Abdominoplasty, or Tummy Tuck, is a major surgical procedure intended
to dramatically reduce the appearance of a protruding abdomen.
Frequently Asked Questions.
How is the surgery performed? Typically, an incision is made from
hipbone to hipbone, just above the pubic area. A second incision is made
to free the navel from surrounding tissue. With partial abdominoplasty,
the incision is much shorter and the navel may not be moved, although it
may be pulled into an unnatural shape as the skin is tightened and stitched.
Next, the skin is separated from the abdominal wall all the way up to your
ribs and lifts a large skin flap to reveal the vertical muscles in your
abdomen. These muscles are tightened by pulling them close together and
stitching them into their new position. This provides a firmer abdominal
wall and narrows the waistline.
The skin flap is then stretched down and the extra skin is removed. A new
hole is cut for your navel, which is then stitched in place. Finally, the
incisions will be stitched, dressings will be applied, and a temporary tube
may be inserted to drain excess fluid from the surgical site.
In partial abdominoplasty, the skin is separated only between the incision
line and the navel. This skin flap is stretched down, the excess is removed,
and the flap is stitched back into place.
Will the surgery result in permanent scarring? Abdominoplasty does
produce a permanent scar, which, depending on the extent of the original
problem and the surgery required to correct it, can extend from hip to hip.
Your scars may actually appear to worsen during the first three to six months
as they heal, but this is normal. Expect it to take nine months to a year
before your scars flatten out and lighten in color. While they'll never
disappear completely, abdominal scars will not show under most clothing,
even under bathing suits.
How long does the procedure take? A complete abdominoplasty usually
takes two to five hours, depending on the extent of work required. Partial
abdominoplasty may take one to two hours.
How long is the recovery time? If you start out in top physical condition
with strong abdominal muscles, recovery from abdominoplasty will be much
faster than those who do not exercise on a regular basis. Some people return
to work after two weeks, while others take three or four weeks to rest and
Exercise will help you heal better. Even people who have never exercised
before should begin an exercise program to reduce swelling, lower the chance
of blood clots, and tone muscles. Vigorous exercise, however, should be
avoided until you can do it comfortably.
Will I need Anesthesia? Your doctor may select general anesthesia,
so you'll sleep through the operation.
Other surgeons use local anesthesia, combined with a sedative to make you
drowsy. You'll be awake but relaxed, and your abdominal region will be insensitive
to pain. (However, you may feel some tugging or occasional discomfort.)
Am I a good candidate for Abdominoplasty? The best abdominoplasty
candidates are men or women who are in relatively good shape but are bothered
by a large fat deposit or loose abdominal skin that won't respond to diet
or exercise. The surgery is particularly helpful to women who, through multiple
pregnancies, have stretched their abdominal muscles and skin beyond the
point where they can return to normal. Loss of skin elasticity in older
patients, which frequently occurs with slight obesity, can also be improved.
Patients who intend to lose a lot of weight should postpone the surgery.
Also, women who plan future pregnancies should wait, as vertical muscles
in the abdomen that are tightened during surgery can separate again during
pregnancy. If you have scarring from previous abdominal surgery, your doctor
may recommend against abdominoplasty or may caution you that scars could
be unusually prominent.
Before your procedure.
Your surgeon will evaluate your health, determine the extent of fat deposits
in your abdominal region, and carefully assess your skin tone in your initial
consult. Be sure to tell your surgeon if you smoke, and if you're taking
any medications, vitamins, or other drugs.
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery,
including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding
certain vitamins, and medications.
If you smoke, plan to quit at least one to two weeks before your surgery
and not to resume for at least two weeks after your surgery. Avoid overexposure
to the sun before surgery, especially to your abdomen, and do not go on
a stringent diet, as both can inhibit your ability to heal. If you develop
a cold or infection of any kind, your surgery will probably be postponed.
Whether your surgery is done on an outpatient or inpatient basis, you should
arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery, and assist you
for a day or two after you leave the hospital, if needed.
After your procedure.
For the first few days, your abdomen will probably be swollen and you're
likely to feel some pain and discomfort which can be controlled by medication.
Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may be released within a few
hours or you may have to remain hospitalized for two to three days.
Your doctor will give you instructions for showering and changing your dressings.
Although you may not be able to stand straight at first, you should start
walking as soon as possible.
Surface stitches will be removed in five to seven days, and deeper sutures,
with ends that protrude through the skin, will come out in two to three
weeks. The dressing on your incision may be replaced by a support garment.