Whether working toward a lower BMI for health reasons, a pre-pregnancy body, or confidence during swimsuit season, the simple fact remains that weight loss is difficult. When fat is still present in the abdominal region after diet and exercise, an abdominoplasty, also known as a tummy tuck, can be the answer. The board-certified surgeons at Premier Plastic Surgery & Dermatology are here to answer your questions.
A tummy tuck is a procedure that removes excess fat from the abdomen and surrounding areas to achieve a firmer, smoother appearance. A full tummy tuck takes from one to five hours, depending on the amount of fat removed, and the patient is usually placed under general anesthesia during this period. Under anesthesia, the patient will not feel any pain, and his or her muscles will remain completely relaxed, leading to a safer surgery.
After the patient is anesthetized, two incisions are made. The first is from hipbone to hipbone just above the pubic area, and the other is to protect the navel. The skin is then lifted from the incision up to the ribs, revealing the abdominal muscles. If the vertical abdominal muscles need to be tightened, the surgeon may do so by stitching them closer together. Next, the skin is stretched back down over the abdomen, and the excess skin and fat are cut away. Once the skin is back in place, a third incision is made across the stretched skin to locate the navel and stitch it back into position. If necessary, excess fluids are drained from beneath the incision. The abdomen is then stitched closed and covered with dressings.
A mini or partial tummy tuck flattens only the area beneath a patient’s navel. This procedure is shorter, taking only one to two hours. A single incision is made just above the pubic hairline. The skin is stretched into position, and any excess is cut away. Then, the incision is closed with stitches. During this procedure, the muscle wall is not tightened, and the navel is not repositioned.
For anyone considering an abdominoplasty, the first step is a consultation with an experienced, board certified surgeon. During the consultation, the surgeon will discuss the procedure, associated risks, anesthesia, and post-surgical care. The doctor will tell the patient which medications to avoid in the weeks before and after the surgery and may prescribe a medicated soap to decrease bacteria levels on the skin near the future incision site. At this time, a staff member can also explain the cost of the procedure and what payment options are available. Patients should use this time to ask any questions or address concerns they may have.
Depending on the procedure, patients may return home a few hours after recovering from the anesthesia, or the next day after spending a night in the hospital or surgery center. For a full tummy tuck, surgical drains are removed one week after the procedure. Then, one to two weeks after the procedure, stitches are removed as well. Swelling, bruising, and pain in the abdominal area are normal and will likely last from two to six weeks. Patients in good health with relatively strong abdominal muscles generally experience shorter recovery times.
For the first few days after surgery, patients should remain flexed at the hips without straightening the torso to avoid unnecessary strain on the surgical site. Patients should begin walking as soon as possible after the procedure to prevent blood clots in the legs, and they should engage in mild and non-painful exercise to decrease swelling and improve muscle tone. The patient should not shower until the surgeon has removed the surgical drains; however, sponge baths are allowed. While these are general tips, surgeons will provide patients with specific aftercare instructions before sending them home.
Due to the incisions made during the procedure, scars are an unavoidable part of tummy tucks. The severity and visibility of these scars depend on the extent of the procedure. For example, a full abdominoplasty usually leads to greater scarring than a mini tummy tuck. Scarring is also determined by the technique used and the amount of fat removed. The scars are usually at their worst three to six months after the procedure. However, between nine months to a year, they flatten out and lighten in color, reducing their visibility. The scars never fully disappear, but due to their location, they are usually hidden easily under clothing, including bathing suits. Most patients feel that mild scarring is a worthwhile trade for a sleeker, flatter abdomen.
Anyone contemplating a tummy tuck should consult with a board certified surgeon to determine whether he or she is a good candidate. Premier Plastic Surgery & Dermatology offers consultations to discuss candidacy for this procedure and to determine whether a full tummy tuck, mini tummy tuck, or liposuction will achieve the best results. This decision will depend on a variety of factors, including the amount of fat that must be removed, the patient’s general health and skin elasticity, the size and shape of the abdomen and torso, and the location of the fat deposits. In general, men and women who are in relatively good shape, but desire a smoother, flatter stomach, are good candidates.
Other common candidates for this procedure include mothers whose pregnancies have caused loose abdomens that do not respond to diet and exercise. However, anyone who either may become pregnant or plans to become pregnant in the future should discuss this possibility with her surgeon. Depending on the woman’s skin elasticity and muscle tone, liposuction may be a better choice than an abdominoplasty in the case of a subsequent pregnancy.
The cost of an abdominoplasty depends on the type of procedure and the patient’s age, weight, and overall health. Because a tummy tuck is considered an elective cosmetic procedure, most insurance companies do not cover the cost unless the surgery is necessary for a serious medical reason such as an abdominal hernia. In the United States, the cost of a tummy tuck ranges from $5,000 to $9,000 depending on the surgeon and the complexity of the process. The specific cost of a tummy tuck performed by Premier Plastic Surgery & Dermatology can be discussed with a staff member during the initial consultation.
At Premier Plastic Surgery & Dermatology, we are dedicated to keeping patients informed about our medical procedures and helping them achieve the confident and beautiful bodies they seek. Our surgeons are highly qualified. Dr. Heil is ASAPS, ASPS, and FACS certified, and Dr. Busquets is a member of the AAD. Both come highly recommended by our previous patients. To learn more about our full and partial abdominoplasty procedures or to schedule a consultation with one of our surgeons, please contact us or visit one of our three Pennsylvania locations.