Abdominoplasty Techniques

A tummy tuck (also known as a TT) or abdominoplasty is cosmetic surgery of the abdomen to remove excess skin and fat, and possibly repair the abdominal muscles. It can create a slimmer, more toned appearance. Other terms that are used for this procedure or its variations are panniculectomy, dermolipectomy, and mini-tummy tuck.

A protruding or saggy abdomen can be the result of pregnancy or pregnancies, obesity and/or rapid weight loss, or can simply be due to age. A full abdominoplasty usually includes the tightening of loose stomach muscles in addition to the removal of excess skin and fat. A surgeon can move or rearrange the navel (belly button) during a tummy tuck for a more pleasing appearance. Abdominoplasty can be performed on both men and women.

Many of the types of abdominoplasty are major surgery and may require an overnight or longer stay in the hospital. However, there are less extensive procedures, including one called a mini-tummy tuck or partial abdominoplasty, and some are performed as out-patient surgery, with you going home that day. Some types of tummy tucks are also combined with liposuction or with other procedures such as a breast lift or breast augmentation. A tummy tuck is often one of the procedures done in a mommy makeover.

Am I a Candidate for Abdominoplasty?

Deciding to have abdominoplasty should take careful consideration. The most important factor to consider with any cosmetic plastic surgery is your overall health. You should be free of any active diseases or other pre-existing medical conditions that will complicate the surgery and recovery period. The quality of your skin is also a factor. Having elastic skin — skin that more readily stretches and recovers — will give better results since it can adapt to the new size and shape of the abdomen.

Tummy Tuck Before and After Pregnancy

If you are a woman who is still of child-bearing age and or if you are a woman or man who plans to lose a large amount of weight, you should wait to have a tummy tuck. A future pregnancy or weight loss can disrupt the results of the surgery.

You should also be healthy, both mentally and emotionally. Healing after major surgery such as abdominoplasty can be difficult and tedious. The surgery and the recovery period calls for patience and mental stability. You may experience a period of depression after the surgery that could aggravate any pre-existing mental health problem.

Is Abdominoplasty Covered By Insurance?

Medical insurance on occasion will cover the costs associated with an abdominoplasty; such as after a massive weight loss has left a person with extensive amounts of loose abdominal skin that then cause other medical problems. However, the usual tummy tuck done for strictly cosmetic reasons will not be covered. You will be responsible for the cost of the surgery and all the fees associated with it. However, you can arrange financing.

Abdominoplasty Types, Incisions and Scars

There is no such thing as "scarless tummy tuck." Tummy tuck surgery will create scars—usually very long scars that run completely across the abdomen. The extent of the scars depends on the amount of skin to be removed, the elasticity of your skin, the skill of your abdominoplasty surgeon, and the type of tummy tuck being done. An endoscopic tummy tuck will leave several short scars, but it cannot provide as much correction as other types of tummy tucks.

In a full abdominoplasty, the incision usually extends from one hipbone across the abdomen to the other hipbone. In most cases, it is placed low enough on the abdomen to be below the level of standard undergarments or a bikini bottom.

However, in some cases, your surgeon may need to place the incision higher or may need to use a vertical incision. In these cases, the resulting scars will be more visible. If you are concerned about scarring, you should discuss the different types of abdominoplasty and incision placement during your consultation. You should look at before-and-after abdominoplasty photos so that you are familiar with the amount of scarring that can occur before making a decision.

The most common types of tummy tuck or abdominoplasty are:

How an Abdominoplasty is Performed

You will be brought into the operating room and prepared for surgery. Before the surgery begins, your surgeon will mark your abdomen to indicate where incisions will be made. The location, length and direction of these incision lines will be dictated by the type of abdominoplasty being performed. Your abdomen will be scrubbed with an antimicrobial agent to minimize the risk of infection. You will also be hooked up to several monitors so that the surgical team can monitor your vital signs, such as heartbeat and blood pressure.

The type of anesthesia that will be used during your procedure should be discussed by you and your surgeon prior to the surgery. Abdominoplasties are almost always performed under general anesthesia and you sleep through the surgery.

After you are anesthetized, your surgeon will start the procedure itself. After he or she is done, the incisions are then closed and a dressing is applied to protect the wounds, to keep the tissue in place, and to reduce swelling. For more extensive tummy tucks, your surgeon may insert one or more surgical drains. This is a plastic tube placed behind the incision and leading out of your body to a small clear plastic bulb. These bulbs collect fluids that could build up and put pressure on the incision. Surgical drains are usually removed a few days after the surgery.

After your surgery, you are awakened and moved to a recovery room where the staff will monitor you for a couple of hours. As you wake up, you may experience pain, nausea, or uncontrollable shivering. Some people become emotional as they come out of anesthesia. This is upsetting, but normal. The staff can provide you with pain relievers, antinausea medications, and warm blankets if you need them.

Recovery After Tummy Tuck Surgery

A tummy tuck, especially a full tummy tuck, is one of the most invasive procedures in all of cosmetic surgery. You may need to stay in the hospital overnight or longer.

It also has a longer recovery period than other cosmetic surgeries. You may need to be away from work for 2 weeks or longer. You will also have to limit your exercise or other activities for that long and perhaps longer. Sutures are usually removed between 5 and 10 days after surgery.


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