Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

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A tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure performed to reshape the body’s midsection and achieve a slimmer, smoother abdominal contour. Weight gain and pregnancy are factors that stretch and weaken the abdominal wall, often leading to a less attractive body contour. Stubborn pockets of fat can also develop, which usually do not respond effectively to dieting and exercise. Abdominoplasty is designed to remove excess fat and skin, as well as tighten the abdominal muscles, resulting in a leaner and sleeker body line.

Abdominoplasty can be performed as either a full or partial tummy tuck (sometimes called a “mini tummy tuck”), depending on the extent of your concerns. Board-certified plastic surgeon Geoffrey Leber, MD performs this procedure using a single incision for some patients, which can reduce the amount of visible scarring left after the procedure.

What Can a Tummy Tuck Achieve?

Tummy tuck surgery is currently the only effective treatment option that can restore loose or separated abdominal muscles to their original positioning. In many cases, this stretched musculature is the reason why the abdomen may still protrude despite a healthy diet and regular exercise. Abdominoplasty can generally:

  • Repair the abdominal musculature
  • Tighten loose, excess skin, resulting in a smoother look in the abdomen
  • Remove a mild amount of excess fat in the region

Each patient’s treatment plan is customized according to the severity of excess skin observed, the amount of redundant fat in the midsection, and the goals and hopes for the outcome. Liposuction, which is a technique designed to suction out excess fat cells, may be performed in combination with a tummy tuck if additional fat removal is necessary to achieve your ideal body contour.

Who is a Candidate For a Tummy Tuck?

Tummy tucks are often performed after pregnancy or significant weight loss in order to restore tone and tightness to the abdominal region. The best candidates for abdominoplasty are men and women who have significant pockets of fat in the midsection that have not responded to dieting or exercise. Factors that can lead to a loose, hanging, or protruding abdomen include:

  • Heredity
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight gain and subsequent weight loss
  • Prior surgeries in the midsection
  • Aging

Abdominoplasty is not a weight loss procedure and works best for patients who have already achieved a healthy weight. Patients who have stretch marks above the belly button may also see these lines move to the lower part of the abdomen, where they should become much less visible. The surgery is not recommended for women who plan to become pregnant in the future, or for patients who plan to lose a significant amount of weight after the procedure.

Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction

A tummy tuck and liposuction are both body contouring treatments commonly performed to reshape the abdomen, sometimes leading to misconceptions regarding what each procedure can accomplish. Tummy tuck surgery is primarily designed to treat the abdominal muscles and overlying skin; those who experience these concerns often contend with a hanging or protruding appearance in the abdomen despite being at a healthy weight. With that in mind, a bulging abdomen may be a sign that tummy tuck surgery is the best treatment option to attain your goals.

On the other hand, stubborn fat alone may be compromising your ability to gain the abdominal shape you desire. In these cases, liposuction is typically enough to improve your abdominal contour, provided that there is little to no skin laxity in the region. A tummy tuck combined with liposuction of excess fat in the back rolls, flanks, and thighs is often the most optimal treatment plan to produce a beautiful body shape and contour from all viewpoints. Dr. Leber would be happy to explain both procedures in further detail and personally advise you on the most beneficial techniques to achieve your aesthetic goals.

How is the Tummy Tuck Procedure Performed?

Tummy tucks are performed by Dr. Leber as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia in his cosmetic surgery office in Phoenix. Incisions may be placed horizontally from hip bone to hip bone, or vertically down the middle of the abdomen. The type of incision will depend on the patient’s specific needs and desired outcome.

Once the incision is made, Dr. Leber tightens abdominal muscles using both lateral and horizontal sutures. This technique results in a more natural, toned appearance for the tummy. Fatty tissue and excess skin is removed before the incision is closed. Repositioning of the navel will also be done during this procedure if necessary.

Types of Tummy Tucks

In addition to the standard tummy tuck procedure, Dr. Leber customizes surgery for the specific needs of his patients. This personalized treatment includes tailoring abdominoplasty according to a patient’s skin quality and their degree of musculature separation. Two specialized abdominoplasty procedures that Dr. Leber performs include:

Tummy Tuck for Severe Diastasis

Diastasis refers to a condition in which the abdominal muscles on either side of the midsection become significantly stretched, leading to a severely protruding abdomen. Dr. Leber repairs severe diastasis by folding and suturing excess tissue to produce a flatter abdomen and slimmer waistline.

