A dramatic transformation of the stomach area was make by this 49 year old patient with a Tummy Tuck and Liposuction to flanks and thighs.View Patient Details
Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)
What is a Tummy Tuck?
A Tummy Tuck, or abdominoplasty, is the most effective way to tighten your stomach area and remove excess hanging skin. According to Wikipedia there are six versions of abdominoplasty. However, the most common types are:
- mini-tummy tuck
- full tummy tuck
All types of tummy tucks get rid of loose skin between the belly button and pubic hairline. However, a full Tummy Tuck will also remove fat tissue and tighten the muscles in the abdomen. Generally speaking, the simple term 'tummy tuck' usually refers to a 'full tummy tuck.' After a full Tummy Tuck, your abdomen will no longer stick out when sitting down or bending over. Say goodbye to holding in your belly!
What is the difference between a tummy tuck and a mini-tummy tuck?
The tummy tuck addresses the three components your abdomen: the skin, fat, and muscle. Most notable is the fact that work is done to tighten the muscles, which will benefit patients who want as flat a stomach as possible. Results, especially when combined with liposuction of the flanks, are dramatic.
A mini tummy tuck is best suited for women who don't have stretch marks or saggy skin, but have a pouch below the belly button. It can be done through an incision in the belly button, or through a C section scar if the patient wants a little excess skin taken off.
Men, on the other hand, seem to have their pouch above the belly button. I perform the mini tummy tuck in the same fashion by going through a small incision in the belly button. To learn more about the difference between a tummy tuck and mini-tummy tuck, please read my blog post describing the difference between the two surgical techniques.
Tummy Tuck or Dermolipectomy?
If you do not need muscle work, there is a procedure which is designed to only remove the loose skin. A dermolipectomy is a procedure that takes out skin, but does not tighten the muscle. It benefits most slender women who have wrinkly or excess skin, but good muscle tone. It has the same scar as a Tummy Tuck, but can be performed in a shorter amount of time. The procedure is less expensive than the full Tummy Tuck.
What problems does a Tummy Tuck address?
No matter how much I exercise, my stomach sticks out!
There are three problems which the full Tummy Tuck procedure addresses. Patients who are candidates for the procedure usually have these three complaints:
- Loose skin, stretch marks: This can be a result of aging, pregnancy, or marked weight loss.
- Excess fat tissue: The lower abdomen and flanks (love handles) are the most common areas of fat deposits.
- Abdominal muscle separation: This can occur by itself, or as a result of pregnancy. Sit-ups or crunches don't help in this situation as once the muscles relax, they separate and the tummy bulges out.
What are the Pre-Operative requirements?
Your tummy tuck should be performed by a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon at an accredited out patient surgery center or hospital. The most recognized accreditation agencies for surgery centers are the AAAASF and JCAHO. Look for certificates of accreditation from one of those organizations.
- Achieve a stable weight
- Quit smoking 2 weeks prior to surgery
- Stop taking multivitamins, herbals, and aspirin prior to surgery
- Have an Physical examination (H&P) and CBC (anemia detection) to clear you for surgery
- NPO after midnight before surgery
How is a Tummy Tuck performed?
The full Tummy Tuck procedure takes approximately 3-4 hours of operating room time and is typically an out patient procedure. Although the surgery can be performed under either IV or General Anesthesia, I prefer the use of IV anesthesia because patients experience much less nausea and quicker recovery.
On the morning of your procedure, while you are still awake, I make the surgical markings on your stomach with you in front of a mirror. I now ask my patients to bring their favorite bathing suit , as this helps me decide where to place the incisions. I review the exact incision location with you, and make every possible effort to keep it below your panty line.
Tummy Tuck Anesthesia
In my Baltimore surgery center I prefer to use IV sedation with Tummy Tuck procedures. IV sedation provides for a quicker recovery than General Anesthesia and eliminates much of the nausea associated with anesthesia. In addition, the risk of pulmonary embolism is nearly eliminated with the use of IV anesthesia. More details about why I prefer IV anesthesia can be found here. Dr. Todd Hobelmann, one of our Board Certified Anesthesiologists also has a great explanation of the advantages of IV anesthesia in this video filmed at our Surgery Center.
To ensure the highest level of safety for your procedure, I employ only Board Certified Anesthesiologists in my AAAASF Accredited Surgery Center located near in Baltimore, Maryland.
The incision and technique
Once the procedure starts, the first step is to place the incision between the belly button and top of the pubic hair. I use the surgical markings that I made with you in the morning as my guidelines. The belly button stays in place. The muscles are then tightened from the pubic bone to the ribs. The skin above the belly button is then stretched down to the pubic area and stitched in place. Finally, the belly button is brought out through the overlying skin to occupy its original position.
I pay special attention to not only the placement of the scar, but the way I close and suture the wound back together. I believe that my closure technique using the Lockwood technique results in a thinner scar.
Tissue dissection and Incision closure with the Lockwood technique
The technique that I use to dissect the tissue and close the incision is referred to as the Lockwood technique. After over two decades of performing Tummy Tucks, I now exclusively use the Lockwood technique. In summary the Lockwood technique does the following:
- less tissue dissection to reduce risk of seroma and hematoma after surgery
- closure of the wound with less tension at top layers to yield a thinner scar
Dissection refers to the physical lifting and separation of the tissues. When the tissues are dissected less (illustrated by the pink area in the image above), there is less fluid accumulation after the surgery. As seen on the diagram, the Lockwood technique on the right side has less tissue dissection. With less fluid accumulation, the risk of hematoma and seroma after surgery is reduced.
