Want to remove loose skin and fat on your tummy? Find out everything you ever wanted to know about tummy tucks (abdominoplasty) in this ultimate guide. This article guides you on deciding to get surgery, choosing a doctor, prepping for the operation, safety, aftercare, downtime and much more. All your questions will be answered
Tummy Tuck 101
This is the complete tummy tuck guide everyone needs to read.
On this page
- What is a tummy tuck?
- Deciding to get a tummy tuck
- Tummy tuck risks & safety
- Preparing for surgery
- Surgery day and what to expect after
- How long does it take to see results from tummy tuck?
What is an Abdominoplasty?
This surgical procedure tightens the abdominal muscle and removes sagging skin and excess fat, leaving patients with a firmer midsection. The upper abdomen and lower abdomen can be treated. While a tummy tuck removes loose skin and some fat in the abdominal area, it is not a substitute for weight loss or bariatric surgery.
Why do people get tummy tucks?
Tummy tuck patients usually fall into two categories: Post pregnancy or post weight loss.
Pregnancy changes your life in many positive ways. One not-so-positive side effect of pregnancy is the changes it makes to your body. New mums are often surprised at how pregnancy alters their looks. Some of these changes are permanent.
Pregnant women are at a high risk for cosmetic tummy problems. For example, tummy skin that stretches to accommodate the growing fetus loses elasticity. The skin often becomes loose and pliable. If you had a c-section it’s common to have a small flap of skin that overhangs onto the lower abdomen. A tummy tuck can also repair muscle separation (diastasis recti), a common pregnancy side effect that weakens the rectus muscles. This is called a tummy tuck with muscle repair, which will tighten the abdominal muscle.
Finally, weight gain is common during and after pregnancy. While a tummy tuck is no substitute for diet, exercise or weight loss, extra fatty tissue can be removed during the surgery.
If you’re planning to have more children, it’s advisable to wait until you have finished childbearing to consider surgery.
Post weight loss
Losing weight can be challenging. It’s something we all struggle with from time to time. Of course, there’s no greater sense of accomplishment than finally reaching a number on the scale that you’re happy with — especially when you have lost a significant amount of weight.
Unfortunately, many major weight-loss patients are left with loose, hanging skin. This problem is common among patients who’ve lost a lot of weight, including those who’ve had bariatric surgery. For weight loss patients who want to remove extra, abdominoplasty can help.
Are you a good candidate for tummy tuck surgery?
Your weight should be stable before you have the surgery. If a significant amount of weight is gained and then lost after surgery, this will lead to more loose skin. Candidates for tummy tuck surgery are those at or close to their desired weight for six months or longer, do not smoke, are in good health, and have realistic expectations about what the procedure can do for them. If any of the following statements below describe you, abdominoplasty may be an option:
- You exercise and eat properly, yet your stomach remains flabby.
- After losing a large amount of weight, you are left with loose, hanging skin around your midsection.
- Following pregnancy, your ab muscles are now stretched and you have extra sagging skin.
What abdominoplasty won’t do
Tummy tucks will trim away excess skin and some fat, but it is not a substitute for bariatric surgery or diet and exercise.
You will need to maintain your weight after the surgery. Unlike bariatric surgery, abdominoplasty won’t prevent you from gaining weight. For most patients, this means committing to a healthy diet and exercise. Gaining weight can put you back at square one. You don’t want to undo all the work you had done.
If you are a woman considering future pregnancies, it is highly advised that you hold off on surgery until you are done having children.
Download our short guide: “11 Important abdominoplasty techniques that you need to know about”
Deciding to get a tummy tuck
There are several things to consider when deciding to get a tummy tuck. These steps will help make sure you have all your bases covered.
Consultation & Abdominoplasty costs
This is when you get to know the surgeon. Some people find a surgeon after the initial consultation. Others go on many consultations looking for the perfect fit. Both are normal. It is up to you who you feel comfortable with.
It is a good idea to come prepared with questions during the consultation. Face time with a surgeon can be invaluable. Note that many surgeons charge a consultation fee.
At the consultation or next pre-operative appointment, you may also meet with the office financial person, who will outline the cost of tummy tuck surgery.
Prices for Abdominoplasty surgery can vary.
