How is an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) done?

Depending on the results you want, this surgery can take anywhere from one to five hours. Your situation also will decide whether you have the surgery as an in-patient or outpatient procedure. You will receive general anesthesia, which will put you to sleep during the operation. It's important to have someone with you who can drive you home. If you live alone and you're sent home after the procedure, you also will need someone to stay with you at least the first night after the surgery.

  • Complete abdominoplasty This option is for patients who need the most correction. The incision (cut) is made low on the abdomen, at about the same level as your pubic hair, and usually extends from hip bone to hip bone. Your surgeon will then manipulate and shape the skin and muscle as needed. You will also have an incision around your navel (belly button) with this procedure, because it's necessary to free your navel from surrounding tissue. Drainage tubes may be placed under your skin; these will be removed in a few days as your surgeon sees fit.
  • Partial or mini-abdominoplasty Mini-abdominoplasties are done with shorter incisions and are often performed on patients whose fat deposits are located below the navel. During this procedure, your belly button most likely will not be moved. Your skin will be separated between the line of incision and your belly button. This type of surgery may also be performed with an endoscope (a long tube with a small camera on the end). This procedure may take up to two hours, again, depending on your situation and needs. As with the complete abdominoplasty, you may have drainage tubes after surgery.
  • Circumferential abdominoplasty This surgery includes the back area. When there is a lot of excess fat in the back as well as the abdomen, you may have either liposuction of the back or circumferential abdominoplasty. The latter procedure allows for the removal of both skin and fat from the hip and back areas, which improves the shape of your body three-dimensionally.

After your partial or complete tummy tuck, your incision site will be stitched and bandaged. Your surgeon may have you wear an elastic bandage or compression garment after surgery. If so, it's very important that you follow all of your surgeon's instructions on wearing this garment and caring for the bandage. Your surgeon will also instruct you on how to best position yourself while sitting or lying down to help ease pain.

If you are exceptionally physically active, you will have to severely limit strenuous exercise for four to six weeks. Your doctor will advise you on this as you go through the healing process. You may need to take up to one month off work after the surgery to make sure that you recover properly. Again, your doctor will help you determine this.

How should I prepare for an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)?

Smoking can increase the risk of complications and delay healing. If you smoke, you will have to stop for a certain period as determined by your doctor. It is not enough to just cut down on smoking. You must completely stop using all forms of nicotine — gum, patches, and e-cigarettes — for at least two weeks before surgery and for two weeks after.

Make sure you eat well-balanced, complete meals. Do not try to diet excessively before the surgery. Proper nutrition plays a key role in healing properly.

As part of your pre-operative consultation, your surgeon may instruct you to stop taking some of your medications and dietary supplements for a certain period before and after the surgery. You must let your surgeon know if you are taking any blood thinners.

Make sure you set up the safest, most comfortable recovery area to meet your needs before you undergo the surgery. Your home recovery area should include:

  • A supply of loose, comfortable clothing that can be put on and taken off very easily.
  • A telephone within easy reach.
  • A hand-held shower head and bathroom chair.

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