How is a Full Tummy Tuck Performed?

In the United States alone, 127,967 tummy tucks were performed in 2015, the last year for which data is currently available. This number represented a 9 percent increase from 2010 and a 104% increase since 2000. So how is a full tummy tuck performed, and who is a good candidate for the procedure? Who shouldn’t consider a tummy tuck? In this article, we’ll answer these and other questions about America’s 5th most popular plastic surgery.

Dr. (Stephanie) Teotia believes it is important that you begin your tummy tuck process with realistic expectations, so this article will contain detailed explanations of the surgery itself.

If you are sensitive to graphic subject matter, please only read the first half of this article, which will help you determine whether you may be ready for a tummy tuck.

Who is a Good Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?

A full tummy tuck is an excellent option for both men and women who have lost a significant amount of weight. People who were once obese may still have hanging, loose skin or excess fat deposits around their bellies even after they have achieved a healthy weight. Unfortunately, no amount of healthy eating or exercise can reduce this bulk, so surgical removal is recommended in this situation.

The full tummy tuck is also commonly chosen by women who have had their skin and abdominal muscles stretched out by multiple pregnancies or by having carried two or more babies (multiples). The amount of elasticity, or ability to “bounce back” is mostly genetic; eating well and exercising during pregnancy can help limit the total amount of weight gained during pregnancy, but for many women, their skin and muscles do not return to their pre-pregnancy state. If you are one of these women, a tummy tuck can remove excess skin and tighten your abdominal muscles, yielding a firmer, more youthful appearance.

Who Should Not Have a Tummy Tuck?

If you are currently a smoker, you cannot have a tummy tuck. You must be completely smoke-free for at least two weeks prior to and two weeks after your surgery. Smoking increases the risk of surgical complications and death and will delay wound healing.

If you’re still in the process of shedding a significant amount of weight, wait until you have reached your goal weight before you schedule a tummy tuck. Otherwise, you will find that you still have too much abdominal skin remaining once you have achieved your weight loss goals.

Similarly, if you’re a woman who is planning to have at least one more child, we recommend postponing your tummy tuck until you are through bearing children. This isn’t just due to the possibility of your having excess skin in the future, however; during a full tummy tuck, your vertical muscles are tightened. During subsequent pregnancies, these muscles are likely to separate again.

Please note: a full tummy tuck will leave a scar from hipbone to hipbone. Some patients may experience prominent scarring that can be permanent.

If you would not be comfortable having a scar, please share this with your surgeon and discuss all of your options during your consultation. In most people, the scar resulting from a tummy tuck fades to a thin, silver line, but this outcome depends on your biology and lifestyle and cannot be guaranteed.

The Full Tummy Tuck Procedure – Step by Step:

1. Anesthesia

You will be given general anesthesia, meaning you’ll be completely asleep during the operation. You will need someone to drive you home after your surgery, and someone to stay with you for at least one night following your procedure – ideally for up to a week to help you with everyday tasks while you recover.

2. The Incisions

Dr. Teotia will make an incision from hip to hip above the pubic area. This location will make the resulting scar as unobtrusive as possible, and will allow you to hide it completely underneath a bikini bottom or under swim trunks.

A second incision will be made to separate your navel from the skin around it. The skin is then detached from the abdominal muscles, revealing both the abdominal wall and the fascia that will be tightened. Your surgeon will use sutures to tighten the muscle fascia wall.

Have you been working out long and hard and know you have strong abdominal muscles hidden by loose skin and/or fat? You’ll be able to proudly display them after a tummy tuck!

3. Liposuction

Although the tummy tuck is not primarily a liposuction procedure, liposuction is often used to smooth out the transition zones across the abdomen. Whether or not liposuction will be used during your tummy tuck surgery will depend on how much excess abdominal fat you have, and will be discussed during your consultation.

4. Closing and Dressing Wounds

Dr. Teotia will carefully close your incisions and apply a compression garment to help your skin re-adhere to the abdominal wall. Small drainage tubes will be placed to ensure proper draining of excess fluid from the surgical site.

5. Aftercare and Recovery

Dr. Teotia will give you full instructions for aftercare, prescribe pain medication, and help you understand what to expect after surgery. A full recovery will take from 3 to 6 months. Most patients experience some amount of swelling and bruising – both of which will gradually fade with time. If you follow your recovery instructions and care for your scars properly, they should also continue to fade until they are thin and silvery.

Returning to your regular activities after a tummy tuck takes several weeks, and it is important that you clear your schedule appropriately so that you don’t do too much too soon. Given ample recovery time and dedication to aftercare, diet, and exercise, most people are very pleased with the appearance of their midsection after a tummy tuck.