Tummy tuck costs in Australia can vary greatly among surgeons. Besides surgeon fees, other costs associated with the procedure can include medical tests, hospital or surgical facility costs, anesthesia fees, compressive garments, etc. When it comes to understanding the total cost of a cosmetic procedure, patients don’t like surprises. Dr. Beldholm makes sure that his pricing is very transparent. Patients can find more information on his costs here.
Tummy tuck rebates
Health insurance doesn’t cover tummy tucks if cosmetic. However, you may be eligible for a tummy tuck rebate in Australia for weight loss patients if you meet certain criteria. Click for more information on tummy tuck Medicare rebates.
Choosing a Surgeon
From medical training to tummy tuck before-and-after photos, there are many factors to consider when choosing a surgeon for your tummy tuck.
Credentials are important. You want to make sure that the surgeon you are considering has completed appropriate medical training. A FRACS surgeon is a specialist surgeon who is technically the only type of doctor guaranteed to have training in surgery procedures. FRACS stands for Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons.
This distinction is only awarded to specialist surgeons that have completed 12+ years of medical and surgical education. At least five of those years must include specialist post-graduate training in surgery. A specialist with “FRACS” appearing after their name is accredited to perform invasive surgery like a tummy tuck.
What does MBBS B.Sc (Med) mean?
This is a credential that tells you a doctor has completed medical school.
Consultations are your chance to meet one-on-one with the surgeon and get to know them. You are probably brimming with questions. It’s a good idea to bring a notebook so you can keep track of questions and answers during the consultation. Most surgeons charge a consultation fee.
Things to consider before getting a tummy tuck
Before deciding to get a tummy tuck, there are some big factors to consider:
- Abdominoplasty will change how your abdomen looks
- If you are planning to have another baby, wait to have surgery
- Tummy tucks are not a substitute for obese patients who need weight loss surgery (BMI 35+)
- Surgery may remove some scar tissue and stretch marks, but abdominoplasty is not designed for this purpose
- Tummy tucks are expensive
- All surgery leaves scars, which can be improved but will be visible
- Most tummy tucks have a recovery period of 4-8 weeks
Which type of tummy tuck is right for me?
During the consultation, you can ask about the different tummy tuck options that are available to you. There are 28 different types of tummy tucks. Each one is designed to accomplish different goals.
For example, a mini tummy tuck (mini abdominoplasty) is usually for women who had a c-section and are left with a loose flap of skin on the lower abdomen. Then there is a full tummy tuck (full abdominoplasty) and extended tummy tuck. A lower body lift (belt lipectomy) may be the right choice for certain patients who are post massive weight loss. These are just some of the many tummy tucks your doctor may recommend.
No two patients are alike, and not all tummy tucks are created equal either, of course. During your consultations with Dr Beldholm, he will recommend the type of tummy tuck procedure that he believes will help you with your concerns.
Tummy tuck risks & safety
Is a tummy tuck safe? Tummy tucks are unlikely to have serious health complications, although that is not a guarantee. However there is always a risk when you get surgery. A tummy tuck is a major surgery. All surgery procedures have the potential to cause problems. As a surgeon, it is important to advise patients of potential dangers of a tummy tuck before surgery. Many doctors provide you with a surgical packet that you must sign. This will advise you of the risks associated with the procedure. By signing, you agree that you have been made aware of the risks.
- Skin discoloration
- Temporary numbness
- Irregular scar formation (ex. Keloid scars)
According to one study, in a five-year period, major complications only occurred in 1.1 percent (Ref 1) of patients undergoing abdominoplasty. Serious risks include:
- Blood clots
- Cardiac complications
For more information about tummy tuck risks, click here.
Your medical history
Prior to surgery, Dr. Beldholm will need to know your complete medical history. He must be made aware of any health problems you have dealt with or are currently dealing with. He will also need to know any medication you are taking and any allergies you may have. To minimize risks during surgery, Dr. Beldholm may require that you have blood tests, X-rays or ECGs performed. This is to make sure you are completely healthy before your tummy tuck.
Anesthesia is extremely safe today. Healthy patients are unlikely to have any problems, although there is always a possibility of an unexpected reaction. Smoking, old age and certain health conditions may increase the risk of anesthesia complications. While anesthesia is generally considered safe, side effects such as temporary grogginess, cold feeling, dizziness and nausea are common. A trained anesthesiologist will monitor you during surgery for safety. After surgery, you will wake in the recovery room until the anesthesia has worn off. To learn more about anesthesia safety, visit this page.
