Tummy tucks are a surgical solution for excess skin and fat in the abdominal area. In cases where diet and exercise are not successful in correcting the issue, a tummy tuck may be recommended. A tummy tuck is not meant to be a weight loss alternative. This type of procedure may be done post pregnancy, or after weight loss when the abdominal area doesn’t properly tone up. A tummy tuck is also frequently done for the purpose of stretch mark removal.
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 post-operative 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 performing 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.