Pregnancy, weight loss, previous surgery, and aging can all cause abdominal skin to sag and muscles to separate. Abdominoplasty—popularly referred to as a tummy tuck—creates a firmer contour by repairing these muscles and removing excess fat and skin. Sometimes liposuction is performed along with a tummy tuck. A tummy tuck doesn’t take the place of exercise or a weight-loss program, but if your best efforts at reshaping your body have left you frustrated, it may be the solution you’re seeking.

Suitable candidates for abdominoplasty are healthy individuals whose weight is fairly stable; it’s best to postpone this procedure if you’re planning to become pregnant or to lose a significant amount of weight. Be aware that a tummy tuck may not correct all stretch marks, though the skin with stretch marks below the belly button will be removed in the process.

A horizontal incision is made low on the abdomen—from hip to hip for a complete abdominoplasty, or shorter for a mini tummy tuck. For a full tummy tuck, a second incision is made around the navel to remove loose skin on the upper abdomen and then move the belly button back to its correct position.

Abdominoplasty usually is performed as overnight surgery under general anesthesia. The operation can take less than two hours for a mini tummy tuck, or up to five hours for a full abdominoplasty.

Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction

You may be wondering which is right for you, a tummy tuck or liposuction. A tummy tuck repairs muscles that have separated and takes away unwanted folds of skin; liposuction doesn’t do either of those things but eliminates excess fat tissue under the skin. What’s most appropriate for you will depend on your specific issues, and how much loose skin and fat you have in your abdominal area. If extra fat tissue is your main concern and loose skin isn’t a problem, liposuction alone may give you the contour you want. Liposuction may also be done in combination with a tummy tuck. Dr. Jensen will thoroughly explain the different options and help you determine the best way to attain your personal goals.

Tummy Tuck Recovery and Results

The results of a tummy tuck may not show right away because of swelling and the internal healing needed before you feel comfortable assuming your normal posture. But within a week or so, your new, tauter silhouette will become apparent.

Keep in mind that abdominoplasty is major surgery, and you will experience pain and swelling afterward. You should anticipate that tummy tuck recovery can take up to a few weeks. Medication will be prescribed as needed to deal with the discomfort, and pain pumps will be inserted at the time of surgery to help mitigate the pain. An elastic bandage and/or support garment will help hold the abdomen in place and reduce swelling while you’re healing. Soreness may last for several weeks or a few months, and there may be some numbness, so you won’t feel completely back to normal for a while.

Depending on the type of work that you do, you won’t want to plan on returning for up to two weeks. You’ll need to avoid strenuous activity for several weeks, heavy lifting for six weeks or so. It’s important to follow the surgeon’s directions to minimize pain and scarring and to ensure the effectiveness of your procedure. Regular exercise and a healthy diet will help assure long-lasting results.

Mini Tummy Tuck

For those whose fat is mainly below the navel, a partial abdominoplasty may be all that’s needed to achieve a more toned appearance. In the case of a mini tummy tuck, the incision will be shorter than for a full tummy tuck and the belly button probably won’t have to be repositioned. Minimally invasive endoscopic surgery may be used, typically taking less than two hours.

Mini-abdominoplasty is a less invasive procedure than a full tummy tuck, so the recovery time is shorter and there’s less scarring. The incision isn’t as long, and there’s no incision around the navel, but you should still anticipate similar recovery for a mini tummy tuck before and after surgery, only to a lesser degree.

Male Tummy Tuck

Men, too, can benefit from abdominoplasty. For men whose abdominal muscles have lost definition or whose abdominal skin has loosened—because of weight fluctuations, genetics, or aging—a male tummy tuck can help create a more athletic midsection and a slimmer waist. The procedure is the same for men as for women: muscles are tightened and excess skin and fat are removed through an incision made in the lower abdomen; sometimes liposuction is done along with the tummy tuck. This won’t take the place of diet and exercise, but it can help you attain a fitter appearance when exercise alone hasn’t been enough to do so.