What is a Tummy Tuck?

By Dr. Michael Decherd

A tummy tuck, also called abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure that is done to remove excess tissue and skin from the abdomen. There are different reasons why people want tummy tucks. Many women want the surgery because their stomach is no longer flat after having children or starts to sag due to aging. Also people who have lost a significant amount of weight have loose hanging skin.  Sometimes diet and exercise simply will not work. People tend to relate a flat stomach to youth, and they want to preserve that youthfulness as long as possible.

When you stick to a regular diet and exercise program and you still can’t lose that little pooch on your tummy it can be extremely frustrating. No matter how hard you try you can’t seem to get rid of it. Many times this is because pregnancy has stretched out the fascia of the body wall.  Exercise can’t fix this.  This is the time to consider a tummy tuck. When certain people lose a lot of weight quickly they can be left with excess skin that sags down from the belly. There are times when this is so severe that the extra skin actually has to be tucked into the clothing. Abdominoplasty is the only solution to removing the excess skin left over from the stomach after dramatic weight loss.

Most fashionable clothing is tight or cinched around the waist and all bathing suits show off every curve of the body. This is another reason why people choose to have the procedure done. It helps with certain self-image issues some people have. Imagine finally being able to wear whatever you want to without being self-conscious of how your body looks. Ideally, you will be able to wear a bathing suit or tight-fitting clothing without worrying about how your stomach looks in it. This is what an abdominoplasty offers.

A tummy tuck is not performed to lose weight although there will be a few pounds lost due to the removal of the tissue and skin. Rather, a tummy tuck is performed to reshape and define your body to regain that youthful, fit appearance. Each person’s individual results will vary but all results are dramatic. We should be able to give you an idea of exactly how dramatic your results will be. 

How is a Tummy Tuck Performed?

Prior to surgery, we will perform some lab tests and ask you several questions regarding your health. This is to keep you safe during surgery. You will be given detailed instructions on things such as diet and anything special you need to do before surgery. Do not dismiss these instructions as they are critical to your outcome.

A full abdominoplasty removes excess skin and fatty tissue usually from the pubic area to the belly button. Usually, a general anesthetic is administered so you will feel nothing. An incision is made just above the pubic line from hip to hip and the excess skin and fatty tissue from the lower abdomen is removed. The muscles in the abdomen are also repositioned and tightened so the stomach will achieve the overall taut and toned look. Some procedures include liposuction of the hips, waist, and upper abdomen to match the newly shaped tummy. The skin from the upper abdomen is then stretched down and attached at the incision. The belly button stays in place and will be brought out through an incision made in the skin. The scar from the surgery usually extends along the pubic line from hip to hip. It is purposely placed in an area that will be easy to cover up with any normal underwear or bathing suit bottom.

Recovery Period and Instructions After a Tummy Tuck

After a tummy tuck, you should be prepared for a recovery period. With a desk job, we recommend planning on being away for ten days or so.  If we did surgery on Thursday, shoot to go back Monday post-op day eleven.  You will need someone who will be able to support you during your recovery period, especially during the first few days.  You will not get to your new baseline, though, for a few months.

After your surgery is finished, there will be protective tape over the incisions that will remain in place for a few weeks. The sutures that are below the skin will eventually dissolve and the discomfort and itching will subside. Drains will be placed and we will explain to you in detail how to take care of them. The only stitches that have to be removed are the ones that hold in the drains.

You will have soreness for a few days after the surgery. We use an injection at the time of surgery called Exparel that greatly reduces pain.  Pain medication is also prescribed to alleviate discomfort. When you are standing, you likely will not be able to stand up straight for a couple weeks. Some people find relief with a cane or something to take some pressure off the lower back.

We ask you not to raise your blood pressure for two weeks.  We do not want something that was not bleeding to start.  So: no heavy lifting, no exercise, no constipation (which pain pills cause), no sexual activity.  Between weeks two and three take it lightly.  If you lift weights for example, lift a lightweight, and knock yourself out on the repetitions.   After three weeks, don’t do something to stress the incision, but basically, you are free to workout letting your body be your guide.  The only things we do not want at that point is submerging in water, or doing something where you could get hurt.

After the first night you will be able to take a shower. Do not take a bath until all drains are removed and it is okayed by us.

Typically this is a high-satisfaction surgery.  It does require some recovery, but the results are usually well worth it!

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