Surgery to remove excess skin and, to a lesser extent, fat is removed from below the umbilicus (or tummy button).
Normal reasons for seeking a tummy tuck are after weight loss or following a pregnancy. It tightens the abdominal skin and can improve the waistline. It is sometimes combined with liposuction for additional contour definition depending on the amount of tissue that needs to be removed.
A popular procedure, it involves a short stay in hospital and you should be back to full activities by six weeks following surgery.
1 to 2 nights
Swelling can last for several months so final results are seen after 6 months.
What can be achieved?
Usually, people have a specific goal they wish to achieve and, as mentioned earlier, usually request the procedure following pregnancy or weight loss. The surgery removes the excess skin in the lower abdomen and can be combined with other techniques to repair any bulges (hernias or divarications) in the abdominal wall.
The pre-operative shape of your hips, waist and chest will dictate how much of a change in your waistline you will see after the procedure – if you have a narrow gap between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your pelvis (less than the breadth of a hand) then you won’t notice a dramatic change in the shape of your waist. With larger distances between the two, however, a more hourglass figure can be achieved following surgery.
What does it involve?
It involves removal of an oval-shaped piece of skin from beneath the umbilicus (or tummy button). The lower border of the incision runs from either hip to just above the pubic hair in the midline (where are C-section scar normally sits) and from either hip to just above the umbilicus for the upper border.
The skin and underlying fat contained within the incision borders is removed, and then the skin from above the umbilicus is lifted and pulled down so that it meets the lower edge of the incision. At the same time, the tummy muscles are tightened using sutures, improving the definition of the waistline.
Do I need to lose weight before surgery?
A tummy tuck is not a substitute for diet and exercise if you desire to lose weight. You should have reached your ideal target weight (and be static at this weight) prior to having surgery as any further weight loss following surgery may result in more loose skin, compromising your aesthetic result.
How long does surgery take?
It takes between 2 to 3 hours and usually involves a one or two-night stay in hospital. You will have drains in following the surgery (tubes to take away fluid that can accumulate beneath the skin), and these are normally taken out before discharge from hospital.
After surgery, you will be nursed with pillows beneath your knees to take any tension off the tummy skin and it is important to make sure that you stay slightly bent over for the first week following surgery. By the end of the first week, you will be starting to feel more active and can return to light activities.
Over the following four weeks, you will be able to increase your activity levels (though you need to be guided by your body as to how energetic you can be) and by six weeks you should be able to resume your normal daily routine.
Possible complications of surgery?
Abdominoplasty surgery has reliable results and high patient satisfaction rates, however, minor complications such as small areas of wound breakdown (often related to suture reactions) and seroma formation (small collections of fluid beneath the skin that may require drainage with a syringe) can be quite common.
More problematic complications, such as haematoma formation (usually seen when you are still in hospital and may require a return trip to the theatre to coagulate the bleeding vessel), wound breakdown (dehiscence) or problematic scarring, are rarer.
Have a question?
If you’ve decided to have cosmetic surgery, you now need to choose a surgeon with the appropriate training, skills and experience to carry out your procedure.
It’s important to talk to your surgeon about what you want to change and why.
Anthony specialises in aesthetic surgery; he is registered with BAAPS, a specialist register of Plastic Surgeons maintained by the General Medical Council.
He is nationally acknowledged for providing outstanding medical care and achieving results which meet or exceed patients’ hopes and expectations.
Before & Afters
Anthony uses the latest 3D scanning technology to create before and after visuals that give you a realistic view of the results.
- Tummy tuck vs lipo: Which is best?
- What is a mini tummy tuck?
- How safe is it?
- Panniculectomy or an abdominoplasty after massive weight loss?
- 7 things you should know before you have a tuck
- What can a tummy tuck do?
- Should you have liposuction with a tummy tuck?
- How soon can I start exercising after a tummy tuck?
Which is best for you?
If you want a flatter stomach, you probably know there are two main options: liposuction or a tummy tuck. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that these are two very different procedures and they do separate jobs. Choosing which is the best procedure for you depends on your individual concerns and expectations from surgery.
Understanding the difference
Liposuction is an invasive procedure that sucks out excess fat, permanently removing it from the body and producing a more toned physique. A tummy tuck, on the other hand, addresses the excess skin which hangs in folds after major weight loss by trimming some of it away and suturing what’s left – along with a strengthening of the abdominal wall muscles and repositioning of the belly button if required.
