Many people carry excess fat on their abdomens, and for some people, it is a source of great insecurity. Whether a person has excess fat and skin on their lower abdomen as a result of substantial weight loss and weight gain, pregnancy, C-sections, surgeries, or other causes, a tummy tuck can help to eliminate excess skin and fat and provide a more contoured and toned appearance. Many patients, both male and female, report a significant increase in their self confidence following a tummy tuck procedure, and they may find themselves feeling comfortable in clothing that they previously could only dream of wearing. If you’re considering a tummy tuck, you should know what to expect from the procedure, what recovery is like, and how many sizes you can expect to lose.
What is a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon that is designed to remove excess fat and excess skin from the lower portion of the abdomen and tighten weakened or separated abdominal muscles in the belly button area. The procedure does require general anesthesia and recovery times do vary. The result of a tummy tuck surgery is that patients have a more contoured appearance and an abdominal wall profile that appears firmer, smoother, and flatter, creating a toned and leaner look. While we often refer to tummy tucks as just one procedure, there are actually three different types of tummy tucks, each of which is appropriate for different patients depending on their needs. The three types of tummy tucks include:
- Partial or mini-abdominoplasty
- Complete abdominoplasty
- Circumferential abdominoplasty
Patients who carry the majority of their excess fat and sagging or loose skin below the belly button may get the results they are looking for from a partial or mini-abdominoplasty. A partial abdominoplasty has the smallest incision of any of the tummy tuck procedures and can sometimes be performed endoscopically, which helps to minimize scarring. Patients who need a significant amount of fat and skin removed from the abdomen will benefit most from a complete abdominoplasty. During a complete abdominoplasty, Dr. Applebaum makes an incision low on the abdomen that extends approximately from hip bone to hip bone, allowing him to manipulate the muscle and skin as required. During a circumferential abdominoplasty, the incision extends around the circumference of the body. This type of tummy tuck is most appropriate for patients with excess fat in the back and abdomen.
How many sizes do you lose with a tummy tuck?
While some people think of tummy tucks as a type of body contouring, weight loss cosmetic surgery, tummy tucks do not help you lose weight. In fact, tummy tucks should only be performed when a patient is at or near their preferred weight in order to avoid future surgery, since additional weight loss can cause more excess skin that the patient may want removed at a later time. Full tummy tucks help patients lose clothing sizes and inches in their midsection, but weight loss is usually not more than a few pounds. The average woman can expect to lose two to three dress sizes after a tummy tuck, while men can expect to drop several pant sizes. Patients do not need to lose weight prior to undergoing a tummy tuck; however, they should be comfortable with their current weight and not plan to lose significantly more weight after undergoing the procedure.
What other options for abdominal fat removal are available?
Depending on a patient’s goals, some patients may be able to achieve their desired results through liposuction alone. Whether liposuction alone is appropriate will depend on the amount of excess fat a patient has as well as their skin laxity. Other patients may need a combination of a tummy tuck and liposuction in order to achieve the results they are looking for, and some only need an abdominoplasty to meet their goals. During your consultation, Dr. Applebaum will review your medical history, assess your anatomic profile, and discuss your goals and expectations in order to determine which procedure will deliver the best results.
Can the scar be well hidden in small bathing suits and in underwear?
Tummy tucks, whether it's a full tummy tuck or a mini tummy tuck, do require a sizeable incision unless the patient receives a partial abdominoplasty that is performed laparoscopically, so it is natural for patients to be concerned about the visibility of their scars. Dr. Applebaum recognizes how important it is to minimize scarring, so each patient is evaluated on an individual basis in order to determine the best place to make an incision in order to avoid visible scarring. Most tummy tuck incisions are made low on the abdomen at approximately the same level as the pubic hair, so it is not visible in low rise jeans and some types of bathing suits and underwear. Dr. Applebaum can make temporary markings on the skin to show the location of the incision while the patient is wearing a bathing suit or underwear so that they have a clear idea of how visible the scar will be after surgery.
What is tummy tuck recovery like?
The recovery from abdominoplasty varies greatly depending on the type of abdominoplasty performed and the age and physical health of the patient prior to surgery. Mini abdominoplasty will have a shorter recovery time than complete or circumferential abdominoplasty. Patients generally will be told to wear a garment or wrap that is designed to support the area of the incision during the recovery process, as sitting up and moving can be painful in the days and weeks immediately following the surgery. Most people will take two to three weeks off of work following the surgery, but some patients may require slightly more or slightly less time off. Exercise is prohibited during the first weeks after surgery, so do not exercise until you receive clearance from Dr. Applebaum. Patients may experience swelling and bruising in the incision area for up to three months after surgery, but visible results will be noticeable immediately after surgery. During the consultation, in addition to creating a detailed treatment plan, Dr. Applebaum will discuss at length a realistic picture of the recovery process for each patient.