoying the Results of Your Tummy Tuck
Most patients have to wait about three months for the swelling from their operation to completely go away. Once this occurs, however, you will probably discover that you have lost at least a few inches off your waistline, even if only 5 to 8 pounds of fat were removed during your procedure. Better still, you will no longer have any “folds” of loose skin giving your stomach a flabby appearance even when you’re a healthy weight. Your stomach will look smooth, flat, and bikini-ready.
Once your surgeon has cleared you to start exercising again, we recommend that you engage in core-strengthening activities. Your firm skin and lack of excess abdominal fat will allow you to build very visible stomach muscles. In other words, this procedure sets you up with everything you need to get the perfect six pack. With a bit of weight training, cardio, and the right diet plan, you’ll finally be able to achieve the body of your dreams.