Who are they are most suitable for?
A tummy tuck is the perfect solution for people who have carried excess weight for a period of time (including during pregnancy) and want to restore their original look and shape. Liposuction is suited for people with areas of excess fat they want permanently removed, but still have good skin elasticity.
Length of treatment
A typical tuck procedure can take between2 and 4 hours, depending on what exactly has been planned, while a liposuction procedure can last from 1 to t3 hours.
A typical liposuction procedure will require from 2 to 10 days of post-op rest, while you’ll be expected to earmark at least 10 to 14 days of downtime to recover properly from a tuck procedure and return to normal activities.
Both procedures typically throw up similar side effects – long-term bruising and swelling, skin discolouration, numbness in the affected area which may last up to eight weeks, and scarring.
Which treatment is best for you
If you want to drastically and permanently reduce body fat in a particular area of the face or body, liposuction is your best option. However, if you have lost weight – be it through diet, exercise, or post-pregnancy, and you don’t like how your abdomen area now appears, a tummy tuck is often the only way to achieve a flatter, more toned abdomen.
Bear in mind these two procedures are not exclusive to one another: in more cases than you think, elements of one are deployed in the other. During a tuck, for example, liposuction is often also used to remove any stubborn pockets of fat tmarring the contours of the waistline.
If you’re still unsure about which procedure would suit your needs best, it makes sense to book a consultation with us at your earliest convenience. You can tell us about the body shape you want, and we can let you know your options.
What is a mini tummy tuck?
If you feel you really need to do something about the shape and state of your abdomen area, you probably already know what a tuck is and what it can do. You might also be aware of – and tempted by – a mini tummy tuck. After all, it sounds like a simpler (and possibly cheaper) procedure, and it is.
But there are some things that a mini tuck can’t do – to ensure you’re completely satisfied by your experience, it’s essential to get the procedure that meets your needs best.
What can it do… and what can’t it achieve?
Essentially, a mini tuck involves a smaller incision and a less comprehensive overhaul of the treated area. The extra skin and fat under the navel are addressed, without changing the location of the belly button. It’s a quicker operation, involves less downtime, the recovery period is shorter, and – because the incision is smaller – it leaves less scarring.
Now we’ve discussed what a mini tuck does, we need to talk about what it doesn’t do: repair the muscles of your abdominal walls, which may have been damaged by carrying extra weight, as well as removing any excess skin located further up the abdomen.
This is important to note because, after pregnancy or substantial weight gain and loss, previously taut and perfectly-positioned abdominal muscles can loosen and weaken – and sometimes they can even separate from each other. And no matter how active you are in the gym, it’s usually impossible to put ab muscles back to where they belong without a little surgical help.
This aspect of the tuck is just as important as the skin and fat-removal element, and to skip it in order to save money and have a shorter scar could leave you dissatisfied with your results.
Am I a suitable candidate?
If you have a minimal amount of excess skin and your abdominal wall is still strong, you may be a suitable candidate for the mini tummy tuck. If you’ve undergone pregnancy – or have been carrying excess weight for some time – there is a possibility that your ab walls are not strong enough and a mini tuck will not do the job you’ll want it to.
Obviously, it can be difficult to work out for yourself how strong (or otherwise) your abdominal muscles are, so it makes sense to book yourself in for a consultation which includes a full physical assessment and the opportunity to discuss your goals and aims with an experienced practitioner who can work with you to select and perform the procedure which suits you best. There’s nothing wrong with a mini tuck – and, for certain people, they can really work – but they’re not for everyone.
How safe is it?
We know what a tuck does, and how it’s the only real solution for body shapes that have undergone pregnancy and major weight loss. We also know they can provide a massive boost to people’s confidence, mainly because clients have told us as much. And we’re fully aware that as well as making us look good on the outside, a tuck can do a lot of good on the inside too, restoring the position of the stomach muscles and nipping a lot of potential abdominal problems in the bud.
But it also needs to be stressed that the level of work involved in an abdominoplasty procedure, both for the surgeon and the patient, is high. This is not a walk-in-walk-out procedure: a typical tuck involves a long incision, the trimming off of excess skin, the possible removal of fat, the possible moving of the stomach muscles back to their original position, and a lot of suturing.
