29 June 2022| Last updated on 30 June 2022
Genetic factors, pregnancy, weight fluctuations and natural ageing process over time, conspire to change how the tummy looks, affecting the skin and the underlying muscles, and many times most of us find it difficult to reclaim our youthful shape through diet and exercise alone.
A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty (many times combined with Liposuction), is a procedure to remove excess fat and skin as well as to repair the separated and weakened abdominal muscles, restoring a sculpted waistline with a smoother and firmer tummy.
But, like any elective surgical procedure, you should approach with caution and be fully informed before making the decision to proceed with surgery.
In this article, we share some facts about tummy tuck surgery with you. However, it does not replace the necessity of a one to one, thorough consultation with a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon. It is only then you can decide whether tummy tuck is right for you.
Having more information and a clear expectation about what’s next will help you make an informed decision and to better manage your post-op recovery so that you have the best possible experience out of your surgery.
Ideal Candidates for Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty
Good candidates for tummy tuck surgery are generally healthy individuals who are within their ideal body weight, who have loose abdominal skin, weak muscles, and excess fat deposits which persist despite regular exercise and healthy diet. They should also be a non-smoker, have realistic expectations of outcome, and understand the recovery time involved with the procedure.
Despite popular belief, tummy tuck surgery is not a treatment for weight loss. It is important to be within your desired weight range before considering a tummy tuck surgery.
Types of Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty
Tummy tuck is a highly personalised procedure where various techniques are used based on the individual patient’s indications. Here's a summary of the various types of tummy tuck surgery:
Mini-Abdominoplasty also known as mini-tuck:
- Excess skin and fat above the pubic bone are removed.
- The abdominal muscles below the belly button (umbilicus) can also be tightened if needed.
- The belly button remains intact.
- The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia, takes sixty to ninety minutes, and is occasionally performed as a day case. However, most patients prefer to stay in the hospital overnight.
Apronectomy (a form of mini-abdominoplasty):
- Involves removal of larger excess skin and fat (the apron) hanging down over the pubic area and genitals.
- The belly button remains intact.
- The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia and may take up to two hours. Patients stay in hospital overnight.
- Excess skin and fat between the pubic bone and belly button is removed and the abdominal muscles are tightened.
- This leaves the belly button itself in place. However, in pulling the skin at the level of the umbilicus, down to the pubic level, the umbilicus must be brought through the new skin lying over it. Consequently, this form of tuck results in a long, curved scar at the pubic level, along with a circular scar around the belly button.
- The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia and may take up to three hours. Drains may be used, and patients remain in hospital for at least one night.
Extended Abdominoplasty (360 degree)
- This is a more radical extensive procedure than standard abdominoplasty.
- The incision is continued around the waist and onto the back.
- Excess skin and fat are removed from this wider area around the flanks, resulting in a longer scar.
- As with the standard abdominoplasty, the umbilicus must be brought through the skin, resulting in a scar around it.
- The procedure is again performed under general anaesthesia, and may take between three to five hours to perform, especially as the patient has to be turned during surgery. Patients remain in hospital for at least one night, possibly two.
All the above procedures can be combined with Muscle Plication, in which the muscles over the abdominal wall are sutured back into position, tightening the muscles, flattening the tummy and reducing the waistline.
At Elite Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Group, they combine all their tummy tucks with Vaser Liposuction for a more sculpted tummy, waist, lower back and love handles (flanks).
Scarring is Inevitable
It’s important to take into account that a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty will leave you with a permanent scar. Think about why you are having a tummy tuck and what results you want to achieve from it. If the intended results outweigh the disadvantages of having a scar, then it will probably be worth it.
Scarring will fade over time and, in many patients, will heal to form very faint white lines. However, if you have a tendency to develop keloid or hypertrophic scarring, then this is the type of bad scarring you ought to expect following this surgery.
Limitations of a Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty
Although we all desire a flatter stomach, a tummy tuck procedure may not be right for everyone.
If you do not have sufficient loose skin you may not be a candidate for a tummy tuck. There must be enough loose skin on your stomach that it can be pulled tight and reattached without an unsightly stretched look. To this purpose, patients with excess abdominal wall fat usually benefit from weight loss prior to an operation.
Pre-operative weight-loss is especially encouraged for patients with significant excess fat beneath the abdominal wall muscles. These patients have a somewhat bulging abdomen with minimal to moderate excess abdominal wall fat, normal abdominal muscles and no excess skin.
