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A tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is designed to remove loose, excess skin around the abdomen and repair any stretched or torn abdominal muscles, resulting in a smoother and flatter look. This is done to improve a hanging or protruding abdomen and achieve a sleeker, more defined body contour.

Often, the effects of pregnancy, weight fluctuation, gravity, the aging process, and genetics can cause skin laxity and a separation of the abdominal muscles from their original position. Many individuals find that dieting, exercise, and toning efforts do not adequately improve these concerns or only provide limited results. Tummy tuck surgery performed by experienced San Diego plastic surgeon Scott Miller, MD can remove loose abdominal skin and tighten stretched musculature to flatten the abdomen and slim the waistline.

What are the Benefits of Abdominoplasty?

While the benefits of a tummy tuck can vary from patient-to-patient, the final outcome is generally a flatter, firmer abdomen with an improved body contour. With this cosmetic procedure, patients can achieve:

Tummy tuck surgery is currently the only effective body contouring option that can get rid of excess skin and offers long-term results. If needed or desired, liposuction can also be incorporated during surgery to reduce localized pockets of stubborn fat in the area. Many patients opt to enhance their tummy tuck results by smoothing fat bulges in the hips, flanks, lower back, or bra line.

Who is a Candidate for Abdominoplasty?

The best candidates for a tummy tuck typically include:

For women who have had one or more pregnancies, a tummy tuck can be an essential part of regaining a pre-pregnancy figure. Weight gain, weight loss, and repeated stretching and scarring of the abdomen can take a tremendous toll on the body after multiple pregnancies. By repairing the abdominal muscles with a tummy tuck, women can achieve a tighter appearance in the abdomen that dieting and exercise alone could never accomplish. Depending on your individual cosmetic goals, Dr. Miller may recommend combining a tummy tuck with one or more additional procedures for a comprehensive Mommy Makeover.

How is the Tummy Tuck Procedure Performed?

The tummy tuck procedure begins with an incision made across the lower abdomen, just above the pubic area and beneath the bikini line. An incision may also be made around the belly button. At this time, the underlying abdominal muscles can be tightened, providing a stronger abdominal wall and reducing the overall waist size. The skin and fat between the pubic area and the belly button is usually removed, and any loose tissue from above is pulled down and to the center. Finally, a new opening is made for the belly button at the proper position.

The entire abdominoplasty procedure generally takes about two to three hours to complete, but this may vary based on a patient’s unique needs. On the night of surgery, you will be provided with a caregiver and hotel stay. With the help of a close friend or family member, most individuals are able to return home the day after their surgery.

Mini Tummy Tuck

Mini abdominoplasty is an abbreviated form of tummy tuck surgery that only treats the region below the belly button. This procedure can be ideal for patients whose concerns mainly involve a belly “pooch” or pocket of loose skin below the naval. Like a regular tummy tuck, stretched abdominal muscles are tightened and excess skin is removed during surgery. The difference is that a mini tummy tuck does not address the entire length of the abdominal wall, which is standard during classic abdominoplasty. Since the treated area is much smaller, a mini tummy tuck often involves smaller incisions, less invasiveness, and a relatively shorter recovery period when compared to a full tummy tuck.

Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction

As liposuction and tummy tuck surgery are two of the most popular procedures to improve the look of the abdomen, many patients have questions regarding which of these body contouring treatments can fulfill their goals most effectively.

In general, a tummy tuck is the most effective treatment for patients who wish to tighten loose or sagging abdominal skin. If you experience a bulging abdomen in spite of good exercise and lifestyle habits, this may be a sign of separated musculature — a concern which can only be resolved with tummy tuck surgery. In contrast, if stubborn fat pockets in the abdomen are the main reason for treatment, liposuction may be enough to achieve your desired aesthetic. Liposuction can remove excess fat for excellent results, but it’s only suitable for men and women with minimal to no skin sagging and good skin elasticity. Both procedures can also be performed together to achieve the best possible outcome. Ultimately, the best way to determine the most ideal procedure for your needs is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Miller. He can provide his recommendation after your needs are evaluated. Together, you both can decide which treatment to pursue.

What is Recovery From a Tummy Tuck Like?

Dr. Miller and his team will provide detailed after-care information regarding your medications, approved activities, and the nature of the normal healing process. The role you play in the recovery period is pivotal to your results. Following Dr. Miller’s post-operative instructions can help ensure scars heal properly and minimize the amount of downtime necessary. Following surgery, a firm elastic dressing is placed over the treated area and medication is provided to alleviate soreness and discomfort. You may experience tightness, tingling, or numbness, but these reactions are normal and should dissipate as your recovery progresses.

