Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

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Abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure designed to recontour the abdomen for a smoother, firmer, and flatter appearance. Commonly referred to as a tummy tuck, this body sculpting procedure addresses aesthetic concerns in the abdomen that do not respond effectively to diet and exercise alone, such as stretched and torn musculature, localized areas of stubborn fat, and an abundance of hanging or loose skin. A tummy tuck is designed to create a sleeker and more contoured abdominal profile by reshaping and tightening the abdomen for an improved silhouette. Award-winning plastic surgeon Geoffrey Leber, MD, FACS personalizes the abdominoplasty procedure according to your unique needs and anatomical indicators—including the extent of your abdominal separation (diastasis recti) and amount of skin laxity—to produce a natural-looking final outcome.

Who is a Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?

Abdominoplasty is often performed after pregnancy or significant weight loss, as both of these events can cause a loss of shape and definition in the abdominal wall. However, any individual who experiences loose or hanging skin in the abdominal area can be a candidate for tummy tuck surgery. Because the procedure is not meant to be a method of weight loss, those considering surgery should be at or near their ideal weight. The surgery can generally benefit individuals with:

  • Notable skin laxity in the abdominal region
  • Stretched, torn, or separated abdominal musculature
  • Isolated pockets of fat in the abdominal area

Aside from pregnancy and weight loss, these characteristics can also be caused by genetics, prior surgeries in the midsection, or the natural aging process. During a consultation, Dr. Leber will review your medical history and perform a physical examination to help you determine whether a tummy tuck can fulfill your aesthetic goals.

What Can a Tummy Tuck Do for Me?

Abdominoplasty can be a powerful way to reverse the effects of pregnancy on the abdomen, or simply achieve a slimmer and flatter waistline where exercise and dieting prove ineffective. Tummy tuck surgery can also serve as part of a comprehensive mommy makeover for individuals who desire a full return to their pre-pregnancy figure. While the procedure is tailored to produce the best aesthetic result according to your unique needs, a tummy tuck can typically:

  • Tighten and repair abdominal musculature
  • Remove excess skin and pull remaining skin taut
  • Extract stubborn fatty deposits

Individuals who do not plan to become pregnant or undergo significant weight loss after surgery usually experience the most successful and long-term results. Many patients choose to combine a tummy tuck with liposuction to contour additional body areas, such as the arms, thighs, flanks, or back.

Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck

Liposuction and tummy tuck surgery can both be excellent body contouring options to achieve a smoother and flatter abdomen, making some patients wonder which procedure is the most ideal choice for their concerns. An important consideration to remember is that liposuction only addresses excess fat, thereby limiting possible improvement if loose skin is present. While the procedure can remove stubborn fatty tissue, the best candidates for liposuction are individuals with little to no skin laxity. In contrast, a tummy tuck is designed to tighten loose, excess skin as well as separated musculature, which are usually factors that contribute to a protruding abdomen. For this reason, patients who experience a loss of shape and contour in the abdomen due to redundant skin or stretched muscles may be better suited for tummy tuck surgery. The best possible improvement can often result by combining a tummy tuck and liposuction into one treatment, allowing patients to address the skin, fat, and muscles of the abdomen simultaneously.

How is the Tummy Tuck Procedure Performed?

Tummy tuck surgery is generally an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. Depending on the details of your treatment plan, incisions are designed to be placed below the bikini line and as short as possible, allowing for the necessary length to remove excess skin.
A traditional abdominoplasty makes the abdominal wall tighter using only midline internal sutures. However, over-tightening of these sutures can result in a flat midsection without any muscular definition. Dr. Leber’s technique involves the additional placement of a horizontal row of sutures in the upper abdomen, as well as a second row just above the belly button. This effectively lowers and narrows the waistline while allowing further correction of abdominal wall laxity without unnatural distortion of the abdominal wall. The natural contour is accentuated, giving the tummy a firm, toned, and beautiful shape. Special attention is given to the belly button appearance with preservation of the upper umbilical hollow. Hiding the incisions inside the belly button and below the bikini line allows scars to be well-concealed.

Stretch Mark and Scar Removal

Depending on their location, abdominoplasty may be able to completely remove abdominal stretch marks and scarring from C-sections or appendectomies. The possibility of scar and mark removal is generally greater if they are found below the navel or in the lower midline.

Severe Diastasis

When separation of the abdominal muscles is severe, significant skin laxity and a loss of shape in the abdominal wall can cause a total loss of definition and tone—even creating the appearance of pregnancy in some cases. By folding and suturing excess tissue, tummy tuck surgery can correct cases of severe diastasis for a smoother and more contoured abdomen.

Mini Tummy Tuck

As a less extensive version of the full procedure, a mini tummy tuck is mainly designed to improve the lower abdomen. The procedure involves a smaller incision, through which Dr. Leber will remove excess skin and tighten mildly-separated abdominal muscles below the umbilicus. For patients mainly concerned with a congregation of excess skin or stretch marks below the navel, a mini tummy tuck may be an option.

Patient Results

Below are a few cases from our extensive gallery, click here to view more.

What is Recovery Like for a Tummy Tuck?

While the exact nature of your recovery period will depend on your treatment plan, tummy tuck surgery usually necessitates an overnight stay in our recovery center. A compression garment will be worn after surgery to minimize swelling and facilitate the healing process. An intraoperative injection of a local anesthetic may be administered to ease discomfort in the first few days of the recovery period; oral pain medications can also manage any temporary bruising or swelling that may occur. Work and other daily activities, with the exception of strenuous exercise, are usually resumed within one to two weeks after the procedure.

It usually takes one to two weeks of downtime before patients feel well enough to resume work or light-duty daily routines. More strenuous activity, such as working out, is usually resumed after three to six weeks, although the recovery period for each individual will vary based on their unique rate of healing. While we understand the desire to recover as soon as possible, it is very important to allow your body to rest for as long as necessary to ensure optimal healing. Dr. Leber will monitor your progress in the post-operative follow-up appointments after tummy tuck surgery.

Reducing Swelling After a Tummy Tuck

Swelling is a normal part of the recovery process and should be expected for the next few months after tummy tuck surgery. However, some measures can be taken to reduce inflammation while healing, including:

  • Wearing your compression garments as instructed
  • Avoiding alcohol, salty foods, and tobacco use
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications as necessary

Keep in mind that the final outcome of abdominoplasty should keep improving until all swelling resolves, which typically occurs six months after surgery. If you follow Dr. Leber’s post-operative instructions and stick to a healthy diet, you should be able to minimize inflammation and accelerate the healing process.

What Will My Tummy Tuck Scars Look Like?

Depending on the extent of your tummy tuck, scars from the procedure typically appear low on the pubis, just below the navel, or in a vertical line on the lower abdomen. If your incision is made from hip to hip, the resulting scar can be concealed beneath underwear or a bikini bottom. In some cases, tummy tuck incisions can be incorporated into a previous scar from a C-section. With proper care, your tummy tuck scar should fade somewhat over time—Dr. Leber will provide detailed instructions on tending to your scar at every stage of the healing process. Generally speaking, avoiding sun exposure on your scar and keeping the skin well moisturized (after the incisions have closed) can help scars from tummy tuck surgery fade as much as possible.

How Long Does a Tummy Tuck Last?

The natural aging process will continue, but the outcome of tummy tuck surgery can be long-lasting if you maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Generally speaking, you should enjoy good results for at least 15 to 20 years, typically longer if the abdominal muscles are not re-separated by a future pregnancy. To prolong the aesthetic achieved, it is generally recommended for women to undergo a tummy tuck after they have completed their family, as pregnancy will likely reverse the outcome of the procedure. That said, your body contour will always look leaner and smoother than if you had never received a tummy tuck.

How Much Does a Tummy Tuck Cost?

Abdominoplasty can cost between $3,500 to $12,000 depending on the complexity of your concerns and whether your treatment plan consists of a full tummy tuck. This price range includes fees for the surgical facility, post-operative care, anesthesia, and other related expenses. As tummy tuck costs vary greatly from patient to patient, a true cost estimate of your unique procedure cannot be determined until the details of your custom treatment plan are known. Our patient care coordinator will be happy to provide a more accurate determination of your tummy tuck expenses after your consultation. At our practice, we work with CareCredit® and Prosper® Healthcare Lending for individuals who would rather pay for their treatment in smaller installments rather than a lump sum. These plastic surgery financing companies can provide qualified patients with a range of flexible payment plans designed to make the costs of the procedure more affordable.

Medical insurance usually doesn’t cover cosmetic procedures like tummy tuck surgery. However, our practice works with third-party healthcare lending companies like CareCredit® and Prosper® Healthcare Lending to make out-of-pocket costs more manageable. Many of the financing plans offered by these lenders include low- or no-interest rates within a certain promotional period, allowing you to pursue an abdominoplasty while accommodating any budgetary concerns.

Is There a Tummy Tuck Alternative?

If your concerns are more located in the lower body, Dr. Leber can contour the region from the midsection to the thighs in addition to, or instead of, the abdomen. A lower body lift is a procedure that targets the lower abdomen, hips, buttocks, and upper thighs for a more dynamic, all-encompassing improvement. With age, many patients struggle with loose skin and fat buildup in these areas that can cause chafing and skin rashes, among other concerns. A lower body lift can achieve many of the same goals as abdominoplasty, such as removing excess fat, smoothing loose skin, and tightening any stretched musculature—only in the lower frame of the body. If preferred, Dr. Leber can also perform a thigh lift alone if you solely want to circumferentially tighten and reshape the upper thighs. Your treatment will be personalized to your unique needs and desires, and Dr. Leber can help you formulate the ideal surgical plan during your consultation.

Is a Non-Surgical Tummy Tuck Possible?

Given that the goals of abdominoplasty include repairing stretched abdominal muscles (diastasis recti), there is no non-surgical treatment that can similarly alter the anatomy and achieve results comparable to a tummy tuck. While certain treatments like the Tummy Tuck Belt® and other girdle-like products are advertised to replicate abdominoplasty results without surgery, these options offer no medical or scientific evidence to validate their claims.

Loose musculature is a common outcome experienced after pregnancy and/or substantial weight gain, and treating these separated abdominal muscles is essential to reducing a protruding abdomen. While a healthy diet and an extensive exercise regimen can certainly smooth fat in this region, fat reduction typically reaps no improvements for the abdominal skin and musculature. Therefore, a surgical plan formulated to remove excess skin and restore the abdominal muscles is key to achieving the powerful results often associated with a tummy tuck.

Choosing a Top Tummy Tuck Surgeon

A tummy tuck is a complex procedure that has helped countless patients improve their abdominal contour and silhouette, but the quality of your results is reliant on your choice of plastic surgeon. Needless to say, who you select to perform your abdominoplasty will largely influence your overall satisfaction.

To help ensure you choose a well-qualified, highly experienced tummy tuck surgeon:

  • Learn about a plastic surgeon’s credentials by reading their bio, researching their educational background, and finding out how long they have been in practice.
  • Confirm that they are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and try to learn whether they belong to any regional or national professional organizations. This can demonstrate a commitment to keeping abreast of evolving plastic surgery techniques.
  • Find out about the breadth of their experience by learning whether they are fellowship-trained. Ask how often they perform a tummy tuck in your initial consultation.
  • View before-and-after photos to determine whether the results of previous patients are consistent with your hopes for the outcome.
  • Read online reviews to learn about a surgeon’s reputation and what you can expect from their practice.

Most of all, choose a plastic surgeon who listens to your concerns, who patiently answers all your questions, and who is transparent about the risks and benefits of the procedure. At the end of the research process, you should feel confident that your choice of plastic surgeon has your best interests at heart and is sincerely interested in helping you achieve your cosmetic goals.

Additional Tummy Tuck FAQs

What is seroma after tummy tuck surgery?

A seroma is a cyst-like lump or bump that can develop after surgery. This can form after procedures in which a significant amount of tissue has been removed or disrupted, although some seromas develop after minor surgeries as well. A seroma simply indicates a collection of fluid (called serum) under the skin, and often forms near the incision site. Some seromas develop right after surgery, while others can grow several weeks into the recovery process. These swollen lumps typically resolve naturally in the following weeks or months as the fluid is reabsorbed, but patients who start to feel the symptoms of an infection—such as pain, fever, or drainage from the seroma—should see their doctor immediately for an evaluation. To prevent a seroma, drains are sometimes placed near your incisions to prevent fluid buildup.

