What is a tummy tuck?
Tummy tuck surgery, also known as abdominoplasty, removes excess fat and skin and, in most cases, restores weakened or separated muscles creating an abdominal profile that is smoother and firmer.
A flat and well-toned abdomen is something many of us strive for through exercise and weight control. Sometimes these methods cannot achieve our goals.
Even individuals of otherwise normal body weight and proportion can develop an abdomen that protrudes or is loose and sagging. The most common causes of this include:
- Prior surgery
- Significant fluctuations in weight
What tummy tuck surgery can't do
A tummy tuck is not a substitute for weight loss or an appropriate exercise program.
Although the results of a tummy tuck are technically permanent, the positive outcome can be greatly diminished by significant fluctuations in your weight. For this reason, individuals who are planning substantial weight loss or women who may be considering future pregnancies would be advised to postpone a tummy tuck.
A tummy tuck cannot correct stretch marks, although these may be removed or somewhat improved if they are located on the areas of excess skin that will be excised.
Who is a good candidate for tummy tuck surgery?
A tummy tuck is a highly individualized procedure. You should do it for yourself, not to fulfill someone else's desires or to try to fit any sort of ideal image.
In general, you may be a good tummy tuck candidate if:
- You are physically healthy and at a stable weight
- You have realistic expectations
- You are a nonsmoker
- You are bothered by the appearance of your abdomen
How much does a tummy tuck cost?
The average cost of a tummy tuck is $6,253, according to 2018 statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This average cost is only part of the total price – it does not include anesthesia, operating room facilities or other related expenses. Please consult with your plastic surgeon's office to determine your final fee.
A surgeon's fee for tummy tuck surgery will be based on his or her experience, the type of procedure used and the geographic office location.
Most health insurance plans do not cover tummy tuck surgery or its complications, but many plastic surgeons offer patient financing plans, so be sure to ask.
Tummy tuck costs may include:
- Anesthesia fees
- Hospital or surgical facility costs
- Medical tests
- Post-surgery garments
- Prescriptions for medication
- Surgeon's fee
When choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area for a tummy tuck, remember that the surgeon's experience and your comfort with him or her are just as important as the final cost of the surgery.
What should I expect during a consultation for tummy tuck surgery?
During your tummy tuck consultation be prepared to discuss:
- Your surgical goals
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drug use
- Previous surgeries
Your tummy tuck surgeon will also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Take photographs
- Discuss your options
- Recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes of the tummy tuck and any risks or potential complication
The success and safety of your tummy tuck procedure depends very much on your complete candidness during your consultation. You'll be asked a number of questions about your health, desires and lifestyle.
The consultation is the time to ask your plastic surgeon questions. To help, we have prepared a checklist of questions to ask your tummy tuck surgeon that you can take with you to your consultation.
It's very important to understand all aspects of your tummy tuck procedure. It's natural to feel some anxiety, whether it's excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don't be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.
What questions should I ask my plastic surgeon about tummy tuck surgery?
Use this checklist as a guide during your tummy tuck consultation:
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Were you specifically trained in the field of plastic surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
- Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? If so, at which hospitals?
- Is the office-based surgical facility accredited by a nationally- or state-recognized accrediting agency, or is it state-licensed or Medicare-certified?
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- What will be expected of me to get the best results?
- Where and how will you perform my procedure?
- What surgical technique is recommended for me?
- How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- How are complications handled?
- How can I expect my stomach to look over time? After pregnancy?
- What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my tummy tuck?
- Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure and what results are reasonable for me?
What are the risks of tummy tuck surgery?
The decision to have plastic surgery is extremely personal, and you’ll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications of tummy tuck surgery are acceptable.
You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any risks.
Tummy tuck risks include:
- Anesthesia risks
- Fluid accumulation (seroma)
- Poor wound healing
- Skin loss
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Skin discoloration and/or prolonged swelling
- Unfavorable scarring
- Recurrent looseness of skin
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Suboptimal aesthetic result
- Possibility of revisional surgery
- Persistent pain
These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It’s important that you address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon.
How should I prepare for a tummy tuck?
In preparing for tummy tuck surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Stop smoking
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
A tummy tuck may be performed in an accredited office-based surgical facility, licensed ambulatory surgical center or a hospital.
If your tummy tuck is performed on an outpatient basis, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.
What are the steps of a tummy tuck procedure?
A tummy tuck procedure includes the following steps:
Step 1 - Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedures. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.
Step 2 - The incision
A full tummy tuck requires a horizontally-oriented incision in the area between the pubic hairline and belly button.
The shape and length of the incision will be determined by the amount of excess skin. Once the abdominal skin is lifted, the underlying weakened abdominal muscles are repaired.
A second incision around the navel may be necessary to remove excess skin in the upper abdomen.
The upper abdominal skin is pulled down like a window shade. The excess skin is trimmed and the remaining skin is sutured together. A new opening for the belly button is created. The belly button is popped through to the surface and sutured into position.
Step 3 – Closing the incisions
Sutures, skin adhesives, tapes or clips close the skin incisions.
Step 4 – See the results
Your tummy tuck will result in a flatter, firmer abdominal contour that is more proportionate with your body type and weight. Get more information about tummy tuck results.
What should I expect during my tummy tuck recovery?
During your tummy tuck recovery, dressings or bandages may be applied to your incisions, and you may be wrapped in an elastic bandage or a compression garment to minimize swelling and support your abdomen as it heals following surgery.
Small, thin tubes may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.
You will be given specific instructions that may include:
- How to care for the surgical site and drains
- Medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential for infection
- Specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health
- When to follow up with your plastic surgeon
Be sure to ask your tummy tuck surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period:
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery? When will they be removed?
- When will the stitches be removed?
- How will I bathe?
- How long will I wear the pressure garment?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
What results should I expect after a tummy tuck?
The final results of tummy tuck surgery may be initially obscured by swelling and your inability to stand fully upright until internal healing is complete.
Within a week or two, you should be standing tall and confident in your new slimmer profile. Your tummy tuck will result in a flatter, firmer abdominal contour that is more proportionate with your body type and weight.
Previous abdominal surgery may limit the potential results of a tummy tuck.
Tummy tuck scarring
In women who have undergone cesarean section, the existing scars may be incorporated into the new scar.
The tummy tuck scar may take several months to a year to fade as much as it will.
Although good results are expected from your procedure, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.
Following your physician’s instructions is essential to the success of your surgery.
It’s important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion or motion during the time of healing. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
Tummy Tuck Before & After Photos
View before and after photos of tummy tuck procedures performed by members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
What words should I know about tummy tuck surgery?
A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.
Condition in which abdominal muscles have separated.
Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
Blood pooling beneath the skin.
Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness.
A drug is injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.
How do I choose a plastic surgeon for tummy tuck surgery?
Tummy tuck surgery involves many choices. The first and most important is selecting a board-certified plastic surgeon you can trust who is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
ASPS member surgeons meet rigorous standards:
- Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery® (ABPS) or in Canada by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®
- Complete at least six years of surgical training following medical school with a minimum of three years of plastic surgery residency training
- Pass comprehensive oral and written exams
- Graduate from an accredited medical school
- Complete continuing medical education, including patient safety, each year
- Perform surgery in accredited, state-licensed, or Medicare-certified surgical facilities
Do not be confused by other official-sounding boards and certifications.
The ABPS is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which has approved medical specialty boards since 1934. There is no ABMS recognized certifying board with "cosmetic surgery" in its name.
By choosing a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, you can be assured that you are choosing a qualified, highly-trained plastic surgeon who is board-certified by the ABPS or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.