Patients are typically up and walking around in a day or two, although movement should remain limited to light activity and short periodic walks. After about one week, most individuals can expect to move around normally but strenuous activity should continue to be avoided for three to four weeks. Scars and incision marks usually fade over time; within three to six months, any visible scarring should be flatter and lighter. Additional instructions will be provided at the time of operation.

By removing the sagging, excess skin of the abdomen and repairing stretched or torn musculature, patients can enjoy a flatter, firmer abdomen as well as a thinner waistline. While the procedure is designed to provide a long-lasting result that does not require retreatment, patients can further extend the longevity of the cosmetic outcome with healthy lifestyle and exercise habits.

What Will My Scars From Tummy Tuck Surgery Look Like?

The scar from a tummy tuck may extend from hip to hip and will be placed low on the pubis, just below the bikini line. This inconspicuous location generally allows the length of the scar to be easily hidden by most types of underwear or bikini bottoms. For patients receiving a mini tummy tuck, which is a less extensive version of the full abdominoplasty procedure, the incision and resulting scar are typically shorter. Dr. Miller will give you instructions on proper wound-care to encourage the best healing of your incision, increasing the likelihood that the scar will flatten and fade to some extent over time.

How Long Do Tummy Tuck Results Last?

The outcome of abdominoplasty is designed to last a lifetime, although there are certain factors that can affect the longevity of your results. Weight fluctuation and/or future pregnancy are some of the major forces that can re-stretch the skin and abdominal muscles. Both can potentially reverse the aesthetic achieved from tummy tuck surgery. The aging process will not stop after your abdominoplasty, but the most effective way to preserve your results is to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Tummy tuck patients who are active and stay at a healthy weight after surgery typically enjoy their results indefinitely and do not feel the need to seek retreatment.

Tummy Tuck and Pregnancy

Abdominoplasty is very popular among women who have experienced pregnancy and wish to repair stretched abdominal muscles for a smoother and flatter abdomen. However, Dr. Miller also receives questions from patients wondering whether it is advisable to pursue a tummy tuck before getting pregnant. From a medical standpoint, pregnancy before tummy tuck surgery is certainly possible, generally without a risk of harm to you or the developing child. With that said, most board-certified plastic surgeons advise waiting until after you have completed your family to undergo abdominoplasty.

If you receive a tummy tuck and become pregnant at a later time, the repeated stretching of the musculature and skin that occurs with childbearing can reverse the outcome achieved with the initial abdominoplasty, typically recreating the aesthetic concerns you sought to resolve in the first place. This is why Dr. Miller recommends postponing a tummy tuck until after you have no future plans for pregnancy to help ensure lasting results that you can enjoy indefinitely.

How Much Does a Tummy Tuck Cost?

A tummy tuck is priced according to the extent of your concerns and the overall complexity of your procedure, with the total cost including fees for the anesthesia, surgeon, operating facility, and post-operative care, among other expenses. For this reason, the cost of tummy tuck surgery varies depending on the details of each patient’s treatment plan. It is impossible to give an accurate cost estimate of the procedure without knowledge of your unique needs, but rest assured that our patient care coordinator will provide a personalized quote after your consultation with Dr. Miller.

Our practice accepts plastic surgery financing from CareCredit®, a trusted healthcare lending company that can help you make the cost of a tummy tuck more affordable. After being approved through the simple application process, qualified patients can choose from a range of payment plans with low monthly installments and no interest rate options. This allows countless men and women to recieve their desired treatment while accommodating their budgetary concerns. For more information about the cost of tummy tuck surgery, please call our practice to speak to a member of our team.

Can I Get a Tummy Tuck Without Surgery?

Since the main goals of a tummy tuck involve tightening loose skin and separated musculature in the abdomen, replicating the results of a tummy tuck without surgery isn’t possible. Non-surgical treatments like CoolSculpting® can provide some improvement by reducing fatty deposits in the region, but minimally invasive techniques unfortunately cannot address stretched skin and musculature.

For this reason, treatments like the Tummy Tuck® Belt—which essentially claims to reproduce a non-surgical tummy tuck by simply wearing an abdominal binder—are usually ineffective. There is currently no medical or scientific evidence that the Tummy Tuck® Belt can serve as an alternative to abdominoplasty, or that non-surgical techniques can achieve a long-term outcome that rivals the results of a tummy tuck.

