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Tummy Tuck Surgery

Sometimes simply dieting and exercising are not enough to improve abdominal contour. Pregnancy and successful weight loss all create changes that exercise alone doesn't fix. A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is the surgical removal of excess skin and fat from the abdomen, along with tightening of abdomen muscles into a tighter formation. This cosmetic surgical enhancement procedure is designed for those who wish to have a flatter and tighter stomach.
Tummy Tuck Pre and Post operation image made by Dr. Steven Williams at Tri Valley Plastic SurgeryActual Patient
A procedure used to give you a tighter, flatter stomach and reduce the appearance of stretch marks on your lower abdomen.
Length of Surgery Complete abdominoplasty – 1-5 hours, mini abdominoplasty – 1-2 hours
In/Outpatient outpatient
Anesthesia General, sometimes local with sedation
Duration of results Permanent

Abdominoplasty, more commonly known as a tummy tuck, is designed to give you a slimmer abdomen and improve your abdominal shape. This operation can be combined with liposuction to remove the excess skin as well as the excess fat from the mid and lower abdomen and the hip area. In addition, the muscles in the abdomen are "plicated" or tightened. A tummy tuck helps to restore the anatomy that existed prior to pregnancy or weight change. The end result after tummy tuck surgery is that you will be slimmer and not have excess skin on your abdomen which can be typical after pregnancy.

When the skin and fat is not excessive, a short scar version called a mini-abdominoplasty, or a mini tummy tuck, may be an alternative. The mini tummy tuck with liposuction works best for women in their early to late thirties who have had children. The scars with a mini-tummy tuck are shorter and have quicker recovery times. Finally, for patients that have little to no excess skin and good skin elasticity, Liposuction alone can be used to improve your abdominal contour.

Ideal candidates for a tummy tuck are women or men who are in relatively good shape, but are bothered by the excess abdominal fat or loose skin that won't respond to continued dieting and exercise. The surgery is particularly helpful for women who have had past pregnancies. Pregnancy distends the muscles of your belly apart and unless the muscles are tightened, you may not be able to restore a trim profile to your belly. Tummy tuck surgery is also very helpful if you had a significant weight loss by dieting, gastric bypass or similar weight loss surgery performed, and your weight loss has stabilized.

Tri Valley Plastic Surgery's surgeons provide a full line of procedures including tummy tuck and liposculpturing. Visit Tri Valley Plastic Surgery in the Bay Area for plastic surgeries such as face, breast, hand or body. No matter how small or large the change on the outside, these procedures can create extraordinary changes on the inside, allowing an individual's self confidence to flourish. Our staff in the Bay Area is excited to help you make these important decisions. Please feel free to contact us for further questions and concerns or to schedule a consultation.

Apart from tummy tuck surgery in the San Francisco Bay Area, we also provide Brazilian Butt Lift, Liposuction, Breast Augmentation and Facelift surgeries in San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area .

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Am I a candidate for tummy tuck procedure?

The ideal candidates for tummy tuck surgery are patients in relatively good physical shape, who are unhappy with an excess of skin or fat in the abdominal area that is resistant to exercise. Often women who have been through pregnancy and childbirth have a laxity of underlying muscles which makes it very difficult to achieve a flat and firm abdomen again. This is because the skin and muscles have stretched beyond the point where they can naturally return to their normal location and shape.

Other ideal candidates for abdominoplasty procedures are those who have lost a significant amount of weight and have excess sagging skin in the abdominal area. Older patients, who may have lost skin elasticity or have sagging skin due to the ageing process, are also good candidates for tummy tuck procedures.

It is essential that before you undergo an abdominoplasty procedure that you understand what happens during and after the operation, and that you have realistic expectations. Body contour and appearance can be greatly enhanced and improved by having a tummy tuck, which will repair and tighten the abdominal muscles and remove excess sagging skin. Your appearance after you have recovered from the tummy tuck surgery will improve, which may give you increased self-confidence. However, ensure that you are having the procedure for the right reasons, and not to please somebody else.

You must also be prepared for the fact that abdominoplasty operations leave a permanent scar, normally across the full width of the bikini line. However, a good surgeon will ensure that the incision is made in such a way and in such a location that it can be easily hidden behind your underwear.

You should not consider tummy tuck surgery if:

  1. You are currently pregnant or planning to get pregnant
  2. You are very overweight.
  3. You are a smoker and/or have poor circulation.
  4. You have visible scars from past abdominal surgeries (e.g. stomach stapling, appendectomy, a hernia operation etc) and don't want further scarring on your body.

Tummy tuck is not suitable for people with:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Heart problems
  • A history of blood clots or restricted blood flow

Liposuction surgery cannot be used to treat obesity alone. It will also not necessarily eliminate cellulite. The procedure helps to improve a patient’s body contour, and will not make you lose weight.

What is tummy tuck procedure?

