Tummy tucks – also known as abdominoplasties – are one of the most common procedures performed by cosmetic surgeons. Tummy tucks have become more popular not only because of the dramatic results most patients show but also because of our focus on health and fitness. Recent advances in the operation offer better pain control and a smoother recovery. Here are a few of our patients’ most common questions about this operation.
“Do I need a full tummy tuck, or can I have a smaller scar – for example, with a “mini” tummy tuck or just liposuction?”
Every tummy tuck is slightly different, since everyone’s problem areas are different. Some patients have too much loose skin, some have lots of stretch marks, some have too much fat, and some people’s muscles been stretched or separated by pregnancy. People with tight skin can benefit from procedures which result in reduced scarring approach, such as liposuction, an endoscopic abdominoplasty, or a mini-abdominoplasty. If there is a lot of loose skin that needs tightening, you will require a longer scar. We always try to keep scars as short as possible, but what matters most is how your skin and waist look after surgery, since tummy tuck scars are hidden under shorts and a bathing suit.
Will a tummy tuck help my stretch marks?”
Absolutely. After pregnancy, most women’s stretch marks are below their belly buttons, and this is the skin that is removed in a tummy tuck. Unlike lasers and creams (which I don’t think I have ever seen help anyone at all, once they’re a year out from having their last baby), an abdominoplasty completely removes this skin, making your entire abdomen look like the much less damaged skin between your ribcage and your belly button – but even better, since even that undamaged skin is stretched and looks better than before!
“How much discomfort will I have after a tummy tuck?”
Years ago, tummy tucks were frequently performed in hospitals, and many patients could not stand straight up for a week or two. We perform all of our tummy tucks in one of our two outpatient surgery centers, so our patients are up and walking on the first night after surgery. Most patients need 3 or 4 days of a mild narcotic pain reliever and are back to their normal light activities about two days after they stop taking pain medicine. People who had had a prior C-section say that the discomfort is a 2-3 if the C-section pain was a 10.
“How long is the recovery after a tummy tuck?”
The answer to this question depends on what you mean by “recovery.” All our patients are walking around their homes on the first day after surgery. Most people are able to get out of the house for light exercise and shopping (but NO HEAVY LIFTING) on the third or fourth day after surgery. You can drive a car about a week after surgery, and you can start lower body aerobic exercise (a recumbent stationary bike is the best at this stage) at ten days after surgery. After that, it is up to you and how you feel, but you can’t lift anything heavier than 30 pounds until a month after surgery because we don’t want anything to mess up the muscle tightening you’ve gotten.
“Will the results last?”
Absolutely! As long as your weight remains fairly stable, abdominoplasties are usually a ‘one and done’ procedure, which does not need to be repeated. Of course, your skin will continue to age after surgery, but it almost never gets back to the looseness that you had before surgery.
“After pregnancy, my tummy needs help, but my breasts do, too. Can you work on both at the same time?”
Absolutely. Lots of patients have changes to both their abdomen and their breasts after childbirth and nursing. Combining abdominal and breast contouring after pregnancy is so common that it has a name – “mommy makeover.” Combining these procedures makes a lot of sense, because you save a little money on the operations and can combine your recovery times, making it easier to fit both operations into your hectic schedule.
By Dr. Ingram