Are Tummy Tuck Complications Common?

Tummy tuck surgery is considered a safe and predictable cosmetic procedure with a very low rate of complications. Still, the risks involved with any surgery include bleeding, infection, contour irregularities, changes in skin sensation, and poor wound healing, among other potential reactions. Dr. Miller will go over the full benefits and risks of abdominoplasty with you so you can make a well-informed decision about whether to pursue the procedure.

Although surgical and aesthetic treatments will always carry some risk of complications, enlisting a board-certified and fellowship-trained plastic surgeon is considered the safest way to undergo a tummy tuck. Fellowship training and accreditation by the ABPS are typically among the highest levels of training an aesthetic plastic surgeon can complete; therefore, selecting a plastic surgeon of this caliber can give tummy tuck patients the confidence necessary to feel comfortable about their surgery.

Additional Tummy Tuck FAQs

Can a tummy tuck get rid of stretch marks?

The answer depends on where your stretch marks are located. A tummy tuck can sometimes remove stretch marks below the belly button during the process of eliminating excess skin, but there is no guarantee that this is possible without having your concerns assessed by Dr. Miller in person.

What are seromas after tummy tuck surgery?

A seroma is a collection of fluid that commonly forms after surgical procedures, especially when a large amount of tissue has been repositioned or disrupted. It typically presents as a lump or bump and should resolve on its own. Seromas rarely require medical treatment, but bleeding and/or the symptoms of a fever may necessitate attention from your primary care provider.

Is a tummy tuck covered by insurance?

Unfortunately, cosmetic procedures like abdominoplasty are not usually covered by medical insurance. However, our office accepts payment plans through CareCredit®, our third-party healthcare financing company. This option can often help qualified tummy tuck patients ma/ n\age out-of-pocket costs.

Can a tummy tuck cover a C-section scar?

If you have a scar from a previous C-section, Dr. Miller can often reuse this incision during abdominoplasty to limit the extent of post-surgical scarring.

When can I work out after a tummy tuck?

Dr. Miller typically recommends abstaining from exercise for four to six weeks. When it is safe for you to work out again, he will likely suggest starting out with low-intensity exercises and gradually progressing to more strenuous activity, such as weight lifting and aerobic exercise, based on how your body responds. Don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have a question about whether a certain workout is safe to engage in.

Can I experience weight gain after a tummy tuck?

Yes, a tummy tuck does not shield patients from future weight gain. In fact, significant weight fluctuation after a patient’s tummy tuck can reduce skin elasticity and even undo the tight abdominal contour achieved with the procedure. With this is mind, maintaining an active lifestyle is key to preserving your tummy tuck results.

How long does a tummy tuck scar take to heal?

The majority of healing should be complete about three months after your tummy tuck; however, it can take up to one year for a tummy tuck scar to fully heal. After this point, the scar may continue to lighten and fade to some extent over time. Certain skin care products and scar revision techniques can also be utilized as necessary to further improve the size, color, and texture of a scar.

Can you explain a panniculectomy vs. tummy tuck surgery?

A panniculectomy is performed to remove the “apron” of skin and fatty tissue on the abdomen; however, unlike a tummy tuck, this procedure does not address stretched abdominal muscles. Patients may undergo a panniculectomy in lieu of a tummy tuck if they begin to experience skin rashes, irritation, body odor, or other uncomfortable symptoms from the overlying abdominal skin and fat. Since a panniculectomy is performed for medical purposes rather than to flatten and firm the abdomen, it’s not considered a cosmetic procedure.

How painful is a tummy tuck?

Soreness and discomfort during the recovery period are a normal part of the body’s healing process, but a tummy tuck isn’t usually described as “painful” by most patients. Individuals who have undergone a tummy tuck generally find that over-the-counter medications can manage discomfort very well. Dr. Miller would be happy to address any concerns you have in a consultation so you’re able to make a decision about the procedure with realistic expectations.

What do I eat after a tummy tuck?

The best post-surgery diet typically consists of healthy, nourishing meals that aid in the healing process. This may include foods that are rich in protein, vitamins, and antioxidants, such as nutritious fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and eggs.

The best!!!! He did my tummy tuck a few years after having twins.

Kersten Flydal Galambos

March 18, 2014

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For more information about tummy tuck surgery, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Miller, please contact our office today.