Tummy Tuck Surgery: Are You A Good Candidate?

A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, can be a fantastic option for patients that want to remove excess, sagging skin from their abdominal area. Tummy tuck surgery can strengthen the abdominal muscles and create smoother, firmer contour. However, it is considered major surgery, so it’s smart to learn all you can about the procedure before deciding if it’s the best option for you.

Who Is A Good Candidate For Tummy Tuck Surgery?

There are many reasons why someone might want a tummy tuck. Some women choose to undergo this procedure to remove excess or sagging skin caused by pregnancies. In some cases, aging can cause the abdominal muscles to weaken and the skin to sag.

For some women, heredity plays a role. If your mother and sisters have stubborn fat, a bit of a sagging tummy, or excess skin, even though otherwise in good shape, you might also have a bit of extra skin or fat in this area. In some cases, if you’ve had a significant weight loss, no amount of targeted abdominal exercises can help you tighten up the abdominal area and a tummy tuck might be a great option if you want to enjoy a smoother look with less sagging skin.

It is important, however, to understand that tummy tuck surgery is not a substitute for weight loss. A good candidate for tummy tuck surgery is a person that is already at a normal and stable body weight. If you are in great shape and generally enjoy good health, a tummy tuck can be a great way to tone up the abdominal area.

While it might be disappointing to learn that tummy tucks are not a suitable option for patients that are overweight, it’s more important to focus on creating a healthier lifestyle. For those who are overweight, talk to your physician and perhaps a registered dietician about beginning an exercise program and changing your diet to help you lose weight and build muscle.

Getting motivated to make healthy changes can be difficult, so consider working with a personal trainer or setting exercise goals with a friend to help jumpstart your fitness plan. It takes time but losing weight and eating nutritious foods can improve your entire health profile, and lower your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Tummy tucks also are not good options for women planning on having more children. If you are considering adding to your family, it is advised that you wait until your pregnancy years and breastfeeding are at an end. Additionally, tummy tuck surgery is not a good option for smokers. Smoking, among its many dangers, suppresses the immune system and makes it more difficult for the body to heal after surgery.

To summarize, a good candidate for a tummy tuck includes:

  • People at a healthy weight with no serious underlying health conditions
  • Non-Smokers
  • Women who no longer wish to have children or breastfeed
  • People with realistic expectations
  • People with a support system to aid them during recovery

What Is A Tummy Tuck?

While you know that a tummy tuck is a type of abdominal surgery, you might not know that much about the actual procedure. Here’s a brief look at the procedure from the start to recovery.

Step One: The Consultation

The first step is to meet with the patient for an initial consultation. During which we will discuss issues such as any medical conditions you might have, medications and supplements you are taking and drug allergies. We also will ask about previous surgeries, as well as your goals for the tummy tuck surgery, and evaluate your current health status.

We recommend that you write down any questions you might have and bring it to the initial consultation, as we want you to fully understand the procedure, the recovery process and the end results. Once we determine that tummy tuck surgery is a good option for you, we will schedule the surgery.

Step Two: The Surgery

In some cases, your surgeon might perform what is known as a partial abdominoplasty, or mini tummy tuck. This surgery can be a good option for a patient that doesn’t really need muscle tightening, just the removal of excess skin. But if you need to tighten the abdominal muscles and also some amount of lipoplasty (removal of fatty deposits), a full abdominoplasty will yield better results. Again, this lipoplasty is not a weight-loss procedure, it simply is the removal of stubborn fat deposits that don’t go away even with consistent, targeted exercise.

The first step will be to provide you with either IV sedation or general anesthesia, and we will discuss these options during the initial consultation. Once you have been sedated or are under anesthesia, your surgeon will make one or more incisions. The process then includes repairing any weakened abdominal muscles. If excess skin needs to be removed the upper skin will be pulled down and excess skin is trimmed away. Your doctor will then suture together the skin and create a new opening for your belly button.

In some cases, patients might opt for a complete procedure known as “mommy makeover surgery.” This surgery seeks to restore that pre-pregnancy figure and includes the tummy tuck and a breast lift and/or breast augmentation.

Mommy Makeovers can be a great option for women who are at a healthy weight and are done with both childbearing and breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, it is recommended that you wait several months before undergoing these procedures as the body’s shape changes after breastfeeding ends.

Step Three: Tummy Tuck Recovery

A tummy tuck, whether it’s a full or partial abdominoplasty, is considered major surgery, and there will be a significant recovery period and all patients need to be prepared for that.

In many cases, a tummy tuck is an outpatient procedure. Occasionally, a night stay in the hospital is indicated. In either case, drains will be left in place for several days after the surgery, and we often prescribe an antibiotic and an anticoagulant to take while these drains are in place. Do not shower until the drains have been removed for at least 48 hours. Sponge baths, avoiding the incision area, are recommended instead, and it’s wise to invest in a shower stool, as you will be tired and weak.

For the first few days after surgery, you will need complete rest and it is recommended that you sleep at an incline for several days. This helps to reduce swelling, which will speed up the recovery process. You also can place a pillow under your knees to better allow those abdominal muscles to relax and heal.

