Cosmetic Surgery Tips

When do you need a tummy tuck

If you’re considering a tummy tuck, you’re probably already thinking about how it will help you look and feel better. But before you commit to an invasive surgery, it’s important to consider what a tummy tuck actually does.

A tummy tuck is a surgical procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the abdomen and tightens the abdominal muscles. The surgery is often done to improve the appearance of loose skin after significant weight loss, but it can also be performed for other reasons, including poor muscle tone or trauma to the abdomen.

But there’s more to a tummy tuck than just getting rid of excess skin and tightening up your belly button. You should also consider whether your reason for wanting one is valid—and whether or not it will have lasting effects on your health.

What is a tummy tuck?

Formally known as abdominoplasty, the tummy tuck is a surgical body contouring procedure designed to improve the appearance of the abdomen by removing excess skin and, in some cases, tightening the underlying abdominal muscles. Oftentimes, the surgeon will combine liposuction with a tummy tuck to remove stubborn areas of fat and further enhance the results of the procedure.

Why it’s done

There are a number of reasons you might have excess fat, poor elasticity of the skin or weakened connective tissue in your abdomen. These include:

  • Significant changes in weight
  • Pregnancy
  • Abdominal surgery, such as a C-section
  • Aging
  • Your natural body type

A tummy tuck can remove loose, excess skin and fat, and tighten weak fascia. A tummy tuck may also remove stretch marks and excess skin in the lower abdomen below the bellybutton. However, a tummy tuck won’t correct stretch marks outside of this area.

If you’ve previously had a C-section, your plastic surgeon might be able to incorporate your existing C-section scar into your tummy tuck scar.

A tummy tuck can also be done in combination with other body contouring cosmetic procedures, such as breast surgery. If you’ve had fat removed from your abdomen (liposuction), you may decide to have a tummy tuck because liposuction removes tissue just under the skin and fat but not any excess skin.

A tummy tuck isn’t for everyone. Your doctor might caution against a tummy tuck if you:

  • Plan to lose a significant amount of weight
  • Might consider pregnancy in the future
  • Have a severe chronic condition, such as heart disease or diabetes
  • Have a body mass index that’s greater than 30
  • Smoke
  • Have had a previous abdominal surgery that caused significant scar tissue

Types of tummy tuck surgeries

A cosmetic surgeon may recommend one of the following tummy tuck surgery procedures to help give you a firmer, flatter, abdominal contour with minimal scarring:

Mini Tummy Tuck: If you’re mainly concerned about stretch marks and loose skin below your belly button, then the mini tummy tuck surgery is the ideal option. This procedure involves making one horizontal incision below your belly button, from which your surgeon then effectively tightens the loose abdominal muscles. Surplus skin is also removed to create a flat and firm abdominal wall.

Mini tummy tuck surgeries usually take a relatively shorter time and will often have a faster recovery time, along with minimal scarring. Expect a thin scar, usually a couple of inches, along with a firmer and flatter lower abdomen.

Full or Classic Tummy Tuck: This tummy tuck addresses both the upper and lower abdomen areas and will typically yield great results in removing excess fat. Your cosmetic surgeon will use either a U-shaped or horizontal incision below the belly button or the navel. Excess fat and skin are then eliminated to achieve a slim abdomen that looks natural.

The full or classic tummy tuck will typically leave a longer scar due to the extensive incisions required. However, the scar will hide below a swimsuit bottom. This type of tummy tuck benefits includes a considerably smoother, slimmer abdomen with fewer stretch marks and more comfort wearing skirts and pants.

Extended Tummy Tuck: The extended abdominoplasty is the standard tummy tuck that includes recontouring the flanks, hips, or even lateral thigh. It is quite useful for those who have experienced significant weight loss and are now dealing with excessively saggy skin on their abdomen. In most cases, the surgeon will perform liposuction around the flanks during the tummy tuck.

Risks

A tummy tuck poses various risks, including:

  • Fluid accumulation beneath the skin (seroma). Drainage tubes left in place after surgery can help reduce the risk of excess fluid. Your doctor might also remove fluid after surgery using a needle and syringe.
  • Poor wound healing. Sometimes areas along the incision line heal poorly or begin to separate. You might be given antibiotics during and after surgery to prevent an infection.
  • Unexpected scarring. The incision scar from a tummy tuck is permanent, but it’s typically placed along the easily hidden bikini line. The length and visibility of the scar varies from person to person.
  • Tissue damage. During a tummy tuck, fatty tissue deep within your skin in the abdominal area might get damaged or die. Smoking increases the risk of tissue damage. Depending on the size of the area, tissue might heal on its own or require a surgical touch-up procedure.
  • Changes in skin sensation. During a tummy tuck, the repositioning of your abdominal tissues can affect the nerves in the abdominal area, and infrequently, in the upper thighs. You’ll likely feel some reduced sensation or numbness. This usually diminishes in the months after the procedure.

Like any other type of major surgery, a tummy tuck poses a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia.

