What is a Tummy Tuck?
Even with a perfect diet and exercise routine, it can be impossible for many people to achieve a flat stomach. Stretched skin from weight loss, poor skin elasticity from aging, and even separated abdominal muscles from pregnancy can all cause that persistent pooch.
A tummy tuck, also called an abdominoplasty, can fix these problems by removing excess skin to reveal a smoother, tighter stomach. It can even restore the tightness of the underlying muscles to help them hold everything in properly. This procedure can take you back to a slimmer and more youthful body.
Are You a Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?
A good candidate for a tummy tuck is anyone who would like to remove rolls of skin, tighten belly skin, or improve the curvature of the waist. Ideally, candidates will be at a stable weight, but patients with a modest amount of excess fat may also find a tummy tuck useful, since it can be combined with liposuction for a moderate fat-reduction affect.
Before your tummy tuck, you will need to have a consultation. At this time, you will point out your problem areas and lay out your goals for the procedure. Dr. Ortega will examine you and discuss your options in detail.
Most patients require a full tummy tuck. This uses a long hip-to-hip incision as well as a smaller one around the navel. It can remove excess skin and fat all the way from the pubic mound to above the navel and is often used for patients recovering from pregnancy or weight loss. A mini tummy tuck is also an option for some patients. This procedure uses a shorter horizontal incision and does not require an incision around the navel. The downside is that it can only remove tissue below the navel, so it’s good for those with protrusion only in the lower abdomen.
Liposuction can be added to either type of tummy tuck to increase the amount of fat removed and to help contour the body. For patients with excess skin on the lower body, an extended abdominoplasty may be an option as well. This extends the incision past the hipbones and can pull up loose skin from the hips. It’s less common, but it can be useful after large amounts of weight loss.
After you’ve settled on which type of tummy tuck is appropriate for you, Dr. Ortega will discuss scar location with you. You may be asked to bring a pair of underwear or a bathing suit that you would like to cover the scar so that Dr. Ortega can determine if your ideal scar placement will be possible. Incorporating existing scars such as those left from a cesarean section may also be possible.
About the Procedure
A tummy tuck is normally done under general anesthesia. Once you are anesthetized, Dr. Ortega will begin by drawing the locations for the incisions. If you are having a full tummy tuck, the main incision will be made right above your pubic mound from hip bone to hip bone, and an additional one will be made around the navel. If you’re having a mini tummy tuck, the incision will be shorter, and there will be no navel incision.
After the incisions are made, Dr. Ortega will loosen the skin up to your ribcage and then tighten your abdominal muscles by placing sutures in the connective tissue to bring them together. After the muscle is repaired, any excess fat may be removed. Then your skin will be stretched down to the incision point, and any excess will be trimmed off. A hole will be made for the navel, if necessary, and the skin will be redraped and sutured closed.
Once all of the incisions have been closed, Dr. Ortega will place the necessary drains and apply surgical dressings. The entire procedure will take 2-3 hours, or a little longer if you’re having liposuction as well.
After your abdominoplasty, you may go home the same day or stay the night. Either way, Dr. Ortega will see you to examine the results and change your dressings before you go. You will need to wear a binder for support and to control swelling, and there will be drains to remove excess fluid. You’ll see Dr. Ortega daily for the first week to change your dressings and remove the drains when they’re ready.
For the first 1-3 weeks, you can expect noticeable bruising and swelling. You’ll be able to walk within the first day, but you may not be able to straighten up completely for up to a week. Your abdomen will feel tight and sore at first, but Dr. Ortega will prescribe medication to control any discomfort. You may be ready to resume a desk job within 1-2 weeks, but avoid heavy lifting or pushing for 4-6 weeks. After six weeks, you should be able to remove the binder and resume normal activities, but full healing can take up to six months, and your scar will continue to fade for up to a year.
Possible Risks and Complications
Abdominoplasty is very safe, but like all surgeries, there is still a risk of bleeding and infection. In addition, some patients report changes in sensation throughout their abdomen. Normally this consists of tingling and numbness for the first few weeks, but occasionally the numbness will persist for longer. There is also a slight risk of poor skin healing, particularly among patients who smoke.
Q. Is it okay to get pregnant again after a tummy tuck?
A. The good news is that it is perfectly safe to have a baby after a tummy tuck. The procedure will not increase the risks of pregnancy at all. The bad news is that pregnancy may undo the results of your tummy tuck by separating the abdominal muscles and stretching out the skin. For that reason, women who intend to have children in the near future should probably wait until they’re finished before having abdominoplasty.
Q. Will a tummy tuck get rid of my stretch marks?
A. A tummy tuck will remove all of the stretch marks that are on the excised skin, and it may make the remaining ones look better by tautening the skin, but it cannot remove all of your stretch marks. If you are dissatisfied with the look of your stretch marks after the surgery, you can try to reduce them with lasers and other skin treatments, but there’s no way to remove them completely.
Q. Is it possible for a tummy tuck scar to move?
A. Due to normal tissue stretching, most scars will migrate upwards slightly during the healing process. However, this migration can be minimized by attaching the closing sutures to the connective tissue in the lower abdomen, and it will be taken account when placing the scar in the most hidden location possible.
Q. Can laser skin tightening give me the same results as a tummy tuck?
A. In general, no. Most patients have too much loose skin for a laser to be really effective. For a few patients with very little excess skin, it may be an option, although it is important to keep in mind that laser skin tightening can be unpredictable. Dr. Ortega can give you her professional opinion on your situation at your consultation.
Q. Is it okay to get a tattoo over the tummy tuck scar?
A. Certainly. But you’ll need to wait a minimum of six months to ensure that the scar is completely healed and swelling is gone. You may actually wish to wait for an entire year to be sure the scar has faded completely. Many patients are pleasantly surprised by how faint their scar turns out to be.