Two of the most common questions we are asked include – how painful is a tummy tuck recovery? And what is the fastest way to recover from a tummy tuck?  You should expect a recovery process that lasts six weeks or more. However, the most intense pain you experience will begin to fade in about 3-4 days after surgery. In some cases, it can last up to a week, but usually, the worst of the pain is gone in a few days.

Pain medication can be taken to lessen the discomfort, but those first few days can be quite painful. If you’ve ever undergone a C-section, you will have a notion of what to expect. Everyone’s body is different, of course, so some people will experience less pain than others. In addition to pain, there will be swelling, and while the swelling will lessen over time, some swelling is normal for an extended period of time.

In general, you should not be driving or going up and down stairs until about two weeks after surgery. You shouldn’t be doing housework, fixing meals, running errands, etc. If you want to heal as quickly as possible, give your body time to rest. Two weeks of solid rest can make a huge difference in your recovery time.

Ask your spouse, friend and family to help, especially with children and pets. This is a time to take care of yourself and heal. While you do need to rest, taking a walk around the house or a light stroll outside can be beneficial and improve circulation. Just take it very easy and bring along a friend or family member for support.

You need to avoid lifting items for several weeks as well, and you definitely will need to avoid exercise for at least six weeks and probably longer. Strenuous exercise should be avoided and it’s wise to avoid even light exercise until cleared by your doctor. You also need to wear a special compression garment to support the abdominal muscles for several weeks.

If you want to reduce swelling and speed up healing, the best advice would be to follow all of your post-surgery instructions. Rest up, wear your compression garment, stay hydrated, eat healthy foods and avoid smoking and alcohol. Smoking and alcohol can slow your recovery significantly.

You should expect the initial redness, inflammation and heavy swelling to last for at least six weeks, and sometimes a bit longer. In some cases, you might even notice that you gained a pound or two due to this swelling. This is common and will abate once the initial swelling abates. The swelling won’t last forever, but it’s not uncommon to have some light swelling for several months after surgery. Soreness in the area or numbness also can be an issue for several months.

Tummy Tuck Scars

The body’s ability to heal is remarkable, but it does take time. At first, your scars will be fairly red and obvious to the eye, but as the months pass, the scars should fade significantly. Even three months after surgery, the scars will appear red. Most of the swelling will have subsided, but you will see scaring.

Everyone’s recovery is unique, but by the six-month mark, we typically start to see the scars begin to really fade, and by the one-year anniversary of your surgery, you should notice considerable fading. Many patients, once cleared by their doctor, will moisturize the scarred area to help it fade and blend in better with the skin.

How Much Does A Tummy Tuck Cost?

First of all, it’s important to understand that abdominoplasty surgery is rarely covered by insurance. This is almost always an out-of-pocket expense for the patient. The cost of the procedure varies, but the cost of the surgery itself averages at about $7,000, although this figure may not include other expenses, such as anesthesia, medical testing, post-surgery garments, etc. Most plastic surgeons can provide you with information about financing options. We have financing options at Thaxton Plastic Surgery.

While cost is always a factor, finding a board-certified, experienced plastic surgeon that can truly deliver the results you want and provide safe, quality care should be the most important consideration. Dr. Thaxton is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons and one of only two practicing plastic surgeons in West Virginia elected to be a member of The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Other Options

Many patients ask if a tummy tuck is permanent. Tummy tuck surgery is meant to be a permanent solution to issues with weakened abdominal muscles, stubborn fat and sagging skin. However, it is important to note that weight gain can alter the effects of tummy tuck surgery. Keeping a consistent weight can ensure that your results last for the long term.

While tummy tuck surgery is a highly effective and permanent solution for the abdominal area, there are other non-surgical options to consider. For instance, if you are at a stable, healthy weight but have stubborn fat that just won’t go away through diet and exercise, we might consider a CoolSculpting procedure.

CoolSculpting is an FDA-cleared treatment that essentially freezes and kills fat cells in the targeted area. The cells die and the result is a sleeker, more sculpted abdomen. It’s a safe, non-invasive procedure, and can be a good fit for patients that prefer to avoid surgery.

On the flip side, ThermiTight is a heat-based treatment that can help reduce the appearance of sagging skin in the abdominal area, as well as the neck, arms, breasts, thighs and knees. For this procedure, we use local anesthesia and apply radiofrequency heat energy to the skin, which stimulates collagen production and shrinks the connective tissues in the skin, restoring a tighter, more youthful look. ThermiTight is not a permanent solution, but the results do often last for two years or more.

ThermiTight and CoolSculpting can be good options to consider, but if you want more dramatic results, the tummy tuck might be your best option. Dr. Thaxton can discuss all of your options and help you find a solution that produces the best possible results.

Is A Tummy Tuck Worth It?

After reading this article, you might have some concerns about whether or not a tummy tuck is the best option for you. Most patients feel that the outcome was well worth the inconveniences described above. Yes, there is some pain and swelling, but the end result is a flatter, sleeker abdomen. Most patients say the procedure boosts their confidence and helps clothing fit better.

Elective surgery is always a big decision, and at Thaxton Plastic Surgery, we do all we can to make you feel comfortable and happy with this decision. Dr. Thaxton strives to create a welcoming, safe environment for his patients, and help them make cosmetic changes that improve their lives. If you are interested in a tummy tuck, give us a call at any time and we can set up a consultation.