Tummy Tuck with Midline Skin Excision

In some cases, patients wish to correct excessive skin from massive weight loss. Full correction of the tissue redundancy and laxity may require an additional vertical incision for optimal results. This is known as the midline skin excision technique, which is designed to provide comprehensive abdominal contouring and remove as much excess skin as possible.

Mini Tummy Tuck

A mini tummy tuck can be an excellent choice for patients who have mild skin laxity in the abdomen, and who do not need to repair their abdominal muscles. This form of abdominoplasty is less invasive than a full tummy tuck, typically offering less scarring and a shorter recovery period when compared to a traditional tummy tuck. That said, a mini tummy tuck does not address stretched or separated musculature.

Plus-Size Tummy Tuck

Tummy tuck surgery can be performed on a range of different body types, including plus-sized patients seeking an improved abdominal contour. With a plus-size tummy tuck, the procedure can help address excess skin, fat accumulation, and weakened abdominal muscles to provide a slimmer, smoother waistline. The goal is to reshape your abdomen in proportion to the rest of your body, thereby correcting a protruding or bulging look in the belly.

What is Recovery From a Tummy Tuck Like?

Patients typically spend one night in our overnight recovery center and perform only light activity for the first two weeks of recovery. Intraoperative injection of a long-lasting local anesthetic (non-opioid EXPAREL®) can greatly diminish post-operative discomfort for the first three days of recovery. Discomfort can then be managed with oral pain medication, while a compression garment is also worn after surgery to minimize swelling. Patients usually return to work and daily activities within one to two weeks after their procedure.

How Long Does a Tummy Tuck Last?

As long as a healthy weight is maintained after the procedure, tummy tucks are considered a permanent way to regain a firmer, leaner midsection. Since pregnancy and significant weight gain can restretch the abdominal muscles, Dr. Leber recommends pursuing a tummy tuck only after your family is complete. This, in combination with committing to an active lifestyle, can preserve the outcome of abdominoplasty well into the future. The improvement achieved with a tummy tuck should be noticeable right after surgery and results typically continue to improve as the abdomen heals.

How Much Does a Tummy Tuck Cost?

The cost of a tummy tuck varies widely according to the type of tummy tuck performed and the individual details of a patient’s surgical plan. While it is impossible to make an accurate cost estimate without a personal consultation, tummy tuck expenses generally range from $7,000 to $12,000. This range includes fees for the surgeon, anesthesia, operating facility, post-operative care, and other associated costs.

After your consultation with Dr. Leber, our office will be happy to provide you with a personalized quote that details the total cost of surgery. If you prefer to finance your expenses, Dr. Leber accepts payment plans from CareCredit® and Prosper® Healthcare Lending. These plastic surgery financing companies offer qualified patients a variety of low- to no-interest payment plans that can be chosen according to one’s individual budgetary concerns. Our team can assist you with any other questions about the cost of a tummy tuck or our accepted payment methods.

Will I Have Visible Tummy Tuck Scars?

Although scars are an inevitable part of tummy tuck surgery, Dr. Leber is careful to place incisions discreetly whenever possible. If your procedure requires a horizontal incision that extends across the width of the abdomen, Dr. Leber generally places this incision low enough for the resulting scar to be easily hidden beneath underwear or a bikini bottom. He will be able to show you the exact location(s) of your potential scars during your consultation so you understand what to expect from the outcome. Dr. Leber will also provide aftercare instructions that detail how to take care of your incisions and wound dressings after surgery. Following his recommendations can encourage optimal healing, thereby increasing the likelihood that your scars may fade to some extent over time.

Can I Get a Non-Surgical Tummy Tuck?

The results of a tummy tuck unfortunately cannot be replicated without surgery, as the procedure is intended to internally repair separated abdominal musculature and skin laxity. There is currently no minimally invasive treatment or technology that can effectively address these concerns and provide an effective long-term outcome. This is also true of the highly marketed Tummy Tuck Belt®, which claims to recreate the outcome of a tummy tuck simply by wearing a girdle-like compression garment around the abdomen. Needless to say, there is no medical or scientific evidence to support these claims and simply wearing a belt cannot rid the body of excess skin or repair stretched abdominal muscles. In general, a tummy tuck and other surgical procedures, such as a panniculectomy, are the only ways to create a smoother abdominal contour and achieve long-lasting results.

Can I Get Pregnant After a Tummy Tuck?

