Many of us strive for a flat, well-toned abdomen through exercise and weight control, but sometimes we can’t achieve our goals through these methods.
A Tummy Tuck, or Abdominoplasty, removes excess fat and skin, and it can restore weakened or separated muscles creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer.
About The Procedure
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. The most common causes of this include:
- Significant fluctuations in weight
- Prior surgery
Also known as abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck removes excess fat and skin, and in most cases restores weakened or separated muscles creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer.
What it Won’t Do:
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 may be advised to postpone a tummy tuck.
Also, 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, generally those treated areas below the belly button.
Tummy tuck surgery is a highly individualized procedure and you should do it for yourself, not to fulfill someone else’s desires or to try to fit any sort of ideal image.
Abdominoplasty is a good option for you if:
- You are physically healthy and at a stable weight
- You have realistic expectations
- You are a non-smoker
- You are bothered by the feeling that your tummy is too large
Your consultation is your time to ask the doctor about the procedure you’re considering, how he thinks it will work for you and any concerns you may have. We suggest you come prepared with your questions on paper so you’re sure not to forget to ask the questions that are important to you.
Questions to consider:
- What is the simplest and safest surgery to help me achieve my goals?
- How is the surgery performed?
- What is the expected length of operation?
- Are other options available?
- What results can I expect, and how long do the typical results last?
- Where will scars be located, and how noticeable will they be?
- Will scars fade over time, and how long will this take?
When you arrive at the office, you will be asked to fill out a few pieces of paperwork. It is very important when asked about medications to put down all medications you take, including any supplements or aspirin-type regimens, since these items can impact your blood clotting and pressure. In addition, you need to be truthful about your use of tobacco and alcohol since this will affect your recovery and incision healing.
Before you see the doctor, a nurse or nurse practitioner will do an initial exam. You may be able to get a number of your questions answered while with the nurse.
Your surgeon will discuss several factors regarding surgery during your initial consultation, including your procedure, location, anesthesia and recovery. In addition, the surgeon will inquire about your concerns, priorities and motivations for pursuing surgery, as well as your fears.
The doctors are sure to address reasonable expectations for the outcome of your desired procedure, and they should explain what is possible and what is not possible.
After your consultation with the physician, you will meet with the practice manager to discuss procedure costs.
There are a number of things to do prior to your procedure that will make your recovery as smooth as possible and ease your pre-procedure anxiety.
Your surgeon will give you instructions on what medications to stop taking and when prior to your surgery to prevent any unwanted side effects. Medications you shouldn’t take up to two weeks prior to your surgery include, but are not limited to, aspirin and products containing aspirin, alcohol and herbal supplements. Your surgeon may advise you to take Arnica Montana, Bromelain or vitamins A or K for swelling, bruising and to promote general healing.
It is important to remember to only take a supplement or herbal remedy if your surgeon advises it.
Your Pre-Op Checklist
- Take pictures and make notes to discuss with your doctor. You know what you want, and he knows how to make it possible.
- Make a list of post-op projects and gather what you need.Stop taking blood-thinning medications and supplements two weeks prior to surgery (aspirin, Motrin, fish oils, vitamin E) and don’t take them two weeks after surgery.
- Books to read
- Photo projects
- Vacation planners
- Start using anti-bacterial soap in the shower a few days before surgery and following surgery.
- Remove all fingernail and toenail polish.
- Fill prescriptions you’ll need, including antibiotics and pain medications.
- Purchase over-the-counter eye drops and eye gel for overnight (GenTeal seems best and it is found at major drug stores like Walgreens)
- Pick up Bacitracin for incision areas and Colace to keep your bowels moving during recovery.
- Clear your calendar for a month post-op
- Arrange for caretakers: you, kids, plants and pets need to be taken care of during your recovery. You will not be able to lift, reach, bend over or be too active for some time.
- Prepare your recovery area so your head is elevated. A recliner works wonders for this. Also stock your recovery area with:
- Remote control
- Reading material
- Any other item that will make you feel comfortable during your recovery
- Make a to-do list of things you want to get done prior to surgery and start! You won’t be able to accomplish as much post-surgery. Some items you may want to get done include:You will want to stock up on groceries or cook meals prior to your surgery. Many patients enjoy the ease of frozen meals, yogurt, pudding, fruits, soups and anything else that is easy to prepare.
- Clean the house
- Catch up on gardening
- Give the dog a bath
- Clean the litter box
- Wash your car
- Stock up on ice packs, frozen peas and frozen gel packs. You’ll want to use them early and often on your face, neck and ears. It will definitely feel good and keep the swelling down.
- Pack a receptacle with a lid and towel in your car for the ride home from the hospital just in case you feel nauseous. You may want to add a pillow and blanket, but be sure to set up on the ride home to help with the nausea and swelling.
- Get your hair and nails done since it will be a while before you can do either.
- Prepare Power of Attorney for Medical Care and Advance Directives, just in case. Give copies to your doctor and/or surgical center.
- Breathe and relax! Stress can adversely affect your recovery. Try to remember that you will heal, the soreness will subside and you will look great.
During Your Procedure
Anesthesia: Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedures. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.
The Incision: A full tummy tuck requires a horizontally-oriented incision in the area between the pubic hairline and navel. The shape and length of the incision will be determined by the degree of correction necessary.
Through this incision, weakened abdominal muscles are repaired and sutured and excess fat, tissue and skin is removed.
A second incision around the navel may be necessary to remove excess skin in the upper abdomen.
Closing the Incisions: Sutures, skin adhesives, tapes or clips close the skin incisions.
Your tummy tuck will result in a flatter, firmer abdominal contour that is more proportionate with your body type and weight.
The final results may be initially obscured by swelling and your inability to stand fully upright until internal healing is complete.
Within a week or two, you should be standing tall and confident about your new slimmer profile.
Following your surgery, dressings or bandages may be applied to your incisions, and you may be wrapped in an elastic bandage or a compression garment to minimize swelling and to support your abdomen as it heals.
A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.
Recovery is an important part of any surgery, and you must take the doctor’s orders to heart if you want to heal as quickly as possible.
You will be given specific instructions that may include: how to care for the surgical site, medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential for infection, specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in overall health, and when to follow up with your plastic surgeon.
Be sure to ask your plastic surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period.
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery? When will they be removed?
- Are stitches removed? When?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
With every surgery there are risks. Feel free to discuss the risks and your concerns freely with your surgeon:
- Unfavorable scarring
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Fluid accumulation
- Poor wound healing
- Skin loss
- Blood clots
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Anesthesia risks
- Skin discoloration and/or prolonged swelling
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Major wound separation
- Recurrent looseness of skin
- Pain, which may persist
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Persistent swelling in the legs
- Nerve damage
- Possibility of revisional surgery
- Suboptimal aesthetic result