Ultimate Tummy Tuck Guide: Everything You Need to Know [ 2020 Update ]

Want to permanently 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.

What is a tummy tuck?

Abdominoplasty is an excellent way to sculpt and shape the body. This surgical procedure tightens the abdominal wall and removes sagging skin and excess fat, leaving patients with a slimmer, firmer midsection. The upper abdomen and lower abdomen can be treated. While a tummy tuck helps shape and tone the abdominal area, it is not a substitute for weight loss or bariatric surgery.

Why do people get tummy tucks?

Tummy tucks have many benefits. Getting abdominal surgery can transform your life by giving you the body you have always wanted. Tummy tuck patients usually fall into two categories: Post pregnancy or post weight loss.

Post pregnancy

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 with cesarean scar, 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 surgery, extra fatty tissue can removed during surgery.

If you’re planning to have more children, it’s best 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. It serves as a constant reminder of your old body. 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 fit into clothing better, reduce uncomfortable rashes between skin folds and remove extra skin permanently, 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. The best candidates for tummy tuck surgery are those at or close to their desired weight for 6 months or longer, that are non-smokers in good health, and people who have realistic expectations about what the procedure can do for them. If any of the following statements below describe you, abdominoplasty can help you achieve the look you desire:

  • You’ve suffered some type of trauma, tumor or structural defect to the abdomen that impacted its shape and appearance.
  • 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.

While abdominoplasty is essentially permanent, you need to maintain your weight after 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 beautiful 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.

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. It will help you make a confident decision.

Consultation & tummy tuck costs

This is when you get to know the surgeon. Some people find a plastic 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 plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon can be invaluable. Note that many plastic surgeons or cosmetic surgeons charge a consultation fee. Often, this fee goes toward the procedure if you decide to move forward with surgery. However, this can vary doctor to doctor. It is important to ask.

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 tummy tuck surgery can vary

Tummy tuck costs in Australia can vary greatly among plastic surgeons or cosmetic 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 in most cases. Most tummy tucks are cosmetic in nature, and insurance generally does not cover cosmetic procedures. However, you may be eligible for a tummy tuck rebate in Australia for weight loss patients. Click for more information on tummy tuck Medicare rebates.

Choosing a cosmetic surgeon

From medical training to tummy tuck website photos, there are many factors to consider when choosing a tummy tuck surgeon.

FRACS

FRACS Logo

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 that is technically the only type of doctor that is 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 5 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. Dr. Beldholm holds both a FRACS and FACCS.

What does MBBS B.Sc (Med) mean?

This is a credential that tells you a doctor has completed medical school.

Additional ACCS training to earn FACCS

ACCS Logo

Cosmetic surgery is not performed in the public hospital system in Australia. Surgeons that complete their FRACS training will need to seek additional experience in these procedures. Completing the additional training is not mandatory, but surgeons who do it have more training in cosmetic surgery procedures under their belt. Some do overseas cosmetic surgery fellowships to expand on what they learned in FRACS training. Some train with other experienced plastic surgeons after they complete their specialist training. Since we’re discussing experience, one way FRACS surgeons gain experience in cosmetic surgery is with ACCS (THE AUSTRALASIAN COLLEGE OF COSMETIC SURGERY). That’s something to consider when choosing your tummy tuck surgeon. Dr. Beldholm holds both a FRACS and FACCS, having completed the ACCS training.

Before and after tummy tuck pictures

Another big factor is before and after photos. Take your time looking around each surgeon’s website. First, a good surgeon will have many before and after photos on their website. This shows that they have completed many tummy tucks, and gives you a chance to see the quality of the results. Note that every patient and surgery is different. Results will always vary since no two patients are the same. Great before and after photos do not guarantee the result of your surgery. However, numerous before and after tummy tuck photos is a good sign.

Years of experience

While you’re on the surgeon’s website, read their about page. Does it mention how many years of experience they have? There is no hard and fast rule about this, but Doctor Bernard suggests choosing a surgeon like himself with 10+ years of experience. There is nothing wrong with a surgeon that has less years of experience per se. But as with anything in life, practicing a new career comes with a learning curve. A surgeon with ample experience should be a seasoned pro by the 10-year mark.

Area of expertise

Another factor to consider: What is the surgeon’s area of expertise? Not all cosmetic surgeons are created equal. If your friend had an incredible nose job years ago, that doctor may be able to do a great tummy tuck as well. However, just because a surgeon is good at one area of the body does not mean they are skilled at another. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Get to know your doctor’s. You can usually get a sense of this from the website (i.e. before and after photo gallery).

Word of mouth

A great way to do that is ask friends for suggestions, look at internet reviews and view before and after photos. It’s also smart to choose a doctor somewhat close to home since you need someone to drive you to and from the hospital, as well as to follow-up appointments.

Where are they located?

If there is an emergency complication, having a surgeon that is reasonably close is better than one who is extremely far away. Plastic surgery tourism and cosmetic surgery vacations may help you gain access to the doctor of your dreams in some other part of the world, but you should keep these factors in mind.

What to expect during a consultation

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 you look permanently
  • 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 total recovery period of 6-8 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 great 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 achieve an aesthetically-pleasing look that allows you to feel more confident and comfortable in your body.

Tummy tuck risks & safety

Post Abdominoplasty Complications Podcast:

Is a tummy tuck safe? Tummy tucks are unlikely to have serious health complications. 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 plastic 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.

Common side effects

  • Hematoma
  • Skin discoloration
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Temporary numbness
  • Pain
  • Irregular scar formation (ex. Keloid scars)
  • Etc.