If you were able to get pregnant before your cosmetic surgery, a tummy tuck will not change this. However, Dr. Leber advises waiting until you no longer have plans for pregnancy before pursuing abdominoplasty. From an aesthetic standpoint, getting pregnant after a tummy tuck can recreate the same concerns that you sought to address with the abdominoplasty procedure, effectively reversing the outcome of surgery. Therefore, the best way to maximize the results of your tummy tuck is to postpone your cosmetic procedure until you have no future plans for having children. Medically speaking, undergoing a tummy tuck shouldn’t affect your ability to get pregnant.

Are There Any Tummy Tuck Alternatives?

Although abdominoplasty is among the most effective ways to get rid of hanging skin on the abdomen, some patients may benefit from a more comprehensive treatment option — particularly those who have lost a large amount of weight, or who have had multiple children. Losing weight often leaves behind excess skin in multiple regions, including the thighs, buttocks, upper arms, and waist in addition to the abdomen. In order to effectively remove the loose skin left over from weight loss, many patients choose to undergo a lower body lift. This treatment plan combines multiple lower/mid-body procedures to repair skin inelasticity in more than one area. The procedures are selected according to your unique needs to provide a completely personalized surgical plan.

With a Mommy Makeover procedures are chosen based on the changes caused by pregnancy and nursing — often including some combination of tummy tuck surgery, liposuction, and a breast procedure. If you’re not sure which treatments are right for you, Dr. Leber can explain your options and help you select the most ideal procedure(s) to achieve your goals.

Tummy Tuck vs. Panniculectomy

A tummy tuck and panniculectomy both remove overhanging skin and fat from the abdomen, so it’s understandable that patients may wonder about the difference between the two surgeries. Generally speaking, a tummy tuck is usually performed for more cosmetic reasons while a panniculectomy is recommended for patients who have health or medical issues due to their excess skin. A tummy tuck also repairs stretched out abdominal muscles, whereas a panniculectomy only addresses the skin and fat.

When a patient loses significant weight — usually over one hundred pounds — the skin may not be able to shrink back to its original shape, often leaving hanging tissue. This “apron” of hanging skin may cover your thighs or genitals, often making personal hygiene and/or exercise difficult. Rashes, chafing, and skin irritation are also common. Panniculectomy is designed to remove excess skin and fat to alleviate these symptoms. In contrast, a tummy tuck resculpts the abdomen for aesthetic purposes, although both procedures may be performed together in some cases.

Additional Tummy Tuck FAQs

Does a tummy tuck get rid of stretch marks?

While each patient differs based on their anatomical needs, a tummy tuck can often get rid of stretch marks on the lower abdomen, below the naval. This is possible during the process of removing stretched, excess skin to restore a more taut, smooth aesthetic. Dr. Leber can evaluate your stretch marks during your consultation and let you know what you can expect after the procedure.

Can abdominoplasty remove my C-section scar?

Abdominoplasty may be able to improve or “re-use” a C-section scar depending on the type of tummy tuck performed. However, patients should keep in mind that a tummy tuck itself will leave scarring on the lower pubis, often in the form of a horizontal incision placed from hip bone to hip bone. A smaller scar is possible for patients with less skin removal, and Dr. Leber will advise you on the best abdominoplasty procedure for your needs.

How soon can I exercise after a tummy tuck?

Each person has a unique rate of healing, but most tummy tuck patients can generally start exercise and aerobic activity after four to six weeks. It’s essential to follow the instructions provided by Dr. Leber to help ensure your recovery isn’t disrupted by prematurely stressing your body. He will observe your progress during post-operative follow-up appointments and advise you accordingly. When you are cleared to resume working out, it’s often helpful to start with lighter exercises to see how your body responds and progress to more strenuous activity.

Can I gain weight after a tummy tuck?

Yes, a tummy tuck does not prevent future weight gain. If you gain weight after abdominoplasty, your body contours may change and potentially alter the final outcome of your procedure. For this reason, it’s highly recommended to live an active lifestyle after tummy tuck surgery to help you maintain a stable weight. We also advise patients to undergo abdominoplasty only after they have no future plans for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

How do I sleep after tummy tuck surgery?

Rest assured that Dr. Leber will advise you on the best sleeping position after abdominoplasty. In general, it’s recommended to sleep in a slightly reclined position with the head slightly elevated and the torso bent for the first few weeks after your procedure.

Dr. Leber is highly experienced performing tummy tuck surgery for patients with a wide range of needs. To learn more about this procedure, or any of the other cosmetic surgery treatments we offer, please contact Dr. Leber and his staff today.