How you prepare

You’ll talk to a plastic surgeon about a tummy tuck. During your first visit, your plastic surgeon will likely:

  • Review your medical history. Be prepared to answer questions about current and past medical conditions. Talk about any medications you’re taking or have taken recently, as well as any surgeries you’ve had.Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications. If your desire for a tummy tuck is related to weight loss, your doctor will likely ask detailed questions about your weight gain and loss.
  • Do a physical exam. To determine your treatment options, the doctor will examine your abdomen. The doctor might also take pictures of your abdomen for your medical record.
  • Discuss your expectations. Explain why you want a tummy tuck, and what you’re hoping for in terms of appearance after the procedure. Make sure you understand the benefits and risks of the procedure, including scarring. Keep in mind that previous abdominal surgery might limit your results.

Before a tummy tuck you might also need to:

  • Stop smoking. Smoking decreases blood flow in the skin and can slow the healing process. In addition, smoking increases the risk of tissue damage. If you smoke, your doctor will recommend that you stop smoking before surgery and during recovery.
  • Avoid certain medications. You’ll likely need to avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, which can increase bleeding.
  • Maintain a stable weight. Ideally, you’ll maintain a stable weight for at least 12 months before having a tummy tuck. If you’re severely overweight, your doctor will recommend that you lose weight before the procedure. Significant weight loss after the procedure can diminish your results.
  • Arrange for help during recovery. Make plans for someone to drive you home after you leave the hospital and stay with you for at least the first night of your recovery at home.

When to get a tummy tuck

Tummy tucks are medically necessary when a section of your abdomen is stretched beyond its limits. This can happen for a number of reasons, including pregnancy and weight gain. When you’re pregnant, your abdomen naturally expands to accommodate the growing fetus and its organs. After you give birth, your uterus shrinks to its normal size, but your abdominal muscles may not return to their original shape completely. If they don’t, then it’s time for a tummy tuck!

Similarly, if you’ve gained or lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time (such as after having children), then your abdominal muscles may have stretched out too far and need to be tightened up again. A tummy tuck can also help people with loose skin around their midsection due to previous pregnancies or other types of weight loss or gain that cause the skin to hang low over their hips or pubic area.

When to buy new clothes after tummy tuck

When you have a tummy tuck, you’re going to be wearing your post-surgery garments for a while. That means that your new clothes are going to have to fit over the garments—and that’s not always easy!

As long as your stomach is still healing, we recommend waiting at least six weeks before you buy new clothes. That will give you time to heal and recover from surgery without having to worry about whether or not your new jeans will fit over your post-surgery garments.

After six weeks, though, it’s time to get shopping! If you’ve got the money in your budget, then by all means go for it! But if you’re strapped for cash after surgery costs, then we recommend waiting until you’ve saved up some extra cash before splurging on new clothes. It’s worth it!

What clothes to wear after tummy tuck surgery

Tummy tucks are designed to eliminate stubborn fat and excess skin from the stomach. It can also tighten separated abdominal muscles that loosen during childbirth. The planning stages can be exciting since many people dream of wearing slimmer clothing afterward. However, new jeans and swimsuits may need to wait at least several weeks. Our clinic can let you know what clothes to wear after tummy tuck surgery.

Immediately following a tummy tuck, your abdomen will be placed in a medical-grade compression garment to reduce side effects, like inflammation. Patients are advised to wear this garment with loose-fitting clothing that is easy to remove. We recommend button-up or zip-up tops and drawstring sweatpants for relaxing at home during the day. Make sure there is no elastic digging into your waist.

What to wear after tummy tuck recovery

Most swelling and inflammation from tummy tuck surgery subsides after four to six weeks. Once you have been cleared by Dr. Dauwe, you can begin to have fun with your clothing selection. A shopping trip is a wonderful way to embrace your new body and reward yourself at the end of recovery. Other individuals take their clothes to a tailor for the right adjustments. While some patients worry that bathing suits and bikinis will reveal tummy tuck scars, we strategically place incisions to make sure they are easily hidden below the bikini line.

What sizes can I wear?

People decide to have tummy tuck surgery to improve their contours and go down several sizes in clothing. While it does help with loose folds of skin, this is not necessarily considered a weight loss procedure. While some people do go down several sizes, others notice more subtle changes. If you have concerns, Dr. Dauwe can show you before and after photos in the office and explain what to expect in terms of a fit after tummy tuck recovery.

Is a tummy tuck covered by insurance?

Although there are certainly medical and functional benefits to be gained through a tummy tuck, the procedure is not typically covered by insurance. Some related procedures, such as the panniculectomy – which is used to remove the excess skin of the pannus after weight loss – may be covered by insurance in certain cases.

Can I combine a tummy tuck with other procedures?

Yes! Many patients choose to combine their tummy tuck with additional procedures in order to maximize the results of their transformation as well as to cut down on expensive surgical fees in the long run. After weight loss patients may choose to have a tummy tuck, arm lift (brachioplasty), and thigh lift all performed simultaneously, for instance.

Another example of a combined procedure is the mommy makeover, which can be highly beneficial for women who have had children – and even those who haven’t. Some of the procedures most commonly combined with a tummy tuck as part of a mommy makeover include breast augmentation, breast lift, and Brazilian butt lift (BBL).

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