Safety is getting even better
Science is advancing all the time. Tummy tuck techniques are getting even safer as surgeons develop better methods to reduce the risk of complications. That said, no surgeon can eliminate all risks.
Doctor Bernard keeps up-to-date with all the latest tummy tuck improvements. His method aims to lower the likelihood of complications by causing less tissue trauma. Read more about how he performs the surgery here.
Warning: This link contains graphic imagery from inside the operating room. Viewer discretion is advised.
Dangerous tummy tuck techniques
Not all tummy tucks are created equal. First off, any tummy tuck performed by anyone other than a trained surgeon without proper medical certifications is dangerous. An improper tummy tuck can cause infection, blood clots, excessive scarring, botched tummy tuck results or even death.
Plastic surgery tourism can sometimes be deadly. Third-world countries may entice patients with the promise of cheap tummy tucks at the risk of your health. A surgeon in another country may not offer the same quality of care as those in Westernized countries. Patients in poor health and smokers are at a higher risk of developing problems. Medical standards vary greatly across the world. Choose wisely, and be aware that sometimes you get what you pay for. Surgical procedures must be perform by a qualified and licensed surgeon.
Preparing for Surgery
Make tummy tuck recovery easier by getting prepared before surgery.
Booking the appointment date for surgery
If you have decided to embark on a tummy tuck, congratulations! Now you need to plan ahead for when you can take some time off work. Most patients take 2-4 weeks on average before returning to work.
If you have unused vacation time or sick days, you may want to use them toward your tummy tuck recovery time. Slow periods at work are also a good time to take time off. Be sure to give your job plenty of advance notice. If you don’t want to tell them you are having a tummy tuck, you can simply say you are “having a medical procedure done” and need to schedule time off work.
Click here for more information on tummy tuck recovery and downtime.
Preparing your home
Let’s get your home ready for recovery. Place essentials like your phone charger, house phone, tissues, TV remote control, water bottles, snacks and laptop in easy-to-reach locations like a bedside table or living room. Magazines, puzzles and books can keep you from getting bored while you spend time at home. Arrange to have comfy clothes like loose-fitting sweatpants in drawers that are easy to reach. You’ll also need to fill prescriptions prior to surgery.
Preparing meals in advance is very helpful. Simply prepare your favorite foods and freeze them in single-serve portions. That way, you don’t have to cook or grocery shop when you should be resting.
Driving after a tummy tuck
You can’t drive right after a tummy tuck. You will need to plan a ride to and from the hospital. Under no circumstances will a patient be allowed to drive themselves home after surgery. Ask a trusted friend or family member to drive you. If you do not have someone available to help, you may consider hiring an aid to take you back and forth and assist you with getting in and out of the car.
Most patients get back to driving a few weeks after surgery. The time off driving depends on the type of surgery you had. A mini tummy tuck requires 7-10 days off driving, while a standard tummy tuck or mummy makeover requires 2-3 weeks on average. Body lifts, extended tummy tucks and fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty may require 3-4 weeks off driving. For more tips and information about driving after tummy tuck, visit this page.
Ask for help
You will need help in the first few weeks of recovery. The first few days are the hardest. Ask family, friends or neighbors to help with chores, child care, groceries and other activities of daily living. Also, you will need someone to drive you to and from the hospital and follow-up appointments. It is not safe to drive for 24 hours after any surgery that involves anesthesia. Choosing someone reliable is important. It is even better if they can stay with you for the first 24 hours or so after surgery to monitor you and help out.
Getting pre-surgery instructions
The anesthesiologist will either call or meet with you prior to surgery to give pre-surgery instructions. Usually, this includes quitting smoking at least six weeks before surgery, avoiding blood-thinning medications and certain herbal supplements and vitamins like vitamin E, and instructions for whether you may eat or drink anything before surgery. It is important to follow all medical advice strictly. Failing to do so greatly reduces surgical risks.
Surgery day and what to expect after
It’s the big day. Surgery day has finally arrived. No doubt you are both anxious and excited.
Right before surgery
If you are nervous about surgery, this is normal. You will meet with Dr. Beldholm prior to surgery to discuss any last-minute concerns, have surgical marks made for incision placement and more. Doctor Bernard knows surgery is a big deal to patients and that you may feel afraid. Your final fears will be calmed, and soon you will drift off under sedation.
