Are you bothered by belly fat or sagging abdomen and planning to get a tummy tuck/abdominoplasty? Before going into any procedure, be it a minor or major surgery, one should fully understand everything about it. Thorough knowledge of the procedure, careful planning, plus a board-certified plastic surgeon who is well trained in tummy tuck will help you fulfill your dream of a flat, firm, and aesthetically pleasing abdomen that you’ve been longing for.

What is Tummy Tuck? How Is it Done?

Tummy tuck or Abdominoplasty in medical terms is a major cosmetic surgical procedure that reshapes and contours the abdominal area by removing the excess fats and sagging skin and tightening the weakened muscles resulting in a flat, firm, smooth, and well-shaped abdomen. It is the sixth most common cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States. Almost over 100,000 procedures are performed each year.

Tummy Tuck Procedure

The procedure starts by administering the anesthesia. It can either be general anesthesia or sedation depending on the type of tummy tuck to be done and the length of the procedure. Your plastic surgeon will tell you which is the best choice for you. The type of incision done depends on whether you will undergo a complete tummy tuck or a partial or mini tummy tuck.

A complete or full tummy tuck is done in target areas involving the upper and lower abdomen. A horizontal incision is done from hip to hip above the pubic area. The abdominal skin is then lifted, the excess fats are removed and the weakened muscles are repaired. A second incision is done around the navel to remove excess skin in the upper abdomen. The upper abdominal skin is pulled down, the excess skin is trimmed and then the remaining skin is sutured together and concealed in the bikini area. This will leave permanent scars in the area which will eventually improve in time.

The navel will then be relocated so a new opening will be done since the position is displaced upon the pulling of the abdominal skin. Drainage tubes may be placed under the skin to drain excess fluids. The surgery lasts from 1-5 hours. It can be an outpatient procedure or you might need an overnight stay in the hospital depending on the case.

A mini tummy tuck is less invasive than a full tummy tuck. It is particularly appropriate for problem areas involving the lower abdomen only. A single horizontal incision is done above the pubic area similar to a Caesarian section followed by removal of fats and repair of weakened muscles. A second incision is no longer needed since the belly button is not moved. Drainage tubes may or may not be placed. The scar will be just a few inches long and it takes 2-3 hours to finish the procedure if done alone.

Benefits of Tummy Tuck

Aside from the cosmetic benefit of having flat, toned abs, perfectly fit clothing, improved appearance, and regained self-confidence, abdominoplasty has 4 major health benefits:

  1. Repair of ventral hernia – Hernia is a protrusion of intestines into an opening in the abdominal wall due to weakened muscles. With a tummy tuck, the abdominal muscles are tightened, thus correcting and even preventing ventral hernia.
  2. It lessens stress urinary incontinence – Women who have given birth via vaginal delivery are more prone to stress urinary incontinence or uncontrolled leakage of urine upon coughing, sneezing, laughing, and exercising. This is caused by too much pressure on the bladder and urethra. The plastic surgeon creates a bladder obstruction using a soft tissue near the pelvic area which lessens stress urinary continence.
  3. Improvement of posture – After a tummy tuck procedure, the muscles are tightened and strengthened, giving more support to the spine, thus, improving posture and decreasing back pain.
  4. Aids in weight maintenance and management – Several patients after the tummy tuck procedure are motivated to maintain their diet and exercise to improve the results of the surgery.

Risks and Possible Complications

Like any other major surgery, a tummy tuck has certain risks. Those with poor circulation, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, lung disease, and those who smoke have a greater risk of complications. Otherwise, if you are in perfect health, complications are rare and manageable by a well-trained, board-certified plastic surgeon. Other complications include infection, bleeding, hematoma or bruising, scarring, seroma or accumulation of fluid, poor wound healing, blood clots, numbness, wound separation, and fat necrosis.

Discuss these things with your surgeon before going into surgery.

Post-Operative Recovery

Recovery is a healing process. It varies from person to person depending on factors such as age, state of health, the type of tummy tuck done, and post-surgical care. Immediately after the procedure, an abdominal binder is placed around the abdomen to facilitate wound healing by reducing the swelling. It also acts as abdominal support to enhance comfort, prevent hematoma and seroma, cushion the incision site, and produce a smoother result.

The abdominal binder should be worn for at least 6 weeks or upon the advice of the surgeon. Expect swelling, numbness, soreness, and bruising for a few weeks to months. These will eventually subside completely in 3 months. Once at home, you have to rest for at least 1-2 days from daily activities and since you will have difficulty bending, walking, and changing positions, it is advisable to have someone to help or assist you until you are able to recover.

Ambulation is however encouraged to prevent blood clots. Follow the instructions given by the surgeon closely regarding the pain medications, antibiotics, and the activities that are allowed post-op. You will also be instructed on the proper care of the drainage tubes and incision site. Smoking and drinking alcohol are prohibited for at least 3 months post-surgery.

Strenuous activities and exercises are avoided until 6 weeks after surgery. You may resume driving 2-3 weeks post-op. Swimming is postponed up to 8 weeks to prevent infection. It is safe to wait for at least 4 weeks after surgery before sexual intimacy. In general, patients should avoid taking blood thinners such as Aspirin to avoid bleeding.

Watch out for high-grade fever, severe pain unrelieved by medications, extreme redness on the area, pus from the incision site, and excessive bleeding. If any of these signs are present, you can call your surgeon immediately. The healing process takes time but with proper post-op care and management, expect a fast recovery and a gratifying result.

Cost of Tummy Tuck

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a tummy tuck is 6,154 USD. Most insurance does not cover tummy tuck procedures since it is primarily aesthetic.

Are You a Good Candidate for Tummy Tuck?

Reasons like restoring the youthful or pre-pregnancy abs, aging, excessive weight loss, loose and sagging skin despite strict diet, and exercise encourage more and more people to experience the promising benefits of the tummy tuck. However, the procedure is not appropriate for everyone. You must meet the following criteria:

  1. You should be in overall good health
  2. You should be in a stable weight
  3. You should be a non-smoker or willing to stop smoking 3 weeks before and 3 months after surgery
  4. You should have a realistic expectation and goal
  5. You have a loose sagging abdomen and weakened muscles

If you think you meet the above criteria and you have a long desire for a flat, firm, well-shaped abdomen, then go for a tummy tuck. Contact Dr. Kenton Schoonover at Kansas Plastic Surgery to schedule an appointment.

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