Tummy Tuck 101: Complete guide to abdominoplasty
If you’re considering a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) for either cosmetic appearance and/or to help with abdominal muscle repair, our Plastic + Hand team has the most qualified tummy tuck surgeons in Maine.
If you have questions before you book your consultation, this Tummy Tuck 101 Guide will cover everything you need to know about abdominoplasty. We’ll detail who is an appropriate candidate for the procedure, the different types of tummy tucks, stages of recovery, and expected results.
At Plastic + Hand, we’re dedicated to making this the best (and most informed) experience for you, so let’s get started.
How a tummy tuck can help
A tummy tuck removes excess skin and tissue from the abdomen and allows muscle tightening at the same time if needed. Loose skin and/or excess abdominal tissue is very common following pregnancy, weight loss, or even with age. You may want to tighten loose skin, remove some stubborn tissue, or you may be looking for a body contouring surgery that gives you the appearance that you desire.
Most healthy people who are dissatisfied with the shape and/or laxity of their abdomen are candidates for abdominoplasty. Typically, the best candidates for tummy tuck procedures are people of normal weight who have weakened abdominal muscles and excess skin/fat that aren’t responsive to diet and exercise.
It’s important to note that while a tummy tuck procedure can improve your appearance, and create a flatter abdomen, this surgery is not a substitute for weight loss. It’s best to be at your ideal weight prior to surgery for the best abdominoplasty results.
How abdominoplasty works
With training from some of the top medical centers in the U.S. (including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UCSF, Mayo Clinic), Plastic + Hand surgeons have the depth of experience and skills necessary to perform your tummy tuck safely and successfully in the comfort of our accredited outpatient Plastic + Hand Surgery Center located on-site here in Portland, Maine.
The first step is to discuss your tummy tuck options with your Plastic + Hand surgeon. Depending on the degree of change you’d like to see, your tummy tuck procedure options might include liposuction alone, mini tummy tuck (partial abdominoplasty) or full tummy tuck (standard abdominoplasty), fully outlined in our Mini Tummy Tuck vs. Full Tummy Tuck Guide and briefly outlined below.
Mini tummy tuck
A mini tummy tuck is recommended when the problem area is mainly below the navel and involves a minimum of excess skin. During the mini tummy tuck surgery, you will be placed under general anesthesia and your surgeon will make a small horizontal incision low on the abdomen and leave the navel intact. Excess skin and fat are removed, and the incision (typically smaller than a full tummy tuck incision) is sutured together. Liposuction of the upper abdomen is often performed at the same time as a mini abdominoplasty for improved contouring.
The actual mini tummy tuck surgery will take about 1-2 hours and you’ll recover in the recovery room where your progress will be monitored and most discomfort you’ll feel can be controlled with medication. After a few hours, a friend or relative can drive you home. For more visual details about this mini tummy tuck procedure, you can check out this 3-D surgery animation on our website.
Full tummy tuck
If the fullness and loose skin are more extensive and involve the entire abdomen or you have a separation of the muscles (diastasis), then you are more likely to benefit from a full tummy tuck.
During the full tummy tuck surgery, you will be placed under general anesthesia and your surgeon will make an incision across your lower abdomen that curves up toward your hips. Your surgeon will also make a small incision around the navel so that he/she can position your belly button properly on your re-contoured abdomen. Excess skin and fat are removed, and the incision is sutured together. Prior to closing the incision, the abdominal muscles are assessed and tightened if necessary. Liposuction may also be recommended to improve the appearance of the flanks, love handles, or the central abdomen, performed at the same time as a full abdominoplasty.
The actual full abdominoplasty surgery will take about 2-3 hours and you’ll recover in the recovery room where your progress will be monitored and most discomfort you’ll feel can be controlled with medication. After a few hours, a friend or relative can drive you home. For more visual details about this full tummy tuck procedure, you can watch this 3-D surgery animation on our website.
Extended tummy tuck
An extended tummy tuck is a full abdominoplasty with an expanded incision, in which the surgeon also removes excess skin from the patient’s sides and improves muscle laxity at the flank (or “love handles”) and hip region. This would be recommended if your loose skin extends to the sides of the abdomen.
Muscle repair for diastasis recti?
A tummy tuck procedure may involve muscle repair to address diastasis recti, something you can discuss directly with your Plastic + Hand surgeon in your initial consultation. Read more about this in our Mini Tummy Tuck vs. Full Tummy Tuck Guide.
Tummy tuck recovery
As with any surgery, there is short-term post-op recovery and longer-term healing.
After surgery, you’ll have bandages on your abdomen, and you’ll be placed into a (surgeon-provided) surgical abdominal binder to provide support and comfort, as well as help maintain your abdominal shape while you heal. You will also likely have small drainage tubes placed within your abdominal tissue to keep fluid from accumulating. These are typically removed at your post-op appointment within the first week or two, and your surgeon may also change or remove your dressings. Stitches will be absorbed over time.
Immediately after surgery, you’ll receive specific post-op instructions that are tailored to your individual procedure, but here are the three primary phases of abdominoplasty recovery:
- Early phase (post-op – 2 weeks): Immediately after surgery, your body will start healing. This presents as inflammation and swelling. Your surgical drains will help drain fluids (removed by 2 weeks), and you’ll wear your (surgeon-provided) abdominal binder 24/7 (excluding bathing) for the first three weeks to manage swelling and help your skin adapt to its new contour. The initial tightness of the tummy tuck will relax during this time as well.
- Mid-phase (1-3 months post-op): Scar tissue is forming, and swelling (managed with compression) is still helping your body heal. Achiness and swelling will ebb and flow, especially as activity increases. The scar will firm up and redness along the scar will also develop.
- Late phase (3-5 months post-op): At five months, you will likely see swelling decrease. The scar will start to soften, and redness will start to fade. Compression is likely no longer needed, and you can likely resume all regular activity. Some patients like to continue compression during this time.
If you want more in-depth details about abdominoplasty recovery, please visit our:
- Tummy Tuck Recovery Guide: A timeline from day one to resuming normal activity.
- Tummy Tuck Compression Guide: A timeline for swelling and recommendations for effective compression.
Final tummy tuck results
Before surgery, your surgeon will help you visualize your expected tummy tuck outcome and agreement on realistic post-op outcomes.
Shortly after surgery, you’ll get a good sense of how your abdomen will look, but swelling is expected and normal for several months. Because the healing process is gradual, you may not see the final result for up to a year.
Tummy tuck scars should soften/fade well by the one-year mark, and are concealed by underwear, swimsuits, and clothing in the meantime. Scar care is essential in this maturation process, and please refer to our Plastic + Hand Scar Care handout for specific steps to help improve the overall appearance of your scar.
After recovery, you’ll experience the final outcome of tummy tuck surgery—a new appearance with a flatter stomach. Unless your weight shifts significantly, or you become pregnant, you can expect most of your tummy tuck improvement and results to be relatively permanent.
If you’d like to see some tummy tuck before and after photos, it’s best to ask your surgeon during your consultation. This is the best opportunity to see (and discuss) the results that are specific to your upcoming procedure.
How do I take the next steps for my tummy tuck surgery?
While there are many reasons to seek tummy tuck procedures (notably achieving a flat abdomen and regaining your self-confidence), our leading abdominoplasty surgeons in Portland, Maine, will work with you on realistic expectations prior to the surgery.
We also want to take this moment and thank you for considering Plastic + Hand for your abdominoplasty. Our work and our dedication is about you. We’re committed to providing the results you seek with the respect and compassion you deserve.
It’s time to discover the results you’ll love. The first step begins here. Call us at 207-775-3446, or submit this request form, to schedule your consultation with our Patient Care Coordinator to determine whether a tummy tuck is right for you.