Consequently, recovery time is long by aesthetic surgery standards: there will be up to 2 weeks where you will be expected to rest completely, and it can be up to 2 months before you’re fully back to normal. And, during this time, you’ll discover just how much your stomach area is utilised during day-to-day routines. Talk to any of our patients and they’ll tell you that after all that, a tuck is still worth it, but we can’t stress this enough -don’t walk into this procedure without understanding.
The obvious next question is how safe the procedure actually is. There’s always a risk in any surgical procedure and the more complicated the procedure, the greater the risk – but the combination of a skilled, professional surgeon and a fully-informed and aware patient is the best defence against any complications before and after a procedure. Let’s answer some basic questions:
Is surgery dangerous?
Like all surgery, it’s a safe procedure as long as it’s conducted by trained professionals under clinical conditions. However, because a tuck usually involves incisions plus fat removal plus muscle-tightening – the risk of complication is multiplied. It can’t be denied that the risk of a complication during and after an abdominoplasty procedure is higher when compared to other aesthetic surgery procedures, but if the surgeon and the patient observe the correct guidelines, the risk is typically minimal.
What can go wrong during surgery?
- Wound healing problems
- Post-op fluid collections
- Blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT)
- Clots developing in the lungs (pulmonary embolism)
Again, it needs to be stressed that all these risks are part and parcel of a typical surgical procedure, and great steps are always taken by our practice to avoid them. You will be fully instructed about the procedures you’ll need to take before and after surgery to make sure they don’t happen.
What can I do to avoid complications?
If you are in good shape, reasonably healthy, have normal blood pressure and are a non-smoker (or have given up smoking four weeks before the procedure), the risk of complications is very low. We will review your medical history during your consultation. In certain circumstances, you will be advised to visit your GP and get an all-clear from them.
In short, every surgical procedure involves an element of risk, and – like all body procedures – a tummy tuck is more invasive than other work we do. But we already know that patients who follow the rules are set to come through the procedure with flying colours.
Panniculectomy or an abdominoplasty after massive weight loss?
We know that losing weight – particularly excessive weight – can be a hugely positive and even a life-changing experience. But after the sense of achievement and the plaudits from your GP and your peers has come and gone, one thing remains. The realisation that the fat might be gone but the sagging, excess skin on your stomach is not snapping back into place.
In extreme circumstances, the results of this weight loss – hanging folds of skin which lop over the belt and continue to stretch – can negatively affect people far worse than the weight gain ever did, both physically and mentally. The excess weight of the skin can lead to back problems, rashes and general discomfort and you may even feel that you actually looked better when you were obese. Certain people who have undergone extreme weight loss can feel they’re occupying someone else’s body, or they feel that the work they’ve put in to lose weight wasn’t worth it. In fact, one common reaction is the decision to put the weight back on again.
Luckily, what gravity has ruined, aesthetic surgery can restore. There are two procedures which can restore your body shape and finish the job you started – panniculectomy and abdominoplasty. Let’s talk about them.
You probably know the abdominoplasty procedure by the tabloid-friendly terms ‘tummy tuck’ or ‘mummy makeover’, but whatever you call it, it’s the same thing: a procedure designed to improve the look of your abdomen. Although no two abdominoplasty procedures are the same, there are four main things that happen:
- The removal of excess abdominal skin and fat
- The tightening of the muscles which make up the abdominal wall, in order to restore them to their original position
- The relocation of the belly button
- The closing up of the incisions that have been made
It’s an intensive procedure and will require a lot of downtime afterwards, but it’s the best method for restoring your original shape as well as removing the excess skin, taking out any remaining fat and creating a smooth body contour.
Simply put, this is a procedure that does everything an abdominoplasty does, bar the tightening of the stomach muscles. In certain cases, when there is minimal to no weakening of the abdominal wall in a patient, a panniculectomy will be recommended. It’s also recommended for people who suffer from chronic skin irritation from skin folds chafing against each other and back pain from carrying excess skin. The procedure is simple: the excess skin is removed, and the remaining skin is sutured together.
Both procedures have been performed thousands of times, and are becoming the fastest-rising procedures in the field of aesthetic surgery. So if you’re bothered with excess skin, your next step should be to book a consultation with us and let us help you come to a decision over which procedure is the right one for you.
