Many of us strive to achieve a flat and well-toned abdomen through exercise, dieting and weight control. Sometimes these methods cannot help us achieve our goals, so when this happens, a cosmetic surgery procedure named tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is used to make the abdomen more firm. It involves removing excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen in order to tighten the muscle and fascia of the abdominal wall. In most cases, this procedure restores weakened or separated muscle creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer.
People with otherwise normal body weight and proportion can develop an abdomen that protrudes, is loose and sagging. The most common causes of this include heredity, pregnancy, aging, significant fluctuations in weight or prior surgery. Tummy tucks should in no way be seen as a substitute for weight loss or an appropriate exercise program! Also, the procedure is not recommended for individuals who are planning on substantial weight loss or women who may be considering future pregnancies, as the positive outcome of the surgery can be greatly diminished by significant fluctuations in a patient’s weight.
Abdominoplasty operations vary in scope and can last anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours, depending on the extent of the surgery. Common procedures include:
During a complete tummy tuck, an incision is made from hip to hip, just above the area, and another incision is made to free the navel from the surrounding skin. Next, the skin is detached from the abdominal wall, revealing the muscle and fascia. The surgeon then proceeds to tighten the muscle fascia wall with sutures and will use liposuction to refine the transition zones, if needed. Excess fluid is then drained from the site and a dressing or sometimes a compression garment is applied.
Also named mini abdominoplasty or mini-tuck, the procedure can be completed between 1 to 2 hours. A smaller incision is needed and the skin and fat of the lower abdomen will be detached in a more limited fashion from the muscle fascia. Sometimes the belly button stalk is divided from the muscle below and the surgeon slides the belly button lower on the abdominal wall. After the procedure is completed, the flap is stitched back into place. Liposuction is often used to contour the transition zone to avoid any possible irregularities and the surgeon may also tighten a portion of the abdominal muscle fascia.
This procedure is basically a complete abdominoplasty plus a lateral thigh lift. Apart from doing all of the contouring of a complete tummy tuck, the procedure also allows further improvement of the waist and smoothing the contour of the upper lateral thigh.
An advanced technique, the high lateral tension tummy tuck takes a little more than 4.5 hours to perform. What makes it different from others is the fact that in addition to vertical-line tightening, muscles are also tightened horizontally, resulting in a dramatically flat abdomen and a significantly better-defined waistline.
This technique is also known as an extended mini-tuck, allowing tightening and shaping through a smaller incision that is not placed around the belly button. Excess skin is removed and the belly button is temporarily detached, floating above the muscles during this process. Muscles are tightened and reshaped from the sternum to the pubic area, the skin is tightened and the belly button reattached, or moved down 1-2 centimeters if desired.
This procedure involves an extended tummy tuck plus a buttock lift, with a resulting scar running all the way around the body. Also called a body lift or belt lipectomy, this procedure is most appropriate for patients who have undergone massive weight loss.
A tummy tuck procedure includes the following steps:
All surgical procedures have some degree of risk, but fortunately, significant complications associated with tummy tucks are infrequent and the satisfaction rate is high. Some of the potential complications include:
These risks and others will be discussed prior to your consent. Your surgeon will ask you to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and the potential risks involved.
During your tummy tuck consultation, you should be prepared to discuss your surgical goals with your doctor. Inform him or her about your medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments, your current medications, vitamins, alcohol, tobacco and drug use if the case. Also, the surgeon will ask you about any previous surgeries that you might have had in the past.
After you have been provided with thorough preoperative instructions, in advance of your procedure, your surgeon will ask you to:
Your surgeon will also evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors. He or she will take before and after surgery photographs, discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment in order to achieve your desired appearance.
Although dieting and exercising regularly are helping you lower numbers on your scale, they might not change the appearance of your protruding or sagging abdomen. The 3 basic factors that influence whether you are or not a candidate for tummy tuck are:
Other common reasons why you may want to consider a tummy tuck:
Internal or external scars from any previous abdominal surgery may also affect your tummy tuck candidacy. Also, if you have a significant amount of intra-abdominal fat surrounding your internal organs, you may need to slim down before surgery. If you are generally obese, abdominoplasty is not the right procedure for you.