What is a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck is an acceptable, safe, and increasingly popular way to shape the abdominal area when diet and exercise are no longer effective. Over 115,000 tummy tucks were performed in 2011, an increase of over 53,000 annual procedures since 2000.
Why Get a Tummy Tuck?
There are a number of reasons for pursuing a tummy tuck from a Virginia plastic surgeon. Perhaps you want to return to your pre-pregnancy belly shape. Pregnancy can stretch the muscles and skin of the abdomen, sometimes even separating the abdominal muscles on either side, and exercise doesn’t always work in tightening the area. Or perhaps you have lost a large amount of weight, and have loose skin in the abdominal area as a result. Maybe you’ve always been in great shape, but have never been able to get rid of the fat on your belly and are looking for an effective solution.
If you are in search of a way to tighten your abdominal muscles, remove excess fat, remove excess skin, or reduce the appearance of stretch marks, a tummy tuck just might be for you.
What Types of Tummy Tucks Are There?
A tummy tuck is a highly customizable procedure, offering patients a way to improve their abdomen’s overall appearance dramatically or with focus on a specific area like the lower abdomen. With the help of your surgeon, you can select a full tummy tuck, a mini-tuck, or a “mommy makeover”- a combination of a tummy tuck and a breast lift or breast augmentation. There is a form of the procedure that will fit any patient in need of a flatter abdomen.
Full Tummy Tuck
A full tummy tuck is also known as an abdominoplasty. It addresses three components of your abdomen: the muscles, skin, and fatty tissue. During a full tummy tuck, the plastic surgeon will tighten your abdominal muscles. If you have had a diastasis recti, or separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy, a surgical tightening of the musculature is the only way to correct it.
The incision for a full tummy tuck can vary, but it generally runs horizontally along the abdomen, just above the pubic bone, where it will be hidden by your clothing or bathing suit. Once the incision is made and the muscles are tightened from the pubic bone up to the rib cage, excess skin below the belly button is removed. The skin just above the belly button is then stretched to meet the incision, and is stitched in place- a process which removes the stretch marks in this area. Any excess fat that remains can be removed with liposuction.
A mini-tummy tuck is a less invasive and less dramatic variation of the full tuck. It involves removing the loosened abdominal tissue in the area between the belly button and the pubic bone. It doesn’t change the location of the belly button, unlike a regular tummy tuck, and has a much smaller incision. If you only need to address excess skin, fat, or muscle looseness below the belly button, this might be an excellent option for you. The surgeon can still tighten the abdominal muscles with a mini-tuck.
When a plastic surgeon in Virginia says they offer a “mommy makeover,” it could mean any number of procedure combinations- but it almost always includes a tummy tuck. A mommy makeover is designed to address body issues specific to women who have seen their body change through pregnancy and breastfeeding. The breasts may loose volume and sag, and the tummy becomes lax and loses its flatness.
A mommy makeover is customizable, so you can select the procedures that will best address your specific needs. One patient may require a full tummy tuck and a breast reduction/lift, while another requires a mini-tummy tuck and a breast augmentation in order to return to the shape she wants. Your surgeon will help you select the procedures that are most appropriate for your body.
What is the Surgery Like?
Upon arrival at the surgical center, you will be prepared for surgery and given the selected anesthesia. Numbing medication will be injected into the incision line, and the incision will be made. The incision is low on your abdomen, just above the pubic bone, and the length is dependent on the type of tummy tuck you are getting.
Once the incision is made, the surgeon will begin cutting through the fat layer to get to the muscles beneath. He may also need to loosen the fatty tissue from the muscles above the belly button, if he will be tightening the muscles from the belly button to the ribcage. If any muscles need to be tightened, that step is then performed.
Some tummy tucks may require the use of liposuction to remove excess fat that isn’t going to be cut away. Your surgeon may also perform liposuction of areas near the tummy, like the hips, as part of a mommy makeover or other procedure combination.
Tummy tucks that also require removal of fat or skin in the upper abdomen may require a second incision around the belly button. This gives the surgeon easier access to the upper abdomen.
If you are getting a full tummy tuck, the belly button will be moved lower down- this is generally not necessary during a mini-tummy tuck. Once the appropriate amount of fat and excess skin is removed and the muscles are tightened, the skin at the top of the incision will be pulled down to the incision line at the hips, where it will be stapled or sutured in place. Sometimes, drains are placed at the incision so fluid can escape during recovery.
Once the wound is sutured closed and bandages are applied, you will be taken to recovery so the anesthesia can wear off.
What is the Recovery Like?
While you are still in the recovery room, you may feel groggy as the anesthesia wears off. You will have dressings and possibly an elastic bandage or compression garment around your abdomen, which will help with swelling and protect the incision. If you have drains in place, be sure to carefully follow your surgeon’s post-operative care instructions so as to prevent an infection.
You may have some tenderness or soreness at the surgical site. Your surgeon will prescribe medications to help you manage that. There may be some noticeable swelling and bruising around the abdomen. It will increase in the 48 hours following surgery, and then should gradually fade over the next week or two
You will return to the surgeon for a post-operative check-up a few days after the surgery. Your bandages will be removed and possibly replaced, and any drains you have in place will be removed. It may be necessary to have someone drive you to and from this appointment.
Most patients will want to take two to four weeks off of work after having a full tummy tuck (if you have a mini-tummy tuck, the recovery time may be shorter) depending on the type of work you do. You will need to limit strenuous activity for up to six weeks, depending on the type of tuck you have gotten. Return to your regular activities gradually (especially those that require the use of your middle) and at your doctor’s instruction.
The most common side effect of a tummy tuck is swelling, which you will be able to manage somewhat with the compression garment given to you after surgery. Be sure to wear this according to your surgeon’s instructions. Drink plenty of water after surgery, keep a low-sodium diet, and use gentle abdominal massage. These steps will help keep swelling to a minimum and will give you the shortest possible recovery time.
What are the Risks and Results?
A tummy tuck is a surgical procedure, so it has the accompanying risks of any surgery. These include reactions to the anesthesia, infection, bleeding, swelling, blood clots, and discomfort. These risks may be higher if you have chronic health issues like diabetes.
Other risks include complications of the surgical site, like numbness, scar unevenness, skin discoloration, skin loss, or nerve damage. Using a Board Certified plastic surgeon in Virginia for your tummy tuck is the best way to lower your risk for developing these complications. The consent forms you sign before the surgery will outline all the risks, and your surgeon will go into further detail about the risks and what you can personally do to minimize complications.
You will be able to see your newer, slimmer profile about two weeks after surgery, at which point most of the swelling will have subsided. Your body will continue with internal healing and shifting of the newly placed tissues for up to six months after surgery. The final results of your tummy tuck will be visible at the end of this period.
I Still Have Questions
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation for a tummy tuck in Northern Virginia, call us at (703) 574-2588. Dr. Nukta, our Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, will be happy to answer any of your questions.