Tummy tuck, also called as abdominoplasty surgery, is usually performed as a cosmetic procedure for patients who want to improve the appearance of their abdomen. This is done by removing the loose skin and excess fats and tightening the underlying muscles to achieve a slimmer waist and flatter tummy.
To help you better understand tummy tuck, the California Surgical Institute has provided a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions about this surgery including its procedural steps, related fees, and recovery period.
A good candidate for this procedure should be physically healthy, within 25-30 percent of his or her recommended weight, non-smoker, and emotionally stable with realistic goals and expectations.
These problems are caused by previous pregnancies, natural effects of aging, major weight loss, or hereditary predisposition, or a combination of these factors.
If performed for cosmetic reasons, insurance providers do not cover the expenses related with tummy tuck. However, some of them cover a certain percentage if the procedure is performed to treat hernia, a condition in which an organ visibly protrudes because of the weakened muscles.
Some insurance companies may also provide coverage for massive weight loss patients whose hanging skin and fats result to health problems such as breakdown of skin or non-healing irritation, back problems caused by the weight of the excess tissues, difficulty or inconvenience in walking and sitting, and foul odor.
Some plastic surgeons have a tie-up with private finance companies that offer qualified patients with an easier payment mode. But if the tummy tuck will serve as a treatment for hernia, they should instead visit first their insurance providers.
Because tummy tuck involves recovery, patients should undergo laboratory examinations to determine any underlying illness that may predispose them to higher risk of complications, delayed healing, and unnecessary scars.
At least two weeks prior to the surgery, they should also avoid aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements which can increase bleeding and prolong their recovery. And in case that they are smoking, they should also quit the bad habit well in advance of the operation since the nicotine can prevent the proper circulation of oxygen which is important in the healing process.
Patients should only choose a doctor who has a board certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) which demands strict requirements to its members. Another important consideration is a surgeon’s experience, skills (which can be seen by looking at the before-and-after pictures of his patients), and ethical standards.
As long as the patients will maintain a normal, stable weight and avoid pregnancy, the result of this procedure can last a lifetime, although it may slightly be affected by the natural effects of aging. With this consideration, individuals who are planning to have children and people who are experiencing weight fluctuations are advised to postpone the surgery.
Patients should not treat this surgery as a substitute for weight loss and healthy lifestyle; in fact, those with unstable weight will not benefit from this procedure. Also, tummy tuck does not correct stretch marks, although it may somewhat improve the appearance of the abdomen if the purplish or whitish marks are located on the areas of loose skin that will be excised, often below the navel.
There two basic types of tummy tuck that are used today. For patients who need the most correction, the complete abdominoplasty is the most ideal approach in which doctors create a hip-to-hip incision below the navel. This surgical cut may come in U shape or slightly straight line, depending on the amount and location of the excess skin and fats.
The second type of tummy tuck is called mini or partial abdominoplasty in which doctors create a shorter incision below the navel. The procedural steps in this technique are the same with the complete abdominoplasty, although it does not relocate the belly button and does not target the upper abdominal area.
To fully enjoy the benefits of mini tummy tuck, the patients should only have a minimal amount of excess skin and fats which are mainly located below the navel.
This is another type of mini tummy tuck in which doctors use an endoscope, a fiber-optic camera attached to a probe and provides live feedback to a screen. The use of this instrument means that the incision, which can be placed inside the navel or above the pubis, is significantly shorter.
Once the probe is inside the abdomen, the muscles are tightened and sutured in place. In many cases, liposuction is also performed to remove the bulging fats.
To fully enjoy the benefits of endoscopically-assisted tummy tuck, patients should have a relatively elastic skin and should only suffer from minimal sagging and excess fats in the abdomen.
Through the incisions placed along the lower pelvic area and sometimes around the navel (for complete tummy tuck), the surgeons can remove the loose skin and excess fats and tighten the abdominal muscles using deep internal sutures. Once the necessary alterations have been completed, they will close the incisions, and if necessary, reposition the belly button to achieve a more natural appearance.
Meanwhile, some doctors perform liposuction several months prior to the tummy tuck surgery to remove the excess, bulging fats in the abdominal area.
The cost of this surgery falls between $3,000 and $10,000, although it will still depend on the doctor’s fee, location of a hospital or an accredited outpatient surgical center, amount of skin and fats that is to be removed, anesthesiologist’s fee, and a patient’s body type.
Meanwhile, there are other variables which can influence the cost of tummy tuck which is why it is very important to ask a plastic surgeon about the exact amount of fees related with this surgery.
The recovery will depend on the length of the incisions, extensiveness of the procedure, and healing ability of a patient. But in general, those who will undergo a complete tummy tuck should expect more post-operative pain and discomfort and longer recovery compared with individuals who will have a mini or endoscopically-assisted abdominoplasty.
Many patients can return to their normal activities a week after their surgery, although they should avoid strenuous exercises and heavy lifting for several months or depending on the recommendations of their surgeons.
Because the procedure involves loosening the skin from its previous attachments, most patients will experience numbness which will gradually improve over the course of several months.
During the first few days of recovery, patients should expect swelling, bruising, and pain which can be alleviated by taking medications. These symptoms will gradually dissipate as the days go on.
To promote faster recovery and reduce the risk of blood clotting, most patients are advised to take a gentle walk as soon as possible. Take note that being sedentary may aggravate swelling and prolong the healing period.
It is also important for patients to elevate their head and shoulder for up to seven or 14 days while they are resting or sleeping in order to minimize swelling and encourage better circulation of blood to the incision site.
To prevent bleeding and skin necrosis (death of skin tissue), patients should avoid aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements while they are still recovering. On the other hand, they should follow their surgeon’s recommendation in terms of using antibiotic and pain medications.
Just to be on the safe side, patients should carefully follow their surgeon’s advice, ask anything that concerns them, perform post-operative visits, and immediately inform their doctors if they experience abnormal heart rate, excessive swelling, and other signs of complications.
These surgical garments, which are made of an elastic material, can support the newly shaped abdomen, help the skin to settle firmly against the body, and prevent the sagging appearance.
As the days go by, the swelling and bruising will gradually subside until the improvements in the abdomen can be seen. However, it usually takes several weeks or even months before the final result of tummy tuck will be apparent.
Regular exercises and healthy diet can help a person maintain the result of tummy tuck. However, future pregnancy can reverse the outcome which is why most doctors recommend women who are planning to have children to postpone the surgery.
With the advancement in US plastic surgery, this procedure is relatively safe especially if a patient will rigidly follow his surgeon’s advice. But in some cases, complications happen such as infection and blood clots, although these are easily treatable as long as the person will immediately seek medical attention.
Yes. This is because the female body and its “standard” of beauty are different from men’s.