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Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

Abdominoplasty or "tummy tuck" consists of removing excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen in order to tighten the muscle and fascia of the abdominal wall.  *Patients usually seek this type of surgery after pregnancy, or major weight loss, or simply in patients with aging lax tissue to treat excess skin, fat, stretch marks and looseness in abdominal muscles.

There are two levels of the tummy tuck procedure: the full tummy tuck, also known as a "complete abdominoplasty", and the mini tummy tuck, also known as a "partial abdominoplasty". The mini tummy tuck is performed on patients who have minimal loose, excess skin on their lower abdominals whereas the full tummy tuck is performed on patients who have more than minimal amounts of loose, excess skin on not just their lower abdominals but their upper abdominals as well.

Patients who choose to undergo the tummy tuck procedure are those who despite regular exercise and dieting have loose excess skin and for some, excess fat around their abdominals.  This can be due to pregnancy, major weight loss, or simply the effects of time and age.

Pregnancy stretches out the abdominal muscles and skin; after giving birth, the skin and muscles that have been stretched out typically have lost some level of the elasticity they once had, leaving behind loose, excess skin for some women.

People who have undergone major weight loss tend to have loose, excess skin all over their bodies, especially around their abdominals. This is due to the fact that being overweight or obese will stretch out the skin and muscles, causing them to lose their elasticity and therefore have a near impossible time bouncing back to a taut, firm state after being stretched for a period of time.

For some people, the effects of time and age will leave their muscles weaker and the skin less elastic than they were once before; weaker muscles mean that exercise will be less effective than before and a laxity of skin means that skin naturally becomes looser over time, leaving behind "flabby", loose, excess skin.

Loose, excess skin prevents people from having the thin, firm tummies that they desire; loose, excess skin does not respond well to either proper dieting or exercise as the skin itself contains neither the muscle fibers that are used during exercise nor the fat that is being used to fuel exercise. Once excess, loose skin appears on the body, chances are that it's there for good; it is extremely hard to naturally decrease the amount of excess skin. For people who are having a hard time getting rid of excess abdominal skin and fat on their own, the tummy tuck is likely an excellent solution.

Procedure Description 

As mentioned, there is two types of tummy tuck procedures: the full tummy tuck and the mini tummy tuck. Although the steps taken to complete each procedure are somewhat similar, each procedure addresses specific locations and issues related to loose, excess skin and fat that exists on and around the abdominals.

Full Abdominoplasty (Complete Tummy Tuck) 

The typical complete tummy tuck procedure will include the following steps:

  • A horizontal incision between the hips- below the area where pants and undergarments rest but above the pubic region- will be made. The length of this incision depends on the extent of the tummy tuck that needs to be performed in order to bring about satisfactory results
  • Through this incision, any excess abdominal fat will be removed using liposuction
  • The surgeon will then lift up the abdominal skin in order to detach it from the abdominal wall so that the muscles and fibers that lie underneath can be surgically tightened with sutures
  • A second incision is created around the navel such that one part of the navel is left attached to the abdomen and the rest of the navel is detached from the surrounding skin. The purpose of this second incision is to give the surgeon better access to the upper abdomen
  • Any excess fat from the upper abdomen is removed through liposuction and the muscles and fibers underneath are tightened, just as was done on the lower abdomen
  • Once a satisfactory amount of fat has been removed with liposuction and the muscles and fibers have been tightened, the surgeon will remove enough of the excess abdominal skin in such a way that the abdominals will be left smooth and wrinkle-free
  • The surgeon will place drains before closing the incision that was made so that any post-op fluids that accumulate can be drained out
  • After the incisions have been closed with sutures, dressing and a compression garment will be placed over the incision sites

Partial Abdominoplasty (Mini Tummy Tuck) 

The typical mini tummy tuck procedure will include the following steps:

Just like the complete tummy tuck, a horizontal incision- between the area where pants rest and the pubic area, is made, except the incision created during the mini tummy tuck procedure is shorter in length than the one created during the complete tummy tuck procedure

  • The surgeon will then remove any excess abdominal fat with liposuction through this incision and, after detaching the skin from the abdominal wall, the muscles and fibers of the abdominal wall are tightened with sutures
  • As the navel is not altered with a second incision, as is done during a complete tummy tuck procedure, in order to bring about a more balanced and even look about the abdominals, the surgeon may have to detach the navel from the muscle below it so that it can be slid down to a more aesthetically-pleasing location on the abdominals
  • After a satisfactory amount of fat has been removed with liposuction, the muscles have been tightened, and, if needed, the navel has been relocated, the surgeon will pull down the excess skin and surgically excise it in such a way that the abdominals are left smooth and without wrinkling
  • The surgeon will place a drain in an area that post-op fluids that accumulated can be drained out and then close the incision with sutures
  • Dressing and a compression garment will then be applied to the incision site


The tummy tuck and the mini tummy tuck are typically performed on an out-patient basis, meaning that patients will be able to return home the very same day that they undergo their procedures, although some time will need to be spent in the post-op recovery room so that the patient's post-op vitals and overall health can be monitored prior to discharge.

After the patient returns home, he or she should keep the following tips in mind:

Although it is very important to rest and relax after a tummy tuck procedure, patients should make the effort to walk around a bit every few hours or so after the surgery so that post-op blood clots can be prevented

  • Bruising and swelling on and around the abdominals is to be expected; most bruising and swelling should dissipate in about a week
  • Take any antibiotics and painkillers as prescribed by your cosmetic surgeon
  • Start to eat solid foods only after you've managed to properly tolerate liquids
  • Make sure that your compression garment is tight but comfortable. Most patients wear their compression garments for 4-6 weeks; wear your compression garment for as long as advised by your cosmetic surgeon.
  • Drains are typically removed 7-10 days after the procedure
  • Depending on the extent of the tummy tuck, some patients will feel well enough to return to work 2 weeks after the procedure, with others needing as much as 4 weeks
  • You can begin exercising again with light exercises 2 weeks after the procedure. You should refrain from participating in abdominal exercises for at least 6-8 weeks after the procedure.
  • Do not use any type of nicotine product for at least 1 month after the procedure (as well as 1 month prior to the procedure).
  • Full results are typically not realized until 3-6 months after the procedure.
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