Yara Zakharia, Esq.
Otherwise known as abdominoplasty in medical circles, tummy tucks are one of the five most requested cosmetic procedures among American women, alongside breast reduction, eyelid surgery, breast augmentation, and liposuction.
Although tummy tuck surgery is performed on both men and women, the vast majority of patients are females in the 35-50 age bracket. Studies have shown that this popular cosmetic surgery enhancement, which enables individuals to have a more toned, slimmer appearance and achieve a flat stomach, produces results that are highly-satisfactory to patients and that boost their body image.
Am I a Tummy Tuck Candidate?
A full abdominoplasty addresses the problem of a protruding abdomen by tightening over-extended abdominal muscles and skin and eliminating excess fat and skin, which in turn creates a flatter, smoother appearance. Anyone with too much abdominal tissue or flabby abdominal muscles due to obesity, pregnancy, age, or rapid weight loss and for whom exercise and diet have not yielded favorable outcomes is a good candidate for this type of surgery.
To be eligible for an abdominoplasty, individuals must:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be in good physical shape
- Have the maturity to understand the procedure's implications
- Be relatively healthy and free of serious health conditions
- Be in sound psychological and mental health
- Not be pregnant or anticipating a pregnancy
- Not be significantly obese
Prospective patients with elastic skin generally achieve better results since their skin can adjust to the abdomen's new shape and size.
Tummy Tuck Benefits
Tummy tucks boast numerous benefits including the following:
- A younger appearance and an enhanced physique
- Elimination of accumulated fat and sagging skin
- Firmer abdominal muscles
- Flatter stomach
- Smaller waist
As an added benefit, stretch marks removal may be accomplished via an abdominoplasty. Stretch marks appear when underlying tissues become stretched and tear, thus damaging skin collagen. Typically, these are caused by certain diseases, puberty, pregnancy, obesity, bodybuilding, excessive weight loss, and rapid weight gain. Abdominoplasty is the only proven method for removing stretch marks.
Before undergoing a tummy tuck, individuals are scheduled for a consultation with the surgeon who is expected to perform the procedure. Among the issues discussed are:
- Choices of anesthesia
- Medical history
- Patient's expectations
- The procedure
- The surgical options at the patient's disposal
The surgeon will also conduct a physical examination of the region necessitating treatment, show the patient samples of before and after photos, and offer him or her the opportunity to speak with former clients.
In selecting the appropriate surgical technique, the following considerations are taken into account: 1) the surgeon's and patient's preferences, 2) the extent of the operation, and 3) the patient's condition. The procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia. The following are some of the most commonly-performed types of tummy tuck procedures:
Considered as major surgery, a full abdominoplasty is only performed on patients with a substantial quantity of excess skin that needs removal and considerably lax abdominal muscles.
The surgeon makes the first cut from one hipbone to the other and a second incision in the area surrounding the navel in order to loosen the skin. He or she then separates the patient's skin from the abdominal wall and then seals the incisions with staples or sutures. The connective tissues and muscles are stitched together, thus tightening the abdominal wall. The loosened skin is then pulled down, and the excess skin is removed.
The surgeon may either keep the belly button in its original place and reshape the skin around it or reposition the navel for a more aesthetic appearance. In a full tummy tuck, the patient's loose abdominal muscles are tightened and redundant fat and skin are eliminated.
Also referred to as a partial tummy tuck, this option consists solely of removing excess fat and skin beneath the belly button. Since the belly button is not moved and muscles are not tightened, this is a less invasive surgery than a full tummy tuck. Consequently, it is often performed as an outpatient procedure and only requires application of a local anesthetic.
This type of tummy tuck procedure keeps the belly button in place and focuses instead on the removal of fat and skin. It is intended for individuals with a more lax skin than those eligible for mini-tummy tucks.
Procedure Information and Risks
Patients can also choose to have their tummy tucks performed endoscopically. Abdominoplasties are usually performed at a surgical suite or hospital, depending on the surgeon's and patient's preferences.
A mini-tummy tuck is usually completed in one to two hours, whereas a full abdominoplasty generally consumes two to five hours. Patients can expect to experience moderate to severe discomfort during the first few days following the surgery and soreness for at least one week. Surgeons may prescribe pain medication to alleviate the post-operative symptoms.
Like any major operation, abdominoplasties carry potential risks and side effects such as the following:
- Thromboemboli (rare)
- Loss of skin sensitivity (usually short-term)
- Tissue necrosis
Post Abdominoplasty Surgery
Patients will have post-surgical scars that usually become less noticeable (flatten out and lighten in color) over time. Smoking has a potentially adverse impact on scars, retards the healing process, and exacerbates complications. Patients whose treatment area is small are usually discharged from the hospital the same day. Sutures are usually removed within a week following the tummy tuck procedure. The average recovery period for abdominoplasties ranges from 4 to 6 weeks. While some patients are able to return to work in two weeks, others need up to four weeks to fully recuperate.
Provided that patients exercise regularly, maintain a steady weight, follow a healthy diet, patients can expect the results of their tummy tuck procedure to be long-term.
Since insurance providers rarely provide coverage for abdominoplasties, patients will have to absorb the surgical cost and fees. On average, the cost for tummy tuck runs from $4,000 to $8,000. Fees differ according to the region (rural, suburban, and urban). The vast majority of surgeons offer financing options, Prospective patients may avail themselves of the different financing options offered by most surgeons and of personal loans for plastic surgery.
Finally, before going under the knife, individuals should seek out a qualified, board-certified surgeon who is experienced in abdominoplasties.
[page updated December 2008]