7 things to understand
A tummy tuck is an increasingly popular body reshaping procedure. Here, our tummy tuck expert covers all aspects of the abdominoplasty procedure:
1. Expect a significant period of downtime
There’s no getting around it: a tummy tuck is a major surgical procedure, and it will take weeks for you to heal. After all, we’re talking about a hip-to-hip incision, the repositioning of your stomach muscles and removal of fat and skin, so you should be fully prepared for two to three weeks of tummy tuck downtime.
2. Expect a modicum of pain and discomfort at first
Immediately after the procedure, you will experience sensations of fatigue, swelling and soreness. It is totally normal to have moderate pain during the healing process, but this will steadily improve and you can start to return to normal activities.
3. Expect to need help at first
We can’t stress this enough: you’ve had a very invasive procedure on a part of the body that you’ve taken for granted all your life, and you’ll be surprised at what you won’t be able to do after the procedure, so it is essential that you allow yourself time to focus on rest and healing. If you think ‘rest and healing’ means ‘taking a week or so off work’, think again: abdominoplasty patients will need assistance with household chores and children, and very strenuous physical activities are completely off the table for at least four to six weeks.
4. You need to be at a stable weight before your op
Why? Well, most surgeons will recommend that you are at or close to the ideal weight for your size and frame. This isn’t a carrot-and-stick thing or a way for the surgeon to make their own job easier: weight fluctuations after the procedure can not only undo the shape achieved through your surgery, but it can also stretch the abdominal tissue, meaning you’ll have to undergo another procedure to reset your shape.
5. It will leave a permanent scar
This will run along the horizontal incision line, stretching from hip to hip, right above the pubic bone and there may also be an incision around the belly button. While the scar should heal very well, it will never disappear completely. During your consultation, placement of the incision and how to ensure the best possible healing is discussed.
6. You may need surgical drains after the procedure
After surgery, surgical drains – tubes which remove blood and other fluids from a wound or incision – can be put in place to eliminate build-ups, keep swelling down and ensure the healing process goes as smoothly as possible. You won’t have them in for long – they’re usually removed after a week or so. You’ll need to keep an eye on them and ensure they don’t get knocked out and your cosmetic surgeon will take you through whether you’ll need them and how to care for them.
7. Full healing can take up to a year
The timescale of post-op abdominoplasty is not swift. Over the first several weeks, you’ll experience bruising, stiffness and swelling. This will resolve over the first four to six weeks, and you’ll be able to visualise your results. However, there can still be residual swelling for six months or longer and it can take a full year before the complete results of surgery can be seen.
What a tuck can and can’t do…
It can smooth your abdomen…
Lumbered with extra fat around the stomach area that just won’t shift, however many crunches you do or how few calories you count? Then a tummy tuck is just the thing. We can remove stubborn pockets of fat with minor liposuction, resulting in a smoother contour.
…but it can’t keep it flat without your help
While a tummy tuck is a great final touch on getting your body back to how it was before – especially if you’ve gone through pregnancy – it can only be performed on people who are already at a stable weight, because if you pile on the pounds afterwards, the results are going to be ruined. Remember: although it can remove excess fat, a tummy tuck will do nothing to prevent you from gaining weight in the future.
It can reset your stomach muscles…
One of the procedures which can be undertaken during a tummy tuck is the restoration of stomach muscles which have been weakened by carrying excess weight, such as a baby or a hefty amount of flab.
…but it can’t give you an automatic six-pack
Sadly, muscle tone and prominent abs are things you’re going to have to get for yourself. However, most of our clients say that the results of a tummy tuck procedure – which gives them a slimmer profile – is all the inspiration they need to kickstart a healthier, more active lifestyle.
It can remove saggy excess skin…
There’s nothing worse than going through all that time and effort to lose weight, only to discover that the skin has refused to snap back into place – and in some cases, people feel they looked better when they had all that weight on in the first place. A tummy tuck can be the only solution to this problem, as we can trim off the excess skin to give you the shape you desire.
…but it can’t remove most stretch marks
Stretch marks: they’re not just for mothers. They can be found on the abdomen, hips and thighs, and are usually caused by the skin being unable to properly accommodate rapid growth – resulting in skin tears at a deep level. While a tummy tuck can get rid of some of them – where we remove excess skin – there’s little that can be done about those on the rest of the abdomen.