Tummy tuck surgery (or abdominoplasty) is a procedure used to give you a tighter, flatter stomach and reduce the appearance of stretch marks on your lower abdomen. This type of surgery is performed on patients who have skin and abdominal wall slackness after pregnancy or significant weight loss. Abdominoplasty surgery offers a solution by flattening the slack skin and tightening the muscles of the relaxed tummy wall. If needed, excess subcutaneous fatty tissue can be removed as well.

Tummy tuck surgery not only results in a better appearance and function, but it also stops the slackening process of the abdominal wall. The results can be long-lasting, especially if you exercise, eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight after your operation.

Tummy tuck surgery can give you a tighter, flatter stomach and reduce the appearance of stretch marks on your lower abdomen. The operation can remove folds of skin left behind after losing a lot of weight, and tighten stretched skin and muscles after pregnancy in women who don't plan to have another baby. Abdominoplasty is not a substitute for losing weight through regular physical activity and a healthy, balanced diet, and cannot be used for weight control.

If you are considering tummy tuck surgery, you should have a full consultation with a board-certified cosmetic surgeon, followed by a full and comprehensive medical examination.

A Tummy tuck usually requires a one or two night stay in the hospital and is done under general anesthesia. This means you will be asleep during the procedure. With a general anesthetic you must typically not eat or drink for about six hours beforehand. However some anesthetists allow occasional sips of water until two hours before the abdominoplasty procedure.

The incision and resulting scar runs closely above the pubic hair within the entire width between the hip bones, and is situated where it is easily covered with underwear along its entire length. In addition to removing excess skin slack, tummy tuck surgery also includes the transfer of the navel to a new position, reinforcement of the abdominal wall by suturing loose tummy muscles, and subcutaneous tissue removal if required.

The operation times vary, depending on the extent of the abdominoplasty operation. There are three types of tummy tuck options available depending on how much skin and fat you want removed. Your surgeon will explain which type is most suitable for you after a full consultation. A complete abdominoplasty can take one to five hours. A partial abdominoplasty (mini tummy tuck) can be completed in one to two hours.

The three types of tummy tuck are:

Standard tummy tuck

Your abdominoplasty surgeon makes surgical cuts into your abdomen and above your bikini line. Your belly button is cut from the surrounding skin. Stretched or torn muscles are pulled together and stitched into place and excess fat is removed. Your skin is then pulled down and the excess trimmed off. Your belly button will then be repositioned to fit the new shape of your abdomen.

The cuts are closed with stitches and your lower abdomen is firmly strapped with bandages. You will have a scar around your belly button and a long curved scar along your bikini line, which can usually sit behind the line of your underwear.

Mini tummy tuck

Only the skin and fat below your belly button is removed leaving a long curved scar along your bikini line.

Extended tummy tuck

Excess skin and fat from your abdomen and your back is removed by your abdominoplasty surgeon. You will have a scar around your belly button and a long curved scar along your bikini line and around your back.

In preparation for your operation your Abdominoplasty surgeon may ask you to:

  1. Lose weight. You will get the optimum result from your tummy tuck operation if you are the correct weight for your height.
  2. Stop taking the contraceptive pill six weeks before surgery and use an alternative method of contraception. This reduces the risk of blood clotting (thrombosis) which can be extremely serious.
  3. Give up smoking. Smoking increases your risk of chest or wound infection, and will slow your recovery.
  4. Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding.

When you arrive at the hospital for your tummy tuck operation, your nurse will explain how you will be cared for and do preliminary testing such as checking your heart rate, blood pressure, and testing your urine. Your surgeon will then usually visit you to discuss the operation and ask you to sign a consent form. This confirms that you understand the risks, benefits and possible alternatives to the procedure and that you give your consent for the abdominoplasty procedure to go ahead. Your surgeon may mark the operation site by drawing lines on your abdomen, and with your consent may take photographs so that the results of your abdominoplasty before and after can be compared.

You will then be prepared for surgery, and you will be asked to wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots forming in the veins in your legs. You will also be measured for a support garment to wear after the operation to aid your healing and recovery.

Tummy tuck procedure steps

Complete abdominoplasty usually takes two to five hours, depending on the extent of work required, while partial abdominoplasty (mini tummy tuck) may take an hour or two.

Step 1- Anesthesia

The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your abdominoplasty surgeon will recommend the best choice for you. If you have general anesthesia you will sleep through the operation. Depending on your medical history, your surgeon may use local anesthesia combined with a sedative to make you drowsy. You'll be awake but relaxed, and your abdominal region will be insensitive to pain, though you may feel a tugging sensation or some discomfort.

Step 2 - The incisions

A complete (or full) abdominoplasty involves:

  1. A horizontal incision is made from hip to hip between the pubic area and navel. The shape and length of incision depends on the degree of correction needed.
  2. Another incision is made to free the navel from the surrounding skin.
  3. The skin is detached from the abdominal wall to reveal the muscles and fascia to be tightened. The muscle fascia wall is tightened with sutures.
  4. The remaining skin and fat are tightened by removing the excess and closing the defect.
  5. The old belly button stalk is brought out through a new hole and sutured into place.
  6. Liposuction is often used to refine the transition zones of the abdominal sculpture.
  7. A dressing and sometimes a compression garment are applied and any excess fluid from the site is drained.

