The Tummy Tuck Process
The tummy tuck process is designed to remove significant amounts of skin and the attached fat. It has different results than liposuction because a tummy tuck can actually remove drooping and sagging skin, while liposuction removes only the fat below. The tummy tuck may often be combined with liposuction, allowing for the optimum results of both deeper fat removal and excess skin removal.
Tummy Tuck Techniques
The most common tummy tuck techniques involve an incision above the pubic bone. The type of incision varies according to the degree of contouring and skin removal needed. With a full tummy tuck, a long incision is made above the pubic area, while a mini tummy tuck requires a smaller "U" shaped incision.
The Benefits of Tummy Tuck Surgery
For most people, the most obvious benefit of a tummy tuck is the aesthetic one. A tummy tuck can dramatically improve the appearance of the entire abdominal area. Patients who have been dealing with sagging abdominal skin for years can once again have a tight and toned tummy. Dr. Patterson will discuss the desired aesthetic goals with each patient to give them a realistic idea of what the abdominal area will look like following the surgery. In addition to the visual benefit, a tummy tuck can correct the problem of distended stomach muscles. Following multiple pregnancies or major weight loss, it is not uncommon for the stomach muscles to become weak and loosened. During the tummy tuck, Dr. Patterson can surgically tighten those muscles while doing the skin and fat removal. The newly tightened muscles can be beneficial for posture. The tighter abdominal muscles also provide better spinal support, which in turn may help relieve some types of back pain.
Planning Your Tummy Tuck Surgery
The first step of planning your tummy tuck surgery is a consultation with Dr. Patterson. The timing of the surgery can be important since there is some recovery time involved. Discuss your lifestyle and obligations with Dr. Patterson to determine the best way to achieve a peaceful surgery and an optimum recovery.
Preparing For Your Tummy Tuck Surgery
Preparation for a tummy tuck procedure may take as long as a couple of weeks, depending on a patient's current lifestyle. The first thing that a tummy tuck patient will typically need to do is to get lab testing. These lab tests, which normally involve simple blood work, can usually be done in minutes. Such tests are important in determining whether a patient is healthy enough for the surgery. Dr. Patterson will need to see a complete list of current medications - including herbal supplements - before the tummy tuck surgery. Some of these medications, for example aspirin, may need to be discontinued for anywhere from a few days to a week prior to the surgery. Patients who smoke are strongly encouraged to stop smoking prior to a tummy tuck.
The Tummy Tuck Procedure
The tummy tuck procedure is typically performed under general anesthesia, but it may be done under local anesthesia. If done under local anesthesia, the patient will typically be given a sedative that helps them to relax during the surgery. During a full tummy tuck, a hip to hip incision is made, followed by a second incision in the navel area. The navel incision allows Dr. Patterson to loosen the excess skin. The excess skin can then be removed, and the muscles in the abdominal wall will be tightened as needed. A surgical adhesive, TissuGlu, is used to bond the tissue layers and prevent subcutaneous dead areas. This adhesive is remarkably strong (10 times stronger than traditional fibrin based surgical sealants) and will hold the tissue until the natural healing is completed. TissuGlu prevents the need for postoperative drains, which were often used in tummy tuck patients in the past. After the skin is positioned properly, Dr. Patterson will suture the incisions closed. The procedure normally lasts anywhere from two to five hours.
Tummy Tuck Recovery
Having a good tummy tuck recovery means having realistic expectations. Dr. Patterson will give patients guidelines regarding recovery, and it is best to follow these as closely as possible. Patients will generally need to allow around two weeks for tummy tuck recovery. Taking this time off work and allowing for a quiet and peaceful recovery period at home will yield the optimum results.
Exercise After Tummy Tuck Surgery
After tummy tuck surgery, vigorous exercise should be completely avoided for six weeks. Even moderate exercise should be avoided for a minimum of two weeks post surgery. Exercise can cause swelling and make recovery more difficult, so light exercise is always best during recovery.
Tummy Tuck Aftercare
Dr. Patterson provides each patient with a detailed list of aftercare instructions. These instructions are designed to aid patients in having the fastest and most comfortable tummy tuck recovery possible. The aftercare instructions include:
- Leave gauze dressings in place for 24 to 48 hours after the surgery. If minor bleeding is noted, gauze can be replaced.
