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Tummy Tuck

What Is a Tummy Tuck?

Last modified: 
17/04/2013 - 15:30

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Abdominoplasty, the medical term for what is commonly called a "tummy tuck," involves surgically removing excess skin and fat from the middle and lower part of the abdomen and sometimes tightening the abdominal muscles. The result is a flatter abdomen, and sometimes, a smaller waist, because the procedure corrects loose, sagging skin and excess fat. Any scars are usually located below the line of a swimsuit or underwear.

Patients considering a tummy tuck should have realistic expectations about the procedures and have an initial consultation with an experienced physician who explains the risks as well as benefits of the procedure. A person's type of skin, overall health, weight and age can affect the outcome.

Both men and women get tummy tucks. The procedure is especially useful for women whose skin has stretched after more than one pregnancy. For people whose fat deposits are just on the lower part of the abdomen, a partial abdominoplasty or mini-tummy tuck may be an option.

Why Is It Needed?

Skin has a limit to which it can stretch and still return to normal. When it stretches beyond that point, due to pregnancy or a large weight gain followed by weight loss, the result is much like a balloon that has been blown up and deflated. The skin becomes stretched and crinkly and does not respond to exercise or diet.

While most people have a tummy tuck for cosmetic reasons, others have the surgery to correct weakened abdominal muscles that are causing medical problems, such as back pain. Doctors consider this operation to be reconstructive when it is medically necessary and mainly improves function. In these cases, health insurance may pay for part or all of the surgery.

Abdominoplasty is sometimes done in combination with liposuction to remove pockets of excess fat from specific areas of the body using a suction pump.

A tummy tuck also can be combined with a hysterectomy or tubal ligation.

When Is This Surgery Helpful?

Abdominoplasty works best in people whose weight is fairly normal. A tummy tuck is not a weight-loss technique and is not suitable for obese people.

The surgery may help:

  • Women who have baggy folds of skin on the abdomen and/or weakened abdominal muscles after pregnancy
  • Men and women who have a large amount of fat and loose skin on the abdomen that will not go away with exercise or diet, and whose skin is not elastic enough to have liposuction
  • Older people who, due to age and being a little overweight, have sagging, loose skin on the abdomen or weakened abdominal muscles

Patients should wait to have this operation if they:

  • Plan to lose a lot of weight
  • Want to get pregnant again

Patients should talk to their physician if they have:

  • Diabetes or a history of blood clots
  • Heart or lung disease or other severe medical problems
  • Abdominal scars from past surgeries. Scars above the belly button could become more noticeable after a tummy tuck.

Facts About Abdominoplasty

  • Tummy tucks are among the five most popular cosmetic surgery procedures.
  • From 1997 to 2001, the number of tummy tucks performed increased by 72 percent.
  • A tummy tuck can be performed at the same time as other cosmetic surgery procedures or other general surgeries, such as hysterectomy.
  • A tummy tuck can result in a flatter abdomen.
  • How long the results of a tummy tuck last depend on the patient's age at the time of the operation, physical conditioning afterward, type of skin and any changes in weight.
  • The two most common types of tummy tuck are the full tummy tuck (requiring general anesthesia and a short hospital stay) and the mini tummy tuck, which may require only local anesthesia and can be done on an outpatient basis.
  • All surgeries carry risks, and patients should understand the benefits and risks of this procedure before undergoing a tummy tuck.
  • Not everyone is a good candidate for a tummy tuck.
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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.