If you need to know more about what a tummy tuck can do, it makes sense to book a consultation session with us at your earliest convenience. We can talk about why you feel you need one in the first place, what you want to look like afterwards, answer any other questions you may have, and explain what results we are likely to achieve. Then you can make an informed choice about whether to go ahead with an abdominoplasty at this stage.
Should you have some liposuction with your tuck?
Many people assume that a tummy tuck and a liposuction procedure are one and the same. In a nutshell, they aren’t.
A standard tuck procedure is geared towards people who have lost an excessive amount of weight or want to restore their pre-pregnancy shape, and it mainly addresses saggy skin and weakened muscles. While liposuction can also address skin sagginess, its main role is to remove fat. If you want to tighten your stomach muscles, restore your natural, taut shape and remove fat, there isn’t an all-in-one treatment: if you want all three results, mixing in a lipo procedure is essential. It’s known in the trade as a lipoabdominoplasty, and it’s easier to perform than you think.
What happens during liposuction?
The liposuction procedure is simple enough: a small incision is made in the targeted area, and a cannula – a hollow metal tube, attached to a suction pump – is inserted. Then, the requisite amounts of fat cells are sucked out, in order to achieve a smoother and more even appearance. The incisions are then sutured.
The lipo stigma doesn’t exist
There’s a general misconception about liposuction: that it’s a procedure only to be used in cases of extreme obesity, or as a vanity project for people who want to suck away weight without putting in the effort themselves. However, lipo typically isn’t suitable for patients that are extremely overweight and should never be seen as a weight loss procedure. It is a procedure designed to improve body shape and remove small pockets of fat that are resistant to diet and exercise.
There are two main benefits to having both procedures done at the same time. Firstly, your cosmetic surgeon can do one treatment while performing the other without having to do much else, meaning all your issues can be dealt with in one procedure – without complicating your recovery period. In actual fact, when you have lipo too, the practitioner can eliminate the need for post-surgical drains by deploying a layered suture process, which can actually speed up the recovery process.
How soon can I start exercising after a tuck?
The short answer, according to the medical community, is: it depends.
There are general guidelines, but you should listen to your plastic surgeon as they will take into account your starting point in terms of your general health and fitness levels and also how extensive surgery was.
Here’s a general guide to what you can – and can’t – do in the gym or in the park as you recover from tummy tuck surgery. Remember, this is a general guide, and should be treated as such. Your cosmetic surgeon – the person who has gone in there and examined your abdomen – knows what has been done to you, and how far down the line you are to complete recovery.
Exercising immediately afterwards
All reputable surgeons agree that complete rest over the first 2 weeks following surgery is essential, as you undergo a period called ‘wound healing’. It’s not like you’ll want to exert yourself, whether you want to or not: you’ll be undergoing a degree of discomfort, soreness and fatigue in the first few weeks.
However, you will be expected to ‘get back on the horse’ within the first 24 hours after treatment by getting up, walking around, and keeping mobile. Nothing too strenuous, but walking helps to improve circulation, therefore decreasing the chance of tummy tuck risks developing, such as a blood clot. Improved circulation also benefits the body’s natural healing process.
If you feel you have to bend forward to avoid further discomfort, don’t panic: that’s an entirely natural response. You are strongly advised to avoid heavy lifting, intense cardio activities, and anything which will put pressure on your abs during this period, especially if you’ve had your stomach muscles tightened – the tissues around the muscles require time to heal.
Exercising a month after
After four to six week, the vast majority of the soreness and fatigue will have disappeared, so it’s time to hit the gym again, right? Wrong, according to most surgeons. Even if you were the most active bunny in the gym before your procedure, you still might not be ready to get stuck in to the weights – and at best, and if your surgeon has approved it, you will be encouraged to slowly dip a toe into mid-level activities such as yoga, jogging, swimming and cycling. Again, you’re strongly advised to avoid heavy lifting and abdominal exercises
Exercising three months after
After twelve weeks, most clients will be ready to mix abdominal exercises and intense weight training into their exercise regime, because your core stomach muscles will finally be ready to take on the demands of heavy exercise.
You’ll be advised to start these exercises gradually, and to listen to your body at all times, gradually rebuilding your endurance levels to ensure that you can transition into your pre-surgery exercise levels as smoothly – and safely – as possible.