What is the difference between a Tummy tuck and a Mini tummy tuck?

Tummy tuck or Mini tummy tuck

An illustration showing Tummy Tuck vs. Mini Tummy Tuck Abdominoplasty Surgery.
Tummy Tuck vs. Mini Tummy Tuck Abdominoplasty Surgery

I get many patients who come in requesting a Tummy tuck. They will get a much flatter tummy, and if they get liposuction around the love handle area, a drastic reshaping of the entire midsection.  However, the  drawback is the scar. It generally goes from hip bone to hip bone. Invariably, I get the question, can we do a Mini Tummy tuck? The patient is hoping to get most of what she needs with a smaller scar and a less involved surgery. Can that be done?

The first thing for the patient to realize is that although the two procedures, Tummy tuck and Mini tummy tuck, have a similar name, they treat different conditions. Please view my illustration above to see the difference between the two procedures. My schematic shows the amount of skin removed, the amount of muscle work performed, and the final incisional scar in each procedure.

Mini Tummy tuck

The Mini Tummy tuck treats the minor pouching out of the lower belly caused by stretching of the lower abdominal muscles. It is primarily a muscle tightening procedure. Combined with liposuction of the love handles it can truly reshape the midsection. One word of caution:

Invariably I get the question, Can we do a Mini Tummy tuck?

– Dr. Ricardo Rodriguez

I always take out the deep layer of fat in the lower abdomen, because if I don’t, fat will redistribute in that pocket . You cut out enough skin to take out the slack created by tightening the muscle and defatting the skin, and the scar just goes from one side of the pubic mound to the other. It is a very well disguised scar, and very thin because not much tension is used to close the scar. It’s a great procedure provided you are committed to its limitations.

These are the conditions and limitations for the Mini Tummy tuck:

  • The procedure is not a good skin tightening procedure.
  • It can only tighten a limited area directly above the pubic mound. If you try to tighten more, you end up extending the scar sideways, and you get a longer scar that is no longer well hidden and still not the amount of tightening that will make you happy.
  • It really doesn’t take care of stretch marks.
  • It does not take care of any muscle wall separation above the belly button.

Full Tummy tuck

The Tummy tuck treats two conditions:

  • a muscle separation above and below the belly button
  • excessive or loose skin in the belly

It is really two operations, a muscle repair and a skin excision. The skin excision part is called a Dermolipectomy. All the skin between the belly button and pubic mound is taken out. Thus it can take care of all the stretch marks below the belly button. The skin above the belly button is stretched to reach the top of the pubic mound. Any stretch marks above the belly button will come to lie just above the pubic mound.

The scar from a Tummy tuck usually goes from hip bone to hip bone, but this is not an absolute. If there is a lot of loose skin, or a fold of abdominal skin, the scar may extend beyond the hip bones. However, keep in mind that I can strategically place the scar below the panty line. Sometimes I can make the scar slightly shorter, but the patient has to be aware she might have darts or little pouches on the side of the wound, which can be taken care of later under local anesthesia. This is important when a patient wants to keep the scar within the limits of certain underwear or bathing suit.

There is a third surgical alternative for patients who have just a muscle separation and very little skin excess, or who want no visible scars. The whole procedure is done through the belly button, and I will make a separate post devoted to this surgical technique.

To find out how the Tummy tuck can transform your figure, see our Before & after Tummy tuck photo gallery with over 30 patients!

By Dr. Ricardo L. Rodriguez MD Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Cosmeticsurg Baltimore, Maryland Ricardo L. Rodriguez on American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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56 thoughts on “What is the difference between a Tummy tuck and a Mini tummy tuck?”