A tummy tuck can also reduce the appearance of stretch marks but may not get rid of them completely. If your stretch marks extend above where your incision lies then they may not be trimmed away during the procedure.
Recovery and Results following Tummy Tuck / Abdominoplasty Surgery
A tummy tuck is an invasive procedure as the muscles, skin and fatty tissue of the abdomen are manipulated to produce a more pleasing appearance. Recovery depends on the individual, the extent of the procedure and whether other procedures were performed in combination with liposuction.
Patients are required to stay at least one night in hospital after a tummy tuck and they’ll wear a compression garment to reduce swelling, bleeding and seroma (build-up of fluid).
Elite Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Clinic's surgeons' generally do not use drains, however in some cases it may be necessary to do so. If this is the case, the drains will be removed the day after surgery before patient is discharged from the hospital.
Patients normally feel tight in abdomen and surrounding areas and will experience swelling and some bruising in the abdomen and/or surrounding areas, especially if they had simultaneous liposuction. It is important to rest during the first couple of weeks as the body requires lots of energy to heal. Lifting and stretching should be kept to a minimum during the first couple of weeks.
It normally takes around four to six weeks to recover from a tummy tuck, and up to a year before you can see the final result. However, at Elite Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Group, many of our patients feel ready to return to work less than two weeks after surgery. From six weeks onwards, you can safely reintroduce exercise, gradually increasing activity as you regain confidence and rebuild your fitness and strength.
The standard tummy tuck scar can extend from hip to hip across the abdomen and it can take 12 to 18 months before it has fully flattened and faded. Although it will never completely disappear, it should be nearly invisible, and hidden beneath your underwear line if your body is not prone to develop keloid (raised) /hypertrophic (stretched) scarring.
While a tummy tuck can make dramatic changes to your physical appearance, you may not see the same results if you become pregnant again or experience significant changes in weight. It is important to ensure maintaining the results with a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
Gaining or losing weight may change the appearance of the abdominal area, and produce sagging skin. This is one of the reasons why we advise patients to wait until they’ve completed their family and had all their children before undergoing the procedure.
Here’s Some Top Tips for Tummy Tuck Recovery
At the Elite Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery Clinic, specialists provide patients with detailed pre and post-surgery care instructions to give you an idea on what to expect in terms of recovery and limitations.
Their experienced nurses call patients every day after surgery until they come for their first follow up appointment to ensure a smooth recovery for the patients. They also have a 24/7 Nurse Emergency line for post-op patients to reach them during out of office hours.
Here are some of our top tips for a fast and full recovery:
Walking After Surgery - Physical activity is a no-no, although one thing you will be encouraged to do, post-surgery, is to have short walk indoors! Walking will help to prevent blood clots from forming as well as easing the swelling. Small steps to start with and then more as the recovery progresses.
Keep Hydrated - Hydration is key! Water is one thing that is important after surgery to help to keep a regular rhythm as well as helping relieve bloating. It has also been shown to help keep the patient in a positive mood resulting in them feeling more hopeful for a swift recovery.
Sleeping Position - We all need a comfortable night's sleep, although after tummy tuck surgery you do have to be careful! During the first few weeks, you would be asked to sleep in an inclined position, with your shoulders and head raised above your body, this ensures less strain on the abdominal areas and incision. Pillows behind the knees and back can help take the pressure away from the lower abdominal wall incision line.
Follow-up Appointments - Most important of all is to make sure you attend your follow up appointments. It's an important part of your recovery process to assess your healing.
Elite's specialist team will provide you with detailed pre and post-surgery care instructions to help you prepare for surgery and expedite your recovery.
The Importance of a Thorough Consultation
The importance of the initial consultation cannot be over-emphasised. At your consultation, Elite's specialist plastic surgeons will fully discuss every aspect of your aesthetic goals and address any concerns you may have.
Their clinic place the utmost importance on providing you with all the information you need to make a fully informed decision, ensuring that they achieve the outcome that’s best for you.
A thorough medical history and physical examination during the consultation usually reveals whether or not you are a good candidate for a tummy tuck, and if so, what the best treatment option would be. Working together during your consultation, a bespoke surgical plan will be developed for you.
Elite's specialist plastic surgeons will explain in detail the treatment options available, the techniques that would benefit you, and any potential risks and complications you need to be made aware of.
Their specialist team use their expertise and experience to guide you towards the best option, taking into account your anatomy, aesthetic goals and personal circumstances.