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Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

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The stomach is often considered a "problem area" for many people.

It susceptible to storing excess fat and causing problems like a belly "pooch" that most people are anxious to be rid of. Aesthetic problems of the abdomen often get worse following pregnancy or massive weight loss, as the skin struggles to contract back to its former tight and firm appearance, and the muscles loosen, often becoming separated. When sagging skin, loose muscles, and excess fat in the stomach area become a problem, a tummy tuck can be a solution to regaining a tight and beautifully contoured abdomen, often helping patients regain confidence and self-esteem.

A tummy tuck is a body contouring surgery that is not intended for simple weight loss, but instead for an overall aesthetic improvement of the stomach area. Unlike abdominal liposuction alone, a tummy tuck (also known as abdominoplasty) helps to improve skin, muscle, and fat for an overall comprehensive result. Stomach muscles that are stretched and separated from pregnancy can be repaired, and excess skin can be removed to improve sagging in the skin that is unable to contract back to normal on its own.

Everyone has different needs for abdominal rejuvenation, and because of this, there are several different options for tummy tuck procedures. Different types of tummy tucks include:

Endoscopic Abdominoplasty: A minimally-invasive procedure used to address only loosened stomach muscles which produces a very short scar.

Mini Abdominoplasty: A less extensive tummy tuck technique that can address up to moderate limited sagging skin, excess fat, and loose stomach muscles.

Full Abdominoplasty: The classic style of tummy tuck surgery, which addresses significant sagging skin, fat, and loose stomach muscles through a larger incision.

Extended Abdominoplasty: For patients with loose skin that extends to the sides of the body, an extended abdominoplasty can address a larger amount of excess skin and fat—and can even help improve the appearance of the upper thighs. The incision extends partway around the sides and back of the body

Circumferential Abdominoplasty: A tummy tuck technique that also addresses aesthetic issues of the buttocks and lower thighs. The incision for this procedure extends all the way around the circumference of the body.

Lower Body Lift: An extension of the circumferential abdominoplasty, this surgery involves intensive re-contouring of the lower body, removing excess fat and skin, and tightening the stomach, buttocks, and thighs. This procedure is best for people who have lost a great deal of weight and are left with sagging skin and poor contour.

Tummy Tuck Consultation

Because there are many different levels of tummy tuck surgery, your first step will be to discuss your goals in a consultation with our skilled plastic surgeons at Emory Aesthetic Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Our surgeons will help you determine which technique is appropriate for the amount of sagging skin, excess fat, and muscle looseness you have in your abdomen. During your consultation, we will help you come up with a customized treatment plan to maximize results and recovery. During your consultation, you’ll get to know your surgeon and have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Our surgeons will also assess whether or not you are a good candidate for tummy tuck surgery, and if your expectations for the procedure are realistic.

Tummy Tuck Candidates

Good candidates for tummy tuck surgery are people with any amount of sagging skin and muscle looseness in the abdominal area that they would like to address. Patients who are only concerned with excess fat in the stomach area should consider fat reduction treatments alone, such as liposuction or CoolSculpting® treatments.

Prospective tummy tuck patients will need to be in general good health for safety reasons, and should be at or near a healthy weight before the procedure for good results. As with any plastic surgery, realistic expectations are key to enjoying the beautiful results of a tummy tuck and avoiding disappointment. Abdominoplasty can produce marked improvement, but it will not achieve perfection.

Tummy Tuck Procedure

Because there are so many variations on the tummy tuck, it is impossible to generalize the procedure for each technique. However, the classic technique is the full abdominoplasty, addressing excess skin, fat, and musculature between the pubic area and the belly button. Abdominoplasty is performed under general anesthesia, and the whole procedure takes approximately 2-3 hours.

For all techniques, incisions are made starting in the lower abdomen, and extend as far as necessary to achieve desired results. For full abdominoplasty, this usually means an incision extending from hip to hip. Through this incision, the surgeon will remove any necessary fat, and smooth the contours of the stomach. Loose muscles that have separated will be rejoined, and excess skin will be removed and tightened for a flat and aesthetically-pleasing contour. The belly button will also be repositioned and contoured if necessary.

Tummy Tuck Recovery

Most abdominoplasty procedures involve major surgery, and patients need to be prepared for a fairly lengthy recovery process. While heavy activity is to be avoided for several weeks, patients should be up and moving soon after surgery. Most patients are ready to return to work after about three weeks. Light exercise is encouraged as soon as patients are comfortable, but it will typically take six weeks are more until full activity levels are reached.

Following surgery, surgical drains may be placed in some cases, and a long-lasting pain injection or pain pump will be given to control discomfort. If drains are used, they will be removed after about a week. Swelling will persist for several weeks, gradually disappearing over the months following surgery, with the final results settling after about six months to a year. However, patients will be able to see preliminary results before this time.

Tummy Tuck FAQs

  • Is a tummy tuck the same as liposuction?

    No. Liposuction is a procedure that focuses solely on fat removal in problem areas, without addressing skin or muscle. Liposuction is a common procedure for the abdomen, and a good choice for people who have good skin elasticity of the stomach. The procedure is also combined with a tummy tuck in many cases.

  • How big will the scar be?

    The size of the scar will vary widely depending on the type of tummy tuck performed. The classic tummy tuck scar extends from hip to hip, and while this scar may be large, it can be hidden by most swimsuit bottoms. Less extensive tummy tuck scars are much smaller, and extended tummy tuck scars wrap around part or all of the back of the body. However, most patients feel that even a large scar is preferable to large amounts of sagging skin and excess fat.

  • I had a C-section. Will I have two scars?

    In almost all cases the C-section scar and the tummy tuck scar can often be combined, to minimize the appearance of overall scarring. Ask your plastic surgeon for tips on taking care of your incision to help make the scar fade as much as possible over time.

  • Will a tummy tuck get rid of my stretch marks?

    Whether stretch marks are improved or not depends on where they are located. Stretch marks in the lower half of the tummy - below the belly button - are often totally removed during a tummy tuck. Stretch marks which are outside of the removed zone will remain, although they may be slightly less prominent due to the improvement in skin tightness. Any improvement is an additional benefit to the procedure, not an expected result of tummy tuck surgery.

  • Do tummy tuck belts work?

    “Tummy tuck” belts are marketed toward prospective tummy tuck patients and promise comparable results to abdominoplasty without surgery. While this sounds great in theory, in practice these devices are unlikely to work. Most of these devices are simply compression garments and cannot do much to create lasting results. Even tummy tuck belts that are paired with “accelerating creams” cannot repair damaged stomach muscles or reduce fat deposits in the stomach. Most of these devices are gimmicks, and tend to be a frustrating waste of time and money.

  • Can exercises restore my abdominal muscles?

    While exercise can improve the tone of the abdominal muscles, exercise will not heal a muscle separation that is caused by pregnancy. Surgery is currently the only effective, permanent method for pulling those muscles back together.

  • Are tummy tucks safe?

    Plastic surgery has come a long way over the years, and while there are always risks involved with surgical procedures, tummy tuck surgery is quite safe for healthy patients. The procedure should be performed by a skilled, board-certified plastic surgeon who puts safety at the highest priority.

  • Are the results of a tummy tuck permanent?

    The results of a tummy tuck are intended to be permanent, though patients will have to be diligent about preserving the results through maintaining a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise. Weight gain, pregnancy, and aging can all have an affect on the longevity of abdominoplasty results, so patients need to be prepared for possible changes in appearance over time.

  • What is the best age to have a tummy tuck?

    There is no ideal age for tummy tuck surgery, although most people who are interested in the procedure are young to middle aged. Any healthy patient who is a good candidate for the procedure can undergo abdominoplasty, regardless of age. Women who are not done having children should wait to undergo tummy tuck surgery, as pregnancy can ruin the results of the procedure.

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