One of the most common plastic surgery procedures is the tummy tuck (technically known as abdominoplasty). It’s an effective procedure for removing excess fat and skin from around the abdominal region, and is especially useful where the skin is loose due to large amounts of fat loss or after pregnancy.
In general, tummy tucks are best suited to people who are generally healthy, but whose abdominal muscles are weakened and are no longer able to hold the stomach tautly. Such weakened abdominal muscles are often accompanied by loose skin and underlying fat. Tummy tucks are also a good option for people whose stomach muscles are in shape, but who have excess saggy skin covering the abdominal region.
There are four main types of tummy tuck performed:
- Endoscopic – This type of tummy tuck is done through the use of an endoscope which is inserted through small incisions in the skin. The endoscope tightens the abdominal muscles, but no skin or fat is removed. This method, therefore, is not suitable for those with excess fat or skin.
- Mini Tummy Tuck – This is a suitable method for removing loose skin from below the navel, and occurs through an incision at the bikini line. In this method the excess skin is removed, and the remaining skin is redraped which forms a tighter abdomen. The abdominal muscles can also be tightened during the mini tummy tuck surgery (but may not be if the muscles are in good condition). The navel is often left where it is, but may be repositioned depending on the amount of skin removed and the resulting shape of the abdomen following surgery. While this is more invasive than endoscopic surgery, it results in a smaller scar and faster recovery than traditional abdominoplasty.
- Full Tummy Tuck – This procedure is designed for patients who possess significant skin laxity and excess fat. It needs a longer incision than a mini tummy tuck, and the opening generally goes from hip to hip (therefore leaving a bigger scar). During the procedure the muscles are tightened while excess skin and fat is removed, and the navel is generally repositioned.
- Vertical Tummy Tuck – This is the largest of the tummy tuck options and is only deemed necessary when there is a very large amount of excess skin and or fat. It requires not just a horizontal incision, but also a vertical incision to allow greater skin and fat removal and greater access to the abdominal muscles. This procedure generally leaves the most significant scarring and will therefore only be reserved for extreme cases.
Which Sort of Tummy Tuck?
A person who has a relatively small amount of excess skin and/or fat will generally only need a mini-tummy tuck, but for a person who has lost an extreme amount of weight, there is often no choice but to undergo a full tummy tuck or even a vertical tummy tuck procedure to achieve desired results.
For both endoscopic tummy tucks and mini tummy tucks, the surgery can often be performed as an outpatient procedure, usually under general anesthesia. However, a full abdominoplasty or vertical tummy tuck will require at least an overnight stay in hospital, and will need greater recovery time.
Usually after tummy tuck surgery, the patient will need to wear an abdominal binder for several days after the operation. This binder can help alleviate pain during the recovery process.