You will undergo general anesthetic, so you will not remember or feel a thing during surgery. Localized anesthetic in the surgical site blocks pain for up to the first 24 hours, so when you wake from surgery you may be surprised to not feel much pain at all. Patients typically begin to feel extremely sore on the second and third days. Pain can range from moderate to severe. While the first few days to week are the hardest, the discomfort should start to taper off gradually. Medications may be prescribed to ease discomfort.
What to expect after surgery
Knowing what to expect helps you be prepared. Here is what happens after surgery.
Length of the hospital stay after tummy tuck
This depends on the type of tummy tuck. With a mini tummy tuck, most patients can go home the same day. A full tummy tuck or extended tummy tuck both require an overnight hospital stay. A body lift may require up to ten days in the hospital. More information on tummy tuck recovery and downtime can be found here.
Are tummy tucks really that painful? The truth is, it depends on the type of tummy tuck, surgical technique and individual pain tolerance. Dr. Beldholm uses newer surgical techniques that cause less tissue trauma than tummy tucks of the past.
Pain medications can reduce discomfort. Non-narcotic pain medication is preferred, but NSAIDs are to be avoided unless your doctor or anesthesiologist gives you clearance to use them.
Of course, discomfort and limited mobility are a reality after a tummy tuck procedure. You may find it is more comfortable to walk bent over at first. It can take around 14 days or so until you can stand up straight comfortably.
Proper tummy tuck aftercare is important. There is a lot you can do at home to ease recovery. Resting, walking, eating healthy, scar treatments, silicone strips, exercise and wearing compression garments can all help. Let’s learn more.
After surgery, your tummy will be swollen. Swelling is the body’s response to tissue trauma. This is normal. Most of the swelling will subside in the first few weeks, but it can take around six months to a year to fully dissipate. Compression garments help reduce swelling, provide support and protect the wound during the first few weeks. Dr. Beldholm provides high-quality compression garments to his patients. Learn how to wear compression garments properly here.
Dr. Beldholm specializes in drainless abdominoplasty. His special technique makes it so drains are not needed. Post operative drains can be a pain and source of infection. They must be drained regularly and the contents measured and recorded. Drains can sometimes be uncomfortable as well. Yet many surgeons still use tummy tuck drains today.
PICO wound dressings have many possible benefits. Using battery-powered suction, this soft dressing may improve circulation to the wound site and reduce swelling. The dressing has a special Airlock layer that traps up to 99.9% of bacteria, according to the manufacturer (ref 1). They are one of the most advanced wound dressings on the market today, and Doctor Bernard’s preferred choice. At seven days post-op, Dr. Beldholm will see you to change the PICO dressings.
A great scar is a must for a great-looking tummy tuck result. Caring for scars is easy, but it’s important to note that doctors can’t always control scar formation. Some people are naturally prone to keloid scars, raised scars and other scar problems. It is not always possible to predict how your skin will react to scar healing. If you have other scars from the past on your body and the scar has matured well over the years, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.
Scar treatments are recommended. Centella asiatica gel, silicone strips and using PICO negative pressure dressings can help. Laser Genesis is also excellent for reducing scar redness in many patients. For more tips on how to care for tummy tuck scars, click here.
Maintaining Tummy Tuck Results with Exercise
Exercising after a tummy tuck can tone your body and make your tummy tuck results look even better. Regular exercise and physical activity are also recommended to avoid weight gain after surgery. A healthy lifestyle will help protect your investment. A good diet is important, too.
Keep in mind you’ll need time to recover before starting an exercise program. However, walking can start the day of surgery. Light aerobics such as a rowing machine may begin a few weeks later with your doctor’s permission.
How long does it take to see results from tummy tuck?
Finally! At long last, you can see the results of a tummy tuck. A tummy tuck is not an instant cure. The results take time. For most patients, it takes about one year to see the final results of surgery. However, most patients will notice changes happening sooner than that. Early results typically start to emerge after a few weeks to months as the swelling goes down.
Most of the swelling goes away in the first six months. That will allow you to get a good preview of your tummy tuck results. The swelling may take up to a full year to subside. The scars will also change over time. Scars will stay red for the first year or longer. Mature scars should fade nicely over the first two years, and continue to lighten as the years pass, although individual differences in healing can affect the final scar.
Disclaimer: Individual results vary. All surgery carries risks & you should seek a second opinion before proceeding. See full Disclaimer