Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is a procedure to remove excess skin and fat from your abdomen. It smooths and flattens your stomach. It also tightens your muscles. You may choose this surgery after having children or losing weight. If you’re considering plastic surgery, make sure you’re making the decision for yourself rather than someone else.


What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is a plastic surgery procedure that firms, flattens and smooths your abdomen. A plastic surgeon will remove excess fat and skin and tighten muscles in your abdominal wall. Your plastic surgeon may also use liposuction to improve your results.

A tummy tuck isn’t a weight loss solution, but it can help you get the look you want after changes to your body size.

What does a tummy tuck do?

You may be working hard to reach personal health goals or to achieve a desired look. Sometimes, adjustments to your eating habits and exercise routine aren’t enough to change the size and shape of your stomach region completely. A tummy tuck can address a protruding stomach or loose or sagging skin. You might consider this procedure if your body underwent changes, like after:

  • Significant weight loss.
  • Pregnancy.
  • A previous surgery.
  • Natural aging.

What are the types of tummy tuck surgery?

There are different tummy tuck options that your surgeon might recommend to help you reach your goals. Types of abdominoplasties may include:

  • Complete abdominoplasty or full tummy tuck: Your surgeon will make an incision (cut) in your lower abdomen, above the pubic region. The length of the incision varies based on the amount of extra skin present.
  • Partial abdominoplasty or mini tummy tuck: A mini tummy tuck usually requires a shorter incision and is common if you have less excess skin. The incision location is between your belly button and lower abdomen. In a mini tummy tuck, there’s generally no cut around the belly button.
  • Circumferential abdominoplasty (high lateral tension abdominoplasty) or extended tummy tuck: This surgery includes the front (abdomen) and back area (love handles and hips). Your surgeon will make a longer incision around the front and back of your body. It changes the shape of your body from all sides.
  • Fleur-de-lis tummy tuck: For this procedure, your plastic surgeon makes an incision up and down (vertically) and side to side (horizontally) in your abdominal region. This makes a “T” shape that some identify as similar to a fleur-de-lis (lily flower). This is a procedure reserved for people who lost a large amount of weight, usually 100 pounds (45 kilograms) or more.

How common is a tummy tuck?

Plastic surgeons performed over 160,000 tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) procedures in the United States in 2022.

Who is a candidate for a tummy tuck?

A plastic surgeon will let you know if you’re a good candidate for a tummy tuck procedure. The ideal candidate should:

  • Be in good general health.
  • Be at a stable weight.
  • Not smoke or be able to stop smoking before and after the procedure.
  • Not plan on becoming pregnant.
  • Have realistic expectations for the procedure.

The results of a tummy tuck are permanent, but changes to your weight can affect the outcome of the procedure over time. A tummy tuck doesn’t prevent weight gain. If you’re in the process of reaching your ideal weight, don’t undergo a tummy tuck right away. Your surgeon will recommend you wait until your weight stops changing.

In addition, if you plan on expanding your family, your surgeon will recommend you postpone a tummy tuck. Your muscles and skin can stretch after pregnancy, which can affect the outcome of this procedure.


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Procedure Details

How should I prepare for a tummy tuck?

Before a tummy tuck procedure, you’ll meet with a plastic surgeon for a consultation. Your surgeon will learn more about:

  • Your general health.
  • Your health history.
  • Any previous surgeries.
  • Any medications and supplements you currently take.
  • Your goals and expectations for the procedure.

After learning more about you, your surgeon will explain what tummy tuck options work for your situation. Your provider will take photographs of your abdominal area to compare the before and after results of your procedure.

Smoking tobacco products can increase the risk of complications and delay healing. If you smoke, you’ll have to stop for a certain period your provider sets. For example, you may need to stop using tobacco products for at least one month before surgery and for at least two weeks after.

Your surgeon will also recommend you eat well-balanced, complete meals leading up to and after the procedure. Achieving proper nutrition can help your body heal.

As part of your preoperative consultation, your surgeon may instruct you to stop taking certain blood-thinning medications and dietary supplements for a certain period before and after the surgery. This includes aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Don’t stop taking any medications unless a healthcare provider approves it.

You’ll also receive information to help you plan for surgery and recovery. You may need to:

  • Ask someone to drive you to and from the procedure and help you out at home.
  • Move frequently used items in your home to be within arm’s reach.
  • Choose clothing to wear that’s loose and comfortable.
  • Use a hand-held shower head to bathe or use a bathroom chair for comfort.

Your surgeon will answer any questions you might have to give you more comfort and ease presurgery anxiety.

What happens during a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck is usually an outpatient procedure. This means you can go home after the surgery. You might need to stay in the hospital overnight if you’re undergoing more than one type of cosmetic surgery.

On the day of your procedure, you’ll receive general anesthesia. This will put you to sleep so you won’t feel any pain.

The steps of a tummy tuck vary based on what type your surgeon performs. Your surgeon will:

  1. Make an incision (cut) in your skin in your abdominal area (usually between your pubic hair and your belly button).
  2. Pull down upper abdominal skin.
  3. Remove excess skin.
  4. Make an opening and move your belly button into position.
  5. Insert drainage tubes (if necessary to drain excess fluid).
  6. Close the incision site and cover it with bandages.

After the procedure, you’ll be under observation until your anesthetic wears off and your surgeon approves you to go home.

How long does a tummy tuck take?

Depending on the results you want, a tummy tuck can take anywhere from one to five hours.


What happens after a tummy tuck?

Immediately after tummy tuck surgery, you may feel tired and disoriented as the anesthetic wears off. Your abdomen will feel sore after the procedure. Your provider will let you know what kind of pain relievers are safe for you to take for discomfort. Your surgeon will also tell you about the best way to sit or lie down so you’ll be in the least amount of pain. 

Your plastic surgeon will give you specific instructions to follow after surgery to help you heal.

Because of the anesthesia’s effects, you’ll need to have someone with you who can drive you home after surgery. If possible, ask a friend or family member for help at home during the first day.

Remember to take it easy and relax. You should limit excessive physical activity immediately after surgery — especially strenuous activities — until your healthcare provider approves it. You can get up and walk around carefully but avoid running or lifting heavy objects.

If you have any questions about your healing or what to do, don’t hesitate to contact your provider.

Risks / Benefits

What are the benefits of a tummy tuck?

The benefits of a tummy tuck include:

  • It reduces excess skin in your abdominal area.
  • It tightens weak muscles.
  • You’ll achieve your personal aesthetic goals.
  • You’ll feel more confident about your appearance.

Everyone has a different, often personal reason for undergoing this procedure. The benefits may vary from person to person.


What are the dangers of a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck is generally a safe procedure, but as with any surgery, there are risks. Your surgeon will discuss these risks with you during your consultation so you can make an informed decision about your health.

Complications of a tummy tuck may include:

  • Scarring.
  • Bleeding.
  • Pain and swelling.
  • Infection.
  • Seroma (accumulation of fluid).
  • Poor wound healing.
  • Blood clots.
  • Numbness or other changes in sensation.
  • Asymmetrical (uneven) healing.
  • Widened apparent scar.

You may have an increased risk of complications if you have an underlying health condition that affects your blood circulation or wound healing. Smoking tobacco products also increases your risk of complications. You can reduce your risk by following your surgeon’s pre- and post-surgery instructions.

Tummy tuck scar

A tummy tuck causes scarring on your abdomen. The scar will form at the incision site(s). The size of the scar depends on the amount of extra skin your surgeon will remove. A shorter procedure, like a mini abdominoplasty, usually results in a smaller scar. 

Your surgeon will explain where you may have scarring and offer advice to minimize scarring following your procedure. During the surgery, your plastic surgeon will make incisions in areas of your body that you can easily hide with clothing or in an area where it’s less noticeable. Scars will fade with time, but some may remain widened.

Recovery and Outlook

What is the recovery time for a tummy tuck?

It could take up to up to three months to see the final result. In addition, the scar will continue to improve further for up to one year. While you’ll generally see immediate improvement after surgery, the result will continue to improve as swelling goes down over several months.

During the first week, it’s normal to feel discomfort. You should start feeling more like yourself after a couple of weeks. Bruising and numbness are common during this time. You may feel a tightness or pulling sensation around your abdomen as you heal. This will go away.

Contact a healthcare provider if you notice complications or experience severe pain, bleeding or swelling.

How long do tummy tucks last?

A tummy tuck is permanent and can last a lifetime. You may need to adjust your lifestyle to maintain the results, like eating nutritious foods and exercising. Weight fluctuations can affect the outcome over time. Your healthcare provider can help you stay in good health to maintain your results.

When can I go back to my regular activities after a tummy tuck?

After a tummy tuck, you’ll need to limit your activities. If you’re exceptionally physically active, you’ll have to postpone strenuous exercise for four to six weeks. Your provider will advise you on this as you go through the healing process.

On average, you’ll need at least one week off work after the surgery. Again, your provider will help you determine this.

When To Call the Doctor

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Contact a healthcare provider right away if you experience complications after surgery, like:

  • Severe pain.
  • Excessive bleeding.
  • Swelling.
  • Fluid or pus leaking from an incision site.

Let your healthcare provider know if you have any questions about how to prepare for surgery or how to take care of yourself after surgery.

Additional Common Questions

What’s the difference between a tummy tuck and other plastic surgery procedures?

A tummy tuck is a common plastic surgery procedure for your abdominal region. It flattens and smooths your stomach area by removing excess fat and skin and tightening your abdominal muscles.

Commonly confused with a tummy tuck, the following surgical procedures differ from a tummy tuck and include:

  • Liposuction: Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure that removes fat deposits. Your surgeon may choose to perform liposuction as part of a tummy tuck.
  • Panniculectomy: A panniculectomy removes hanging skin and fat from your lower abdominal region. This procedure doesn’t tighten muscles, move your belly button or address fullness in your upper abdomen.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Everyone wants to feel and look their best, but sometimes, our bodies need a little help getting there. It’s common to consider plastic surgery after undergoing significant changes, like growing your family or shrinking your waistband. A tummy tuck procedure is a great option if you’d like to flatten and smooth out your abdominal area. Most people are satisfied with the results and maintain those results by following guidance from their healthcare providers.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 01/30/2024.

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