  • Tiffany says:

    Hi, Where can I find the post regarding the third surgical alternative where it's done through the belly button. Thanks, Tiffany
  • Marisela Gutierrez says:

    I have been work out for 3 years I have 2 children. I want to know which produces will goid for me.because my tommy is not flat never been since I am a child. And i will need the prices of course.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Marisela: After 2 children and if your Tummy has never been flat, you probably need a Tummy Tuck. I will have Kelly contact you at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net
  • Mandy Kearney says:

    Hi I'm almost 50 and have never been overweight. I'm very fit and do gym and sport. In the last few years the skin on my sto mach (probably due to pregnanct at age 30)has loosened and it bothers me..particularly during sex as it hangs down. I domt have any stretch marks and after pregnancy quickly returned to normal. When I'm upright I have a flat toned stomach. I would like the skin tightening but am worried about scarring. What would I need doing abd what would the scar be like?
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Mandy: Unfortunately, there are two reasons your skin hangs during bending. 1) When you bend, the actual distance between your breast bone and pubic bone decreases by about 30%, so there is an automatic excess in skin when you bend. 2) Your skin loses elasticity both from being stretched out in pregnancy and age. So when you bend it does not contract. Thus with shorter distance and inelastic skin you get hanging skin. You may be OK with a Mini Tummy Tuck, but I would really have to have a Skype of Facetime consult to better see what is going on. Here is a link to the different scars for abdomen work.
  • Iris Mangano says:

    I have exercised consistently forms this and months and there is still excess skin. I've read tummy tuck and mini tummy tuck and I think a mini would be what I need. Is it less invasive. Is recovery shorter? And what is the range in price versus full tummy tuck?
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Iris: The skin does not contract with exercise. Once it loses its elasticity and gets stretched, the only solution is surgery. I will have to have Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net contact you as far as options. If you want a specific opinion based on your specific conditions we could do a virtual consult where you send pictures and I can analyze them for you and lay out your options.
  • Nisha says:

    i am a candidate for a full tummy tuck but I just want my muscles to be repaired I don't mind to have my Strech marks and saggy skin just as long as I don't look pregnant anymore due to my muscle seperation so I was wondering how much the 3rd option would cost I have 3 kids I'm 21 weighing 122 lbs 5'3.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Nisha: Yes we do have a procedure to fix just the muscle with minimal scarring (around the belly button and a short scar at the pubis). It is called a Rectus Diastasis repair). I love doing the procedure on those patients where it is indicated. Contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net and she will be happy to give you pricing info. Looking forward to seeing you!
  • gretchen says:

    Dr. Rodriguez I live in Massachusetts and wondering if you know of any doctors that perform your alternative surgery to tummy tucks and mini tummy tucks. I feel i am perfect for this procedure. Thank you Gretchen
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Gretchen: Unfortunately, I do not know who performs this procedure in Maryland, much less other states. We do perform surgery on many other out of town patients so if you are interested you can contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net. We could also do a Skype of FaceTime consult to see if you are a good candidate. Thanks for your interest!
  • sonja johnson says:

    my stomach hangs and i hate that please tell me what can you do to help me. i dont have stretch marks at al i just want to feel normal again.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Sonja: The problem could be either muscle separation, excess of fat, or excess skin. I really would need to speak with you and look at pictures to see what the best solution would be for you. Contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net to arrange for a virtual consultation so we can help you.
  • I elixir says:

    Hi, I would like more information on the third option. I have muscle separation and a little pooch. I am five feet tall and weigh 110 pounds plus i work out on a regular basis so that I can correct this issue. I may need a little help. Could you tell me how much the procedure may cost?
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      l elixir: Contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net, she'll be happy to talk to you and give you more info.
  • Francesca says:

    Thank you for your prompt reply , unfortunately traveling all the way from Malta to USA is not an option for me and an even more unfortunate thing is that I probably qualify because I have separation of the abdominal muscle, very little excess skin and no stretch marks except for maybe a couple of insignificant ones around the belly button area.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Francesca: Sorry about that. I'm sure if you ask around you may be able to find somebody in Europe who can do this. Look for people who do a lot of endoscopic surgery. If things change, you should know a lot of our patients come from out of town, and we have even a patient from Malta.
  • Francesca says:

    I am interested in knowing more about the third surgical technique the one via the belly button. Which clinics offer it and what exactly is the procedure?
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Francesca: I don't know of anybody else that does it. Few patients actually qualify for it. You have to have separated abdominal muscles, but little excess skin, and no stretch marks. If you have stretchmarks this procedure does not get rid of them. Contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net, she can give you more information. We'd love to hear from you!
  • Shannon says:

    I'm a 35 yr old female with 2 kids, its been going on 14 yrs since I had my last child and I have a bit of stretched skin from having them. I also have a good bit of deep stretch marks. I am really concidering a tummy tuck. My weight fluctuates from time to time from around 150-200 lbs. I was wondering if the tummy tuck would get rid of some of the stretch marks and if it doesn't or doesn't get rid of all of them will it make the ones it doesn't any larger or wider? I would like to get back down to 150 lbs before the surgery but if I don't will it effect the out come or later will I have to have a second surgery if I lose it after?
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Shannon: The tummy tuck gets rid of stretch marks that go from the belly button to the pubic area. Weight fluctuation is not a problem if it is within that range you mention. I have had many patients who lose weight and the skin adapts pretty well. You Don't have to wait until you lose the weight when you can start enjoying the benefits of surgery now. A lot of times just the pride you feel with your new figure helps you keep the weight off. Contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net, she'd love to help you.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Deborah: It is not going to hurt the pregnancy. What may happen is that the scar may stretch or the muscle repair stretch.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Laura: I really would need to see pictures to understand what you mean. If you would like to set up a virtual consult, you can contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net and I can look at pictures, etc.
  • Heather says:

    Sorry, I should have specified that the stretch marks extend out about an inch or two above my belly button.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Heather: From what you are telling me, and I could very well be wrong, it seems that to deal with all your issues a mini tummy tuck may not be enough. But again, I's have to sees pictures and get an idea from you as to what your expectations are.
  • Heather says:

    Dr. Rodriguez: I'm considering a mini-tummy tuck to tighten loose muscles from pregnancy and a small amount of loose skin (wrinkly skin when not standing straight) below my belly button. I have some stretch marks from keeping a belly button piercing in too long while pregnant and wonder if there are any easy ways to get rid of them without a full tummy tuck, which I don't otherwise need. I'd really prefer to do it all endoscopically but figure that's not possible. Thanks in advance for your advice!!
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Heather: Without seeing what your skin looks like there is no way I can make a recommendation. Endoscopic procedures are done when there are no skin issues to be addressed, and in your case there are apparently stretch marks to be dealt with. If you want an opinion that means something to your individual case, contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net, she'd be happy to help you set up a virtual consult. Good luck with your search, and we hope to hear from you!
    • Kelly Warner says:

      Hello Snejana, Thank you for your question. The average cost for a mini tummy tuck is $6,200 and a full abdominoplasty is $8,600 which includes our fully accredited operating room, iv-sedation (twilight) anesthesia, pain pump, two compression garments and Dr. Rodriguez’s surgical fee. Most patients add liposuction to flanks and other areas to enhance tummy tuck, several other procedures may be performed during the same surgical session. We do offer a discount on Dr. Rodriguez's fee for patients having multiple procedures during one surgery. Dr. Rodriguez' schedule fills up fast, so call us at 410-494-8100 as soon as possible! Thank you, Kelly Warner kelly@cosmeticsurg.net Patient Coordinator 410-494-8100
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Gwen: If you look at University training programs near you, there are usually clinic programs where the residents operate under the supervision of senior faculty members. I suggest you try one of these.
  • Susan says:

    Hello Dr. Rodriguez im very intrested in the tummy tuck i have 2 kids and my major concern are strech marks, i do have some loose skin but its not that bad. Im curious about what the 3rd alternative because of the scar, can you give me more info about that procedure. Also im wondering if with the mini tummy tuck i will get a new belly botton or just with the tummy tuck? Thank you in advance for your valuable time and info i apreciate that!!! Susan V.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Susan: The third alternative is making an incision just around the belly button and using that small hole as an exposure for the repair. It does not do anything for the skin, but it allows for a muscle repair with a scar that is not visible at a couple of feet away, and sometimes not even that. If you want more info, call Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net, we'd love to hear from you!
  • Sophia - Stretch Marks Remove says:

    I have been looking around for a surgical procedure that can get rid of stretch marks in the abdominal area without the stigma of a scar. I thought I found the answer when I was reading about the "mini tummy tuck" in your post, only to find out that it does not work in eliminating stretch marks. I am looking forward to reading your third surgical alternative post. Maybe I will find my answer there.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Sophia: The third alternative I refer to in the post is for people who have a muscle separation but good skin. In those cases I do the entire muscle repair thru a small incision in the belly button. That would not help you at all. Unfortunately, there is no good answer to getting rid of stretch marks, surgical or non surgical. I realize nobody likes scars, but some people feel a scar hidden in a reasonable tradeoff for loose skin and visible stretch marks. When using the Lockwood technique, scars are pretty reasonable, as I explain in this post.
  • Ellie says:

    I had my tuck done in february , is it to soon to have lipo on my stomack where i had the tuck ( around navel area ) will i be wrinkle if i get lipo , and what is ultrasound lipo.
  • Maria says:

    I,m looking in having a mini tuck the MD i saw tells me a need a full tuck i really will like a mini tuck but DR knows best right. the cost is a little higher than what i anticipated what is the cost difference between the full and the mini and do you think i shoud shop around for better offers.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Maria: Ask Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net she can help you with pricing info. Thanx for looking at our blog. Looking forward to hearing from you! Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo!
  • Ellie says:

    Hello again , if i have a lump and fat over my belly botton and all around my belly botton will a mini tummy tuck get rid of it because on your digram you show that a mini tummy tuck only go from the bottom of the belly botton on down to the pubic area .
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Ellie: It depends on wether it is skin or fat. If it just fat, a little lipo may do the trick. If there is also loose skin, more may be involved, although not necessarily a full Tummytuck. Contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net for more info. We'd love to hear from you!
  • Ellie McLean says:

    DR.Rodriguez , when u do the dermatolipectomy will u be removing fat as well as tightening the skin ? How long will the results last ?
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Ellie: When you do a dermatolipectomy, you remove alll the skin and fat betwen the belly button and the mons pubis (just a little bit below the pubic hairline). As long as you maintain your weight, the results last a lifetime. If you lose weight it will look even better, but if you gain a lot of weight, of course, it may not look as good. Thanx for contributing to our blog!
  • Hilda Marquez says:

    Doctor: I'm planning to have a tummy tuck, but I don't want to have a muscle tightening because, my only problems are the stretch marks. My waist is only 25 inches, so I don't think I need it. Is that possible to do it without the muscle tightening? does avoiding that helps a little bit for a shorter recovery time? Thanks a lot for for your help. Hilda
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Hilda: Yes, it is possible to do a tummy tuck without doing the muscle. It is called a dermatolipectomy. It is cheaper, takes less time to do, the recovery is much quicker, and it does take off the stretch marks. Ask Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net, she'd be happy to hear from you. I think from what you are telling me, you are a great candidate for dermatolipectomy. Have a great day!
  • Rocky A says:

    Dear Dr. I had a mini tummy tuck and was not happy at all with the results. I only went to one Dr that told me I didn't have enough above my belly button to do a full. Now after the fact I have looked into the limitation of the mini and nowhere have I read a person could not have enough to do a full. Can you give me your opinion please? Can I have the procedure redone? Also my scar does go from hip to hip.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Without seeing pictures it is impossible to determine what happened in your case. I will say that even if you don't have enough skin above the belly button, all it means is you will have a small vertical component to the scar above the pubis. And yes, you can have a full Tummy tuck if you wish. Pick a Doctor you can talk to and spend time with so fully understand your options. Make sure he is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Thanx for reading our blog, and I hope you found it informative.
  • Worry Mom says:

    Dear Doctor: I had two liposuction (4 children) and the last one was not successfull. Bumpy look, uneven look, part of skin are dark and the stretch marks of the lower belly part are more accentuated. Question: having a tummy tuck will correct imperfections? Thanks for your prompt reply and May God Bless You.
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      It is not right for me to make a judgement without seeing pictures, but I can speak in generalities. If there are stretch marks below the belly button, a Tummy Tuck will get rid of them. If there is a bumpy look, lifting and stretching the skin as in a Tummy Tuck will improve things, depending on the individual. In some cases the improvement may be incremental, in others, dramatic.
  • BRIDGETTE says:

    i have been considering for over 15 years...(1991 gave birth to twins). Most Dr's want to do additional things, which run the cost up more than i can afford to pay. Can you send me information on how much a tummy tuck procedure will cost me and if i can get it financed. thank you Bridgette Law