A partial (mini) abdominoplasty involves:

  1. A smaller incision is made.
  2. The skin and fat of the lower abdomen are detached in a more limited fashion from the muscle fascia. The skin is stretched down and excess skin removed.
  3. Sometimes the belly button stalk is divided from the muscle below and the belly button slid down lower on the abdominal wall.
  4. Sometimes a portion of the abdominal muscle fascia wall is tightened.
  5. Liposuction is often used to contour the transition zone.
  6. The flap is stitched back into place.
Step 3 - Closing the incisions

Sutures, skin adhesives, tapes or clips are used to close the skin incisions.

Step 4 - The results

When you wake up from the Abdominoplasty surgery you will experience some temporary symptoms such as pain and discomfort for the first few days. Your doctor will prescribe you some pain relief for this. Your abdomen will be swollen and bruised and you may experience some residual bleeding. It is normal to experience a feeling of numbness below your belly button and some patients feel nauseous and find themselves vomiting after surgery due to the anesthesia.

You will need to wear a special pressure garment over the area that was operated on in order to aid in healing and decrease the amount of swelling that takes place. You may have a catheter (a fine tube) fitted to drain urine from your bladder into a bag. This means that you don't have to get up to go to the toilet straight after the operation. You may also have fine plastic tubes (drains) running from under the skin on your tummy for up to 48 hours which allow blood and fluids to drain into a bag. You may have a drip in your arm to keep you hydrated.

If your abdominoplasty 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 your tummy tuck operation.

Your tummy tuck will result in a flatter, firmer abdominal contour that is more proportionate with your body type and weight, and within a week or two you will be able to see your new, slimmer profile.

Tummy tuck procedure recovery and healing steps

Abdominoplasty surgery recovery times vary depending on the extent of the tummy tuck operation, and surgical techniques used. After surgical Abdominoplasty, patients stay in the hospital overnight and usually stay for additional two or three days. The bandage should be changed one week after the tummy tuck surgery operation. Rest is recommended for about two weeks after a surgical tummy tuck. You will normally be able to go back to work after about two to four weeks, but avoid doing any strenuous activity for six weeks.

While you are still in the hospital, the catheter will usually be taken out during the first day. You may feel uncomfortable to begin with and have sudden urges to urinate, or have some difficulty emptying your bladder - this discomfort should decrease within 24 hours. You will be wearing the compression garment, which supports your abdomen and helps you to heal, and will probably feel a sensation of skin pulling and tenderness in the affected areas. These are common side effects, and will disappear in a couple of weeks. Don't strain or stretch the healing wound as this will increase swelling and slow your recovery. Continue wearing your support garment for at least a month.

When you go home, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Follow the instructions in the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine and ask your pharmacist for advice.

Full abdominoplasty recovery can take between three and six months, and your scars will continue to fade after that time.

Tummy tuck procedure side effects and surgery risks

The best way to minimize the side effects and risks caused by surgical abdominoplasty is to find a qualified and experienced cosmetic surgeon to do your tummy tuck operation. However, as each patient varies greatly in their anatomy, medical history, physical reactions and their capacity for healing, the outcome of abdominoplasty, as with any other operation, is unpredictable.

Surgical abdominoplasty is commonly performed and generally considered safe. However, in order to make an informed decision and give your consent, you must to be aware of the possible side-effects and the potential risk of complications from this operation.

Abdominoplasty side effects can include:

  • Nausea or vomiting as a result of the anesthetic
  • Considerable bruising which can take a month to clear
  • Swelling which usually settles after a few months
  • Scarring which will fade over the course of a year, although a permanent scar will remain

Possible complications and risks after abdominoplasty surgery include:

  • Infection which may require antibiotics and possibly further surgery
  • Hematoma (bleeding under the skin), which may require further surgery to stop the bleeding and drain the area
  • Numbness which may be temporary, lasting several months, but can be permanent
  • Uneven contour
  • Pigmentation changes
  • Unfavorable scarring
  • Fatty tissue found deep in the skin may die (fat necrosis)
  • Poor healing more likely if you are a smoker
  • Nerve damage
  • Possibility of revision surgery
  • Damage to internal organs which may require additional surgery to repair, and can be fatal
  • Unusually red or raised scars (keloids) which can take a long time to heal
  • Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot) forming in the blood vessels and moving to the lungs, which is life-threatening

You can reduce the abdominoplasty risks by following your Abdominoplasty surgeons advice before and after the operation.


The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) American Board of Plastic Surgery Yale University Plastic Surgery Yale School of Medicine American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Expert Reviewer of California Medical Board
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