With the closure of the wound, the Lockwood technique involves closing the wound in a special way so that there is less tension on the incision surface. The deeper layers of tissue are closed more tightly than the layers near the surface. This surgical technique results in a thinner scar and has a dramatic reduction in post op seromas that are commonly seen with the tummy tuck procedure.
Learn more about why the Lockwood technique helps reduce post operative tummy tuck swelling and seromas in my blog post here.
Insertion of a pain pump
To help minimize the pain during your post op recovery, we use a pain pump. The pain pump is simply a mechanical box with numbing medication that is pumped through small tubes into your wound area . The box is placed outside of your body and the small tubes are inserted into the incision location during the procedure. You leave the Operating Room with the pain pump still in place, and it is worn for approximately 5 days. The numbing medication pumped into the wound site dramatically reduces post operative pain.
The pain pump is not a narcotic and can be used in conjunction with pain pills during the post op period. It is usually removed on the fifth post op day in the office. Read more about the wonders of pain pumps in my blog post entitled, Pain Pumps: Cosmetic Surgery with minimal pain.
Recovery Room and immediate post op period
After your surgery is completed, you will go to the recovery room, and then be discharged home. Since all procedures are performed under IV anesthesia, patients are usually discharged within 1-2 hours. Patients return to the office for the first follow up with me on the fifth post operative day. This is the day where I remove the drains, padding, and garment.
What is Post-Op Tummy Tuck recovery like?
Following a Tummy Tuck, you should plan to take a minimum of 2 weeks off from work. If you return to work during the third week, you must be limited to desk work only, and should not expect to work the full 8 hours. You should not drive for a minimum of 3 weeks, and ideally 4 weeks.
Post-Operative recovery instructions
- Day 1-5: Bed rest, drink plenty of fluids, no showers, do not remove the garment!
- Day 5: First post op office visit to remove pain pump and drains, and change garment
- Day 1-14: Wear compression garment 24 hours/ day
- Day 14-30: Wear compression garment 12 hours/day
- Week 4: Follow up appointment in office, resume driving, back to FT work
- Week 6: Resume regular activities
- Month 4: Follow up appointment in office
The week by week summary of the post operative period is described in my blog post entitled How Long is the Tummy Tuck Recovery.
A key component of your Tummy Tuck recovery is the compression garment. This garment is important during the post operative period as it helps the area to heal evenly and smoothly. It is worn continuously for the first two weeks post operatively, and then 12 hours/day in week 3 and week 4.
To learn more please read my blog post about the compression garment and its importance to a successful tummy tuck result, including information about choosing the right garment and ensuring a good fit.
What are the risks and possible complications?
The risks and complications of the Tummy Tuck procedure include, but are not limited to:
- seroma (fluid collection)
- loss of skin
- loss of sensation
- possibility of revision surgery
Finding out if a Tummy Tuck is right for you
Liposuction alone can take care of excess fat tissue, but loose skin and stretch marks must be addressed by one of three techniques: dermolipectomy, mini-tummy tuck, or full tummy tuck. No amount of exercise can help loose hanging skin, and this can only be addressed with a Tummy Tuck.
Additionally, there is the issue of muscle separation. Unfortunately, exercise will not repair a muscle that has become separated. Only a full Tummy Tuck can repair the muscle.
In this YouTube video , I explain how to do a self examination of your stomach to find out if you have a separated rectus abdominis muscle. If you have this type of muscle separation, no amount of exercise can make your stomach flat. The stomach muscle must be sewn back together so that you can get a flat tummy.
To learn more about tummy tuck muscles and self examination you can also read my blog post here.
Will a tummy tuck tighten skin that hangs over the sides of my hips?
If you have excess skin and fat which hangs over your hips, you should consider a lower body lift procedure. The body lift includes an outer thigh lift and buttock lift, in addition to the abdominoplasty.
How much does a Tummy Tuck cost?
Total costs for an Tummy Tuck ranges from $6,400 to $8,700 depending on whether it is a Mini Tummy Tuck or a Full Tummy Tuck.
All options include the surgeon's fee, operating room fee and anesthesia fee. If you are comparing prices among surgeons, be sure to add all components of the fee to include operating room, anesthesia, and garments. Financing is available for this procedure.
High Patient Satisfaction Rate
According to RealSelf.com, the Tummy Tuck procedure has one of the highest satisfaction rates of all procedures tracked. As of June 2015, reviews from over 10,000 patients were collected to determine that the Tummy Tuck carries a satisfaction rate of 96%!
There are very few cosmetic surgery procedures that carry this high of a rating, which speaks to the success of the procedure.
Tummy Tuck Before and After Photos
See our gallery of Before and After Tummy Tuck Photos to see what a tummy tuck can do for you.
Our photo gallery includes over 40 sets of actual patient photos. Please note that all of these patients have given written consent to use their photos at our web site. We are very grateful to our patients for their generous participation in patient education!
Dr. Rodriguez Patient Reviews and Testimonials
I am a Top Doc on RealSelf.com which is a designation awarded to less than 10 percent of all doctors who participate at their website! Please read the many glowing reviews from my patients at RealSelf.com, as well as other healthcare portals such as Doctorbase.com.
Having Your Tummy Tuck in Baltimore, Maryland
Many of our surgical patients come from out of town. Baltimore is only 30 miles from BWI airport and we are only 20 minutes from the downtown Amtrak train station. We would be happy to discuss your individual needs with you and answer any questions you may have about the abdominoplasty procedure.
Updated July 8, 2015
by Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez
Board Certified Plastic Surgery