What Is a Tummy Tuck?
An abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, is a surgical treatment that involves removing unwanted, loose skin utilizing a low-lying incision that can be concealed underneath most bathing suits or undergarments. During the procedure, which can most often be performed on an outpatient basis, the muscles are also tightened—or “plicated”—to restore the often-desired “flatness” that most women yearn for after having kids. This is also complemented with liposuction—usually power-assisted liposuction (PAL)— in the hip or flank areas to restore the feminine curve from the torso to the hip. It is the blend of using liposuction and abdominoplasty together that will recreate the waistline and restore a youthful abdomen. Dr. Boynton combines lipo-contouring and abdominoplasty in all cases to get the best results about the waist and torso.
Individuals who have changes from weight loss or pregnancy are often bothered by the appearance of their abdomen. These changes may include loose abdominal skin and stretch marks, extra lipodystrophy (fat deposits), and rectus diastasis (a stretching out of the rectus muscles after pregnancy)—which can even cause back discomfort because of core muscle imbalance and affect the appearance and even function of the abdomen. Even the most slender women do not escape some changes of pregnancy to their abdominal area. There are patients that may be quite thin and have very little extra skin, but their muscles might be stretched out, which can affect their posture as well as how they look in clothing. Women tend to be especially unhappy with these lax muscles when in a seated position due to their tummies having overhanging skin and fullness. Tummy tuck surgery can address these common concerns and renew the appearance of the abdomen with beautiful results.
For more information about tummy tuck surgery, please continue reading the detailed information we have provided throughout this page. If you have any additional questions, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with board-certified plastic surgeon James F. Boynton, MD, please feel free to contact our practice online or by phone today.
Tummy Tuck Vs. Liposuction
While tummy tuck surgery and liposuction are both advanced procedures that can effectively enhance body contours, it is important to recognize the significant distinctions between these two treatments. Liposuction is designed to help individuals reduce pockets of excess fat that have collected in specific body areas. If your concern is primarily caused by fat pockets in the abdominal area, liposuction may be all that’s necessary to help you achieve your goals. By contrast, tummy tuck surgery is designed to address excess skin and lax muscles in the abdomen. A tummy tuck tightens the abdominal muscles, removes excess tissue, and pulls the remaining skin taut for a firmer, flatter appearance. In many cases, both excess fat and skin are present in the abdomen; therefore, liposuction is used in combination with a tummy tuck. Ultimately, the best option for you will depend on your unique concerns and overall treatment goals. Dr. Boynton will thoroughly evaluate your needs during the initial consultation and talk with you about the most ideal treatment plan.
Tummy Tuck and Pregnancy
It is very important to understand that many of the positive benefits of a tummy tuck surgery can be reversed if an individual becomes pregnant after having undergone the procedure. While it is certainly possible to have a normal pregnancy even if you have already had a tummy tuck, the fact is that the pregnancy will ultimately stretch – and in some cases tear – the muscles of the abdomen, and may also result in an additional collection of excess skin. These effects would likely require another tummy tuck surgery to correct. This is why Dr. Boynton typically advises patients who are considering a future pregnancy, or are not quite sure yet about their future plans, to wait until they have completed their families before undergoing tummy tuck surgery.
What Does the Tummy Tuck Procedure Involve?
During abdominoplasty, an incision will first be made along the lower abdomen. Compared to many traditional techniques, the incision Dr. Boynton uses is shorter in length and placed further down on the abdomen, usually eliminating any concern of “high-angled” scars that may jut out from underneath swimsuits and/or underwear. Through this low-lying incision, abdominal musculature is tightened and repaired, and extra skin is carefully excised. Dr. Boynton can also perform liposuction to remove stubborn fat buildups, and the belly button can be adjusted using an additional tiny incision made in the navel (if necessary). Once an ideal contour and overall appearance is achieved, the skin will be sewn together with great care to minimize post-operative scarring as much as possible.
Abdominoplasty generally takes about two hours to perform. While some individuals may need to stay one night in our state-of-the-art surgical facility with a private room (depending on the particulars of their procedure) Dr. Boynton has transitioned to performing true “outpatient” tummy tuck surgeries for most patients thanks to revolutionary EXPAREL®—a long-acting numbing medication that can provide 72 hours of pain relief. You can find more information on our outpatient tummy tuck procedures in the section below. Ultimately, Dr. Boynton will never compromise patient safety standards, and the decision as to whether or not an overnight stay is necessary will depend on the specific wishes and medical condition of the patient after surgery.
How Noticeable Are the Scars from Tummy Tuck Surgery?
Dr. Boynton is extensively experienced with tummy tuck procedures and employs techniques designed to minimize the appearance of scarring. Our plastic surgeon typically creates an incision that is lower and shorter than those utilized in most traditional tummy tuck techniques, which often makes the residual scar easier to conceal under clothing and swimwear. Dr. Boynton also uses an advanced skin closure system and silicone gel scar cream to allow for improved healing and diminished signs of scarring following the procedure.
Learn more about tummy tuck scars and Dr. Boynton’s precise techniques designed to minimize their appearