A flat and well-toned abdomen is something many of us strive for through exercise and weight control. Sometimes these methods cannot achieve our goals. Even individuals of otherwise normal body weight and proportion can develop an abdomen that protrudes or is loose and sagging.
A tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, removes excess fat, skin, and in most cases, can reestablish weakened or separated muscles – creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer.
Many people who have achieved significant weight loss can be left with large amounts of heavy, loose folds of skin around the abdomen, which can sag and lose elasticity as a result of being stretched for a long period of time. This excess skin can lead to rashes above the pubic area and along the groin and hips. A panniculectomy can offer relief of these symptoms to enhance your health and appearance.
The ideal candidates for tummy tuck surgery are those who have a combination of loose or excess skin on their abdomen and/or excess abdominal fat. Almost all women who have had children will also have some degree of abdominal muscle laxity. Any of these conditions, or all three, can be corrected by a tummy tuck.
Tummy tuck surgery is a good option for you if:
To ensure the best results from your tummy tuck procedure, discuss why you want the surgery, your expectations and desired outcome with your surgeon.
In a traditional tummy tuck, a horizontal incision is made just above the pubic hairline. The length of this lower abdominal incision is determined by the amount of excess skin.
The skin is then dissected up toward the rib cage, the muscle is tightened, the belly button is repositioned and excess skin is removed. Your cosmetic surgeon may also recommend combining liposuction with your tummy tuck procedure for the best results.
In those cases where loose skin extends towards the back, the incision can be lengthened into the back area performing a so-called “circumferential abdominoplasty.”
The tummy tuck procedure is generally performed under general anesthesia and can often be performed as an outpatient or with a one-night stay. The procedure itself requires anywhere from two to four hours to perform. Drains are most often used and are removed several days following the procedure.
There are three different types of tummy tuck procedures. The degree of loose skin, excess fat or laxity of the stomach muscle, in addition to a full consultation with your plastic surgeon, will determine whether a traditional or complete abdominoplasty, a partial mini abdominoplasty or circumferential abdominoplasty is right for you.
A complete abdominoplasty requires an incision above the pubic hairline, an incision around the umbilicus, or belly button, and a tightening of the rectus abdominis muscles (the pair of muscles that run vertically on each side of the stomach’s front wall). Muscle tightening, as well as skin removal, is the most important step in improving the stomach’s contour. Liposuction may also be performed at the same time of a complete tummy tuck
The mini abdominoplasty is performed on those patients with mild to moderate tummy contour changes, relatively little skin excess and little weakness of the abdominal wall. In the mini abdominoplasty, the navel incision is avoided. Liposuction may also be performed at the time of mini abdominoplasty surgery.
Skin laxity or skin excess is a three-dimensional issue and involves not only the abdominal area, but also the back region. When there is significant excess fat in the back area as well, abdominoplasty can be performed with liposuction of the back region or circumferential abdominoplasty can be performed. The benefit of the circumferential abdominoplasty is that both skin and fat can be removed in the hip and back region, improving your body contour three dimensionally.
Whether you’re having a partial or complete tummy tuck, the overall result will be a flatter, firmer abdominal contour that is more proportionate with your body type and weight. Your final results may be initially hidden by swelling and the inability to stand fully upright until internal healing is complete. Your new slimmer profile should be will begin to be apparent within a week or two following surgery. It might take several weeks or even months to appreciate the final result.
Following your tummy tuck procedure, the incision site will be stitched and bandaged. Your plastic surgeon may have you wear either an elastic bandage or a compression garment to minimize swelling and to support your abdomen as it heals.
It’s very important that you follow all of your surgeon’s instructions on wearing this garment (if you are given one) and caring for the bandage in the days following surgery. Your surgeon will also instruct you on how to best position yourself while sitting or lying down to help ease pain.
You will have to severely limit strenuous exercise for four to six weeks as you go through the healing process, in addition to possibly needing to take up to one month off work after surgery to ensure the recovery and results. Your cosmetic surgeon will help you determine a recovery based on your personal situation.
All surgical procedures carry some risk. Possible risks of tummy tuck procedure include:
Tummy tuck surgery, also known as abdominoplasty, removes excess fat and skin and, in most cases, restores weakened or separated muscles creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer. The most common causes of this include:
A tummy tuck is suitable for men and women who are in good health. Women who have had several pregnancies may find the procedure useful for tightening their abdominal muscles and reducing skin.A tummy tuck is also an option for men or women who were once obese and still have excess fat deposits or loose skin around the belly.
If you’re a woman who plans to get pregnant, then you may want to postpone a tummy tuck until you’re done having children. During surgery, your vertical muscles are tightened, and future pregnancies can separate those muscles.If you are planning to lose a lot of weight, then a tummy tuck also is not for you. A tummy tuck should be a last resort after you’ve tried everything else. It should not be used as an alternative to weight loss.You should also consider the appearance of scars after a tummy tuck. You can talk about scar placement and length with the doctor before the surgery.
The first step is to choose a surgeon and see him or her for a consultation. At that meeting, you’ll talk about your goals and the following options:
If you smoke, your doctor will ask that you quit smoking from at least two weeks before the surgery until two weeks after the surgery. It is not enough to just cut down on smoking. You must stop completely since smoking makes complications more likely and slows healing.Don’t try a drastic diet before the surgery. Eat well-balanced, complete meals. A healthy diet may help you heal better. Tell your doctor about everything you take, including prescription drugs, herbal medicines, and other supplements. Your surgeon may instruct you to stop taking certain medications for a time before and after the surgery.Before getting the surgery, get your home ready. You’ll need:
You’ll also need someone to drive you home after the tummy tuck. If you live alone, you’ll want someone to stay with you for at least the first night. Make a plan for that.
This surgery can take anywhere from one to five hours. You may need to stay overnight in the hospital, depending on your case. You will get general anesthesia, which will put you to “sleep” during the operation.
You will have pain and swelling in the days following surgery. Your doctor will prescribe pain medicine and tell you how to best handle the pain. You may be sore for several weeks or months. You may also experience numbness, bruising, and tiredness during that time.As with any surgery, there are risks. Though they’re rare, complications can include infection, bleeding under the skin flap, or blood clots. You may be more likely to have complications if you have poor circulation, diabetes, or heart, lung, or liver disease.You may experience insufficient healing, which can cause more significant scarring or loss of skin. If you do heal poorly, you may require a second surgery.A tummy tuck leaves scars. Though they may fade slightly, they will never completely disappear. Your surgeon may recommend certain creams or ointments to use after you’ve completely healed to help with scars.
A tummy tuck is not a substitute for weight loss or an appropriate exercise program. Although the results of a tummy tuck are technically permanent, the positive outcome can be greatly diminished by significant fluctuations in your weight. For this reason, individuals who are planning substantial weight loss or women who may be considering future pregnancies would be advised to postpone a tummy tuck.A tummy tuck cannot correct stretch marks, although these may be removed or somewhat improved if they are located on the areas of excess skin that will be excised.
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