What can I eat after tummy tuck surgery?

Foods that will help promote your recovery include leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, proteins, eggs, and meals rich in antioxidants, zinc, and vitamins. This includes nuts, grains, citrus, tomatoes, and any other natural or organic foods. While your body heals, it is essential to avoid processed foods, sugars, alcohol, and limit your salt intake. Your diet is a key part of the recovery process and a healthy lifestyle after surgery can not only reduce swelling, but also help you achieve a stable and long-lasting outcome.

How long should I wear a compression garment after a tummy tuck?

Dr. Leber will advise you to wear your compression garment for at least six to eight weeks after surgery, but the length of time it will need to be worn can often be reduced to daytime hours during the later phases of recovery. Your compression garment can be removed while showering, which is typically safe around 48 hours after surgery. Wearing an abdominal binder can assist in recovery by promoting blood flow, protecting your incisions, preventing fluid accumulation, and helping shape your new contours.

Can a tummy tuck get rid of a C-section scar?

A tummy tuck may or may not be able to remove a C-section scar depending on the location of your scar. In most cases, Dr. Leber can remove your C-section scar and replace it with an abdominoplasty scar at the same spot or a lower location to minimize scarring in the abdominal area.

Can I get a plus-size tummy tuck?

If you are not at your ideal weight, Dr. Leber can still achieve beautiful tummy tuck results by repairing the abdominal wall and removing redundant skin and fat below the naval. Dr. Leber has performed abdominoplasty on a diverse range of body types and is well-versed in creating natural-looking results for each patient’s needs. We encourage you to explore our patient gallery, which showcases many of the outcomes previously achieved with abdominoplasty. In many cases, tummy tuck results allow increased confidence in those who undergo the procedure and can further motivate patients to pursue their health and weight loss goals.

Is weight gain after tummy tuck surgery possible?

Yes. While a tummy tuck is designed to improve the body contour, any future weight gain can still re-stretch the muscles and affect the abdominal region. Dr. Leber recommends maintaining a stable weight after tummy tuck surgery in order to preserve your results.

Will a tummy tuck get rid of stretch marks?

A tummy tuck is more likely to get rid of stretch marks if they are located in the lower abdomen below the naval. Dr. Leber can examine your concerns and determine whether stretch mark removal is possible during your abdominoplasty consultation.

What’s the difference between a tummy tuck and a panniculectomy?

Both a tummy tuck and panniculectomy are designed to remove hanging skin and fat in the abdomen; however, abdominoplasty is more often performed for cosmetic reasons, while panniculectomy is considered a solution to more medical concerns. Patients with severe skin laxity, particularly those who struggle with sagging skin due to massive weight loss, often experience irritation, chafing, and difficulty with personal hygiene due to their extra skin folds. This envelope of hanging skin — known as a “pannus” — is removed during a panniculectomy to smooth the abdominal contours and help reduce uncomfortable symptoms. Unlike tummy tuck surgery, a panniculectomy does not repair the underlying muscles.

Is pregnancy after a tummy tuck possible?

Yes, a tummy tuck will not affect your ability to get pregnant. However, we advise against having children after tummy tuck surgery since pregnancy will once again stretch out the skin and abdominal muscles. This may recreate the same concerns you originally wanted to correct, negatively affecting or even reversing your final results. In most cases, it’s best to wait until your family is complete before undergoing an abdominoplasty.

How should I prepare for a tummy tuck?

If your procedure is being performed on an outpatient basis, be sure to enlist a friend or loved one to pick you up from our surgical facility since you will likely still be under the effects of the anesthesia. You may be instructed to avoid certain medications, such as NSAIDs, before surgery. Smoking should also be avoided before and after abdominoplasty, as tobacco can interfere with the healing process and increase the risk of complications. If you have young children, it may be recommended to arrange for childcare during the first few days of your recovery to allow you plenty of time to rest. Dr. Leber will go over all pre-operative instructions in person before your procedure.

How do I sleep after a tummy tuck?

In general, the best sleeping position after abdominoplasty is to lay flat on your back with the upper body slightly elevated. Propping up pillows against your back or sleeping in a recliner are typically the most comfortable ways to achieve a slight bend.

If you have any questions or concerns about abdominoplasty, or would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Leber, please reach out to our practice today