- Avoid stretching the incision. Don't stand completely upright or lay flat on the back for two to three days after the surgery.
- Wear a heavy compression garment on the abdomen for a minimum of two weeks to reduce swelling and pain. After that, wear a medium compression garment like Spanx for an additional four weeks.
- Avoid showering for 24 hours after surgery, and avoid baths or any full submersion for three to four weeks.
- Pain may occur on either side of the abdomen. This is normal and can be managed with pain relievers. Use narcotic pain relievers sparingly, as they can have major side effects. If itching occurs, use an antihistamine like Benadryl.
- Patients will typically have surgical tape for between two and three weeks after a tummy tuck. Don't dislodge the tape, or place any type of creams or ointments on top of it.
Other aftercare instructions may be given as well. The key to recovery is making sure that these instructions are followed closely. At Patterson Plastic Surgery, the tummy tuck surgery is performed by Dr. Patterson, a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. As a member of The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Medical Association, and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS,) Dr. Patterson is uniquely suited to perform this surgery. This superior level of expertise, coupled with an innate ability to understand and relate to patients, makes Patterson Plastic Surgery the premier center for cosmetic, plastic, and reconstructive surgery in the Gulf Coast area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Thinking about a tummy tuck? If you're unhappy with the appearance of your abdominal area, this procedure may be the best solution. Here are the top tummy tuck questions asked by our patients today.
What is the recovery time?
The recovery time for tummy tuck surgery can vary according to the complexity of the procedure. Most patients should allow about two weeks for recovery. You can generally do light activity once you feel well enough, but it's very important to avoid moderate to heavy activity for six weeks. If you're a good candidate for TissuGlu, Dr. Patterson can use this FDA approved product to seal the tummy tuck incision, thereby avoiding drains. This can shorten your recovery, and may allow for an easier recovery overall. To achieve the best tummy tuck recovery -- and the best results from your surgery -- it's very important that you have realistic expectations about the outcome and that you closely follow all of Dr. Patterson's instructions. We're here to support and guide you to help you get the results that you want.
Am I a good candidate?
Tummy tuck candidacy depends on several things, all of which Dr. Patterson will discuss with you. You need to be in good overall health to undergo the anesthesia for a tummy tuck. It's also important that you're as close as possible to a healthy weight. Tummy tuck surgery isn't intended to be a weight loss surgery, but rather to remove extra skin and fat to create improved contours in the abdominal area. It's best to have a tummy tuck only after you're done having children. Pregnancy changes the whole abdominal area, so results could be undone with future pregnancies. If you've recently had a child, it's best to allow several months before undergoing tummy tuck to ensure that the uterine contraction is complete. This allows Dr. Patterson to tighten the muscles more effectively.
Where are the scars located?
The tummy tuck scar is in the lower abdomen, above the pubic mound. The length of the scar can depend on several factors, including the amount of skin and fat being removed. You'll have tape on the incision area for around six weeks post surgery. Dr. Patterson can recommend a scar fading regimen to use after that time. Your scar will usually fade naturally until it's eventually quite faint.
What should I expect post-op?
After your tummy tuck, you can expect some pain in early recovery. Dr. Patterson prescribes medication to help you manage this effectively. It's important to take all medication exactly as directed for maximum relief and comfort. You'll need to rest and relax as much as possible in the days after your surgery, as this allows for the best and most rapid healing. You can usually resume light activity like walking within a week, but avoid lifting or any type of abdominal muscle contractions. Take it slow and easy, and you'll usually start to feel better within only a week or so.
Will a tummy tuck help stretch marks?
Yes, a tummy tuck can help with hip area stretch marks in some cases. Dr. Patterson uses a low incision, which means he can pull the thigh skin to lessen the appearance of hip area stretch marks. Although the stretch marks remain, they're much less obvious. Ready for your tummy tuck consultation with Dr. Patterson? A slimmer, sleeker, and more beautiful tummy may be closer than you think. Contact us anytime to get started.