Serious complications

According to one study, in a five-year period, major complications only occurred in 4% of patients undergoing abdominoplasty. Serious risks include:

  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Cardiac complications
  • Death
  • Etc.

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.

Anaesthesia safety

Anesthesia is extremely safe today. Healthy patients are unlikely to have any problems. Smoking, old age and certain health conditions may increase the risk of anesthesia complications. While anesthesia is 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. Doctors around the world are dedicated to making tummy tucks better and safer every day.

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.

Celebrities that have had tummy tuck surgery

If you are considering a tummy tuck after weight loss or baby, you are in good company.

Some celebrities prefer to stay mum after a tummy tuck, while others are more outspoken. Jessica Simpson wrote in her autobiography that she had two tummy tucks in 2015 to remove loose skin and stretch marks. It’s reported that Kate Gosselin had a tummy tuck after she finished having her many children. Tara Reid allegedly needed a tummy tuck to repair botched lipo and loose abdominal skin. Star Jones also openly revealed she had a tummy tuck following extensive weight loss and is loving her new body.

Dangerous tummy tuck techniques

Not all tummy tucks are created equal. First off, any tummy tuck performed by anyone other than a trained Specialist surgeon (FRACS) with proper medical certifications is dangerous. An improper tummy tuck can cause infection, blood clots, excessive scarring, botched tummy tuck results or even death.

Medical tourism

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 cosmetic 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.

Standard tummy tuck with floating umbilicus

This procedure is not dangerous per se, but it can caused botched cosmetic surgery results for patients that are not suitable for the procedure. Normally, the umbilicus (belly button) is repositioned during a tummy tuck so that it is placed in a natural position after surgery. A tummy tuck with floating umbilicus leaves the belly button in tact, trimming away excess skin and then pulling the skin down to stitch it closed. If you are only having a small amount of skin removed, this is okay as the navel will still be in a normal position. However, most tummy tuck patients have a lot of skin removed. Therefore, the navel needs to be repositioned or it will be too low when the skin is pulled and stitched down.

Older tummy tuck techniques

Tummy tucks have come a long way. In the past, the procedure was done and the entire belly button was removed. Umbilical repositioning requires great skill. Back then, it was easier and safer to remove the belly button entirely. This is not common practice today. However, in 2016, one woman made news when she awoke from surgery missing belly button after tummy tuck surgery. She claimed the surgeon did not tell her this was going to happen.

Preparing for Surgery

Make tummy tuck recovery easier by getting prepared before surgery.

Preparing for Surgery Podcast with Dr Beldholm:

Booking the appointment date for surgery

If you have decided to embark on the exciting and life-changing decision to get 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.

Read more tips for preparing for tummy tuck surgery here.

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.

You can 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 8 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. Doing 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. Don’t worry, you are in good hands. 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.

What to expect after surgery

Knowing what to expect helps you be prepared so you can have better results and and a better recovery experience. Here is what happens after surgery.

Length of hospital stay after tummy tuck

This depends on the type of tummy tuck. With a mini tummy tuck, you 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 2-5 days in the hospital. More information on tummy tuck recovery and downtime can be found here.

Pain management

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. This may reduce pain.

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.

Aftercare instructions

Proper tummy tuck aftercare is important. There is a lot you can do at home to improve tummy tuck results and ease recovery. Resting, walking, taking vitamins, eating healthy, scar treatments, silicone strips, exercise and wearing compression garments can all help. Let’s learn more.

Compression garments

After surgery, your tummy will be swollen. Swelling is the 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 6 months to fully dissipate. Compression garments help reduce swelling, provide support and protect the wound. Dr. Beldholm provides high-quality compression garments to his patients. Learn how to wear compression garments properly here.

Drains

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 plastic surgeons still use tummy tuck drains today. Keeping them clean and keeping track of the fluid measurements is necessary.

PICO

PICO wound dressings have many 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. They are one of the most advanced wound dressings on the market today, and Doctor Bernard’s preferred choice. At 7 days and 1 month post-op, Dr. Beldholm will see you to change the PICO dressings. Attending follow up appointments is necessary to monitor healing.

Scar care

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 for best results. Vitamin E serum, centella asiatica gel, silicone strips and using PICO negative pressure dressings can help. Laser Genesis is also excellent for reducing scar redness. For more tips on how to get the best tummy tuck scar possible, click here.

Best tummy tuck exercises

Exercising after tummy tuck can tone your body and make your tummy tuck results look even better. Regular exercise and physical activity is also recommended to avoid weight gain after surgery. Tummy tuck results are permanent, but gaining a lot of weight can undo those results. A healthy lifestyle will help protect your investment and keep your body looking beautiful for life. A good diet is important, too.

These are the best exercises to do after a tummy tuck. 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. Many women are surprised how fast they can get back in the gym after tummy tuck surgery.

How long to see results from tummy tuck?

Finally! At long last, you can see the results of a tummy tuck. No doubt you are anxiously awaiting to see your new body. 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, you will notice a big improvement much sooner than that. You’ll begin to see results in just a few weeks as the swelling goes down.

Most of the swelling goes away in the first 6 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.

Conclusion

Tummy tucks have a high patient satisfaction rating. Thousands of men and women have improved their lives by getting the surgery. For many, getting rid of unwanted loose skin is a huge relief. This can be the start to a healthier, happier you. It all starts with getting information. Follow the advice and tips in this article, and you will be well on your way to your dream body.