A tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic surgical procedure done to recontour and flatten the abdomen. It involves the removal of extra skin and/or excess fat in the abdominal area to provide a slimmer and more aesthetically-pleasing figure. The dramatic result that this procedure provides helps patients feel more comfortable and confident about their body. Tummy tuck is one of the most common cosmetic procedures today and it is popular with men and women.
Tummy tuck, by definition, is a surgical procedure. There is no such thing as a non-surgical tummy tuck. There are non-surgical alternatives that also aim to improve the abdominal area, although their effects are not as good as that of a tummy tuck. One such procedure is radiofrequency treatment. Radiofrequency treatment is mainly a skin tightening treatment. It produces very limited results and is not recommended as an exact alternative for patients who are indicated for a tummy tuck. Nonetheless, radiofrequency treatment is the most effective option if the patient does not want to go under the knife. Thermage and ThermiTight are some examples of radiofrequency treatments. Between these two, ThermiTight is said to produce better results.
The best candidates for any kind of recontouring surgery are patients who are generally healthy, near their ideal body weight, and non-smokers. These factors aside, there is one more important consideration when it comes to determining if a patient is a good candidate for a tummy tuck procedure. This is the amount of excess skin and fat the patient currently has. If very minimal excess skin and fat are present, the patient is better off with radiofrequency treatment instead of a tummy tuck. Tummy tucks are for patients who have significant amounts of excess tissue because the surgeon can just incise them away. The excess tissue might be due to massive weight loss or child birth. If the excess tissue is only on the lower abdominal area then the patient is suited for a mini tummy tuck. If the excess tissue is on the upper and lower abdomen then a regular tummy tuck must be performed. Extended tummy tuck is reserved for cases where excess tissue is not just on the front abdominal area, but also on the flanks and lateral back. Patients who have lost a good amount of weight are the best candidates for an extended tummy tuck.
The main limitation of a tummy tuck is that it is not a weight loss procedure. Surgical skin and fat excision was never intended to be a procedure for weight loss. Tummy tuck is just for recontouring, so it will not cause a patient to lose significant amounts of weight. It is done on patients after they have lost weight. A tummy tuck may result in a few pounds of weight loss but it not going to result in the removal of much more than that. When it comes to the individual types of tummy tucks, the limitation is based on the area that each type is meant to deal with. As previously mentioned, a regular tummy tuck is for upper and lower abdomen while mini tummy tuck is for the lower abdomen only. The extended tummy tuck is for the entire abdomen plus the sides and back. Generally speaking, a tummy tuck is for patients with mild to severe amounts of excess skin and fat.
Every surgical procedure has its own potential complications and tummy tuck is no different. For tummy tucks, the most common complications are bleeding, swelling, and infection. Sometimes, the resulting contours do not come out the way the patients want them to and that is also considered a complication. Contour-related issue may be due to an error in planning and performance of the surgery, the patient’s tissues, and healing which are unpredictable, or a combination of both.
Recovery depends on the patient’s case, but the more extensive the tummy tuck is, the longer the recovery period will be. However, there are ways to hasten recovery using various types of medications that will help reduce pain and discomfort. Patients can go back to some of their lighter normal activities after about one week. Strenuous activities may be resumed after six weeks. The patient is allowed to do pretty much whatever they want to do after this period.
The improvements from a tummy tuck procedure become apparent once the swelling starts to subside. The results are gradual so patients should be willing to wait. In mini tummy tucks, results are seen as early as two weeks, while the wait is longer for regular and extended tummy tucks. It is about six to eight weeks for a regular tummy tuck and at least eight weeks for an extended tummy tuck. There will be continuous improvements so long as the patient takes care of their body. The patient needs to avoid gaining weight to maintain the results. Final results can take four to six months for all swelling to subside.
Tummy tuck is normally a one-time procedure but it can be done multiple times depending on the patient’s needs and preferences. It is rarely done more than once because after the excess skin is removed, the patient will most likely not need it done a second time. Nonetheless, there are cases where it needs to be performed more than once due to significant weight fluctuations.
A flat abdomen is one of the features of a beautiful body and a tummy tuck will help achieve this. Patients should consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon that they trust before undergoing a tummy tuck. Any type of tummy tuck is a life-changing procedure that should be performed only by a skilled and experienced specialist.
Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team- AA
Based on an exclusive interview with Mark Epstein, MD in Stony Brook, NY