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What is a Tummy Tuck?
Tummy Tuck

What is a Tummy Tuck?

Written by
Dr. William Albright
Dr. William Albright is a board certified plastic surgeon specializing in breast and body procedures.
Dr. William Albright is a board certified plastic surgeon specializing in breast and body procedures.

What is a Tummy Tuck?

Introduction to Abdominoplasty

For women with loose, damaged skin on the belly, whether it is from multiple pregnancies or weight loss, a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) may be the best way to get a more youthful and attractive stomach.  For these women, there really is no “minimally invasive” or non-surgical substitute for a tummy tuck.  Women rave about ‘getting their bodies back’ and being able to wear ‘regular’ clothes or even a two-piece swimsuit again with confidence!  

A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is a cosmetic surgery that will remove excess skin and stretch marks, typically from the lower part of the abdomen and leave a scar that can be hidden under most underwear and bikini bottoms.  While loose skin is being removed, a stretched or damaged looking belly button (umbilicus) can often also be rejuvenated and any umbilical hernia fixed at the same time.  Also, if there has been separation of the abdominal muscles from pregnancies (rectus diastasis), Dr. Albright can improve this with ‘rectus plication’ helping to narrow and feminize the waistline.  Full or droopy pubic mound (mons pubis)? Dr. Albright will see about flattening this during the surgery. Therefore, a tummy tuck is plastic surgery that can rejuvenate the entire abdominal area!

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimate 130,081 people received a tummy tuck in 2018.

As a board certified tummy tuck plastic surgeon in Texas, if patients will benefit from additional body contouring, Dr. Albright may suggest combining the tummy tuck with liposuction to get an even better result.  

What does the tummy tuck surgery entail?

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has a great animated video on the tummy tuck surgery (3 min) -

What do the tummy tuck scars look like?

The common scar pattern is a horizontal (side-to-side) scar located above the pubic mound near where a C-section scar would be placed. The scar is contoured and positioned so that it should be fairly easy to hide with most types of underwear and bikini bottoms.  The scar is longer than a C section scar, and the length depends on how much skin needs to be removed with a "mini abdominoplasty" having the shortest length scar. Occasionally, if the belly button is being relocated, a short vertical scar may be necessary between the belly button and the low horizontal scar, and a scar will be placed around the ‘new’ belly button.  

Other scar options are a “reverse tummy tuck” where the scar is placed redundant skin is moved upward, and a horizontal scar is placed under the breasts. This is far less common than the traditional lower body scar.  Finally, for patients  who have had dramatic weight-loss success including after bariatric surgery, it may be necessary to perform a “fleur-de-lis” incision which combines a traditional lower side-to-side incision with a long vertical incision creating an upside down ‘T’ pattern.  This is sometimes needed to address not only top-down skin excess but also side-to-side skin excess. Although the scar pattern is more visible and difficult to hide out-of-clothing, the resulting improvement in shape and waist definition is usually considered a fair trade by these patients.  

Check out the blog article Tummy Tuck Scars Over Time with Pictures to see real life examples of how tummy tuck scars heal over time.

What is the recovery like?

In the first week after surgery, the patient will need to maintain a flexed waist (bent-over) position while standing, sitting and lying down. In the days following surgery if drains are used, they will typically be removed by the second week.  In the first week patients will wear an abdominal binder 24/7, followed by 5 weeks of a compression garment.   Walking exercise may be resumed by 4 weeks in most patients, followed by advancing to strenuous activities at 6 weeks.  Most patients will be unrestricted by 2 months after surgery (out of compression and performing all normal exercise activities).  However, if a rectus diastasis repair was performed, Dr. A will recommend avoiding intense abdominal bracing movements like heavy weightlifting, until 3 months after surgery, and with precautions.

One of the biggest reasons for the tremendous growth in non-surgical or minimally-invasive body contouring procedures is the longer recovery involved with surgery.  However the surgical result can not be replicated with these other technologies.  Every month, Dr Albright works with patients who have high work / life demands, including parental responsibilities.  Although individual recommendations may vary, most patients will need at least 2 weeks to recover from surgery prior to resuming less physically demanding work assignments, regular household chores and primary child care.  Ideally the patient’s younger children do not need to be lifted routinely, and are able to climb in and out of their car seat without help.  Most patients benefit from the assistance of a spouse or partner for the first week, and a family member for the second week.  

Written by
Dr. William Albright

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