American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Your guide to a tummy tuck – before, during and after

tummy tuck journey

Has significant weight loss or pregnancy left you with loose skin or separated abdominal muscles? If you're looking for a way to restore your waistline and your confidence, a tummy tuck – also known as abdominoplasty – could be the solution you've been looking for.

This popular procedure removes excess skin and fat and tightens your abdominal muscles, giving you the toned, flat stomach you desire. But what exactly is a tummy tuck, and is it right for you? This guide will tell you what to expect before, during and after tummy tuck surgery.

Before surgery: Deciding if it is right for you and finding the right surgeon

Understanding the procedure, what it can accomplish for you and how to choose a surgeon are essential first steps.

What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck is a surgical procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the abdominal area while tightening the muscles. Different types of tummy tucks are available, including mini, full and extended. The right procedure for you will depend on your needs and aesthetic goals.

Who makes an ideal candidate for the procedure?

While a tummy tuck can be a life-changing procedure for many, it's not suitable for everyone. Ideal candidates are often people who have experienced significant weight loss or pregnancy and have excess skin, stretched or separated muscles and stubborn fat in the abdominal area that hasn't responded to diet and exercise. To achieve the best results, you should be at or near your goal weight before surgery.

How can you find the right surgeon for my tummy tuck surgery?

It's important to do your research when choosing a surgeon. Look for a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in tummy tuck surgery. Check their credentials, ask for referrals, read reviews from other patients and review before and after photos of their work.

Once you've narrowed your choices, schedule a consultation with your chosen surgeon to discuss your goals and concerns. Good communication between patient and surgeon is key to getting your desired results.

The ASPS Find a Plastic Surgeon referral service is an excellent resource for finding an ASPS Member Surgeon in your area.

How much does the procedure typically cost? Does insurance cover it?

The cost of a tummy tuck varies depending on factors such as the type of abdominoplasty performed, the surgeon's experience and your geographic location. A tummy tuck typically costs between $10,000 and $20,000. While insurance usually doesn't cover tummy tucks, financing options are often available.

How can you prepare for a tummy tuck?

Preparation for a tummy tuck can include quitting smoking several weeks in advance, eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding certain medications. Your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions.

You'll need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the surgery and stay to assist you for the first several days of your recovery.

During surgery: How it works and what to expect

Let's look closer at how a tummy tuck works and what you can expect during surgery.

How does a tummy tuck work?

A tummy tuck is performed under general anesthesia and typically takes between two to four hours, depending on the extent of the procedure. The surgeon makes an incision that enables the removal of excess skin and fat while tightening the abdominal muscles. The skin around the belly button will also be reshaped during a full tummy tuck.

What happens during tummy tuck surgery?

Here is a step-by-step breakdown of what you can expect during a tummy tuck procedure:

  • Anesthesia: Before the surgery begins, you'll be given general anesthesia to ensure you are asleep and pain-free during the procedure.
  • Incision: Once you're under anesthesia, your surgeon will make the necessary incisions. For a full tummy tuck, the incision will be made from hip bone to hip bone.
  • Muscle repair: After the incisions are made, the surgeon will repair the abdominal muscles, if necessary, tightening them to improve the contour of the area.
  • Excess skin and fat removal: The surgeon will remove any excess skin and fat from the abdominal area using excision (skin), liposuction (fat) or other techniques.
  • Belly button repositioning: If you're undergoing a full tummy tuck, your surgeon may reposition your navel for a more natural appearance after the surgery.
  • Closure: Once the necessary changes have been made, the surgeon will close the incisions using sutures or other techniques.
  • Recovery: After surgery, you'll be taken to a recovery area, where you'll be monitored as you wake up from the anesthesia. In most cases, you can return home the same day.

After surgery: Recovery and results

Knowing what to expect while healing from tummy tuck surgery helps you understand how to prepare for your recovery.

How long is the recovery period?

Recovery from tummy tuck surgery can take several weeks. Here's a general timeline of what you can expect during your recovery:

  • Week 1: You'll experience some pain and discomfort, which can be managed with medication. You may have drains in place to remove excess fluid from the surgical site, and you'll return to your surgeon's office for a follow-up visit. To reduce swelling and promote healing, you'll continuously wear a surgical body-shaping garment for the first two weeks and then as much as possible for another month. Light walking is encouraged to promote circulation, but your focus should be on getting plenty of rest.
  • Week 2: You should start to feel better and move around more comfortably. Some patients will be able to return to work and light daily activities.
  • Week 4: You should be able to resume most of your usual activities.
  • Week 6: Subject to your doctor's approval, you may be able to resume more strenuous exercise.

Since every patient's recovery timeline differs, follow your surgeon's instructions for your specific case.

What sort of scarring can you expect afterward?

Scarring is a common side effect of any surgery. However, you can minimize the scarring from tummy tuck surgery with proper care and follow-up.

The size and location of your scars will depend on the type of tummy tuck surgery you have. For a full tummy tuck, the scar typically extends from hip bone to hip bone and around the navel. A skilled surgeon will make the hip-to-hip incision straight and as low as possible so that underwear or swimsuit bottoms easily conceal the scar.

The scars will be visible for several months after the surgery but typically fade over time. Your surgeon will provide specific instructions for scar care and may recommend scar-minimizing treatments such as silicone sheets or gels.

What kind of results can you expect after the procedure?

It's important to have realistic expectations. While a tummy tuck can remove excess skin and fat and tighten the abdominal muscles, it's not a weight loss procedure nor a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.

The full results of a tummy tuck may take several months to fully appear as the swelling subsides and the incisions heal. To maintain your results, avoiding significant weight fluctuations is essential.

Tummy tuck surgery can be a transformative experience for patients, providing a smoother, more toned abdominal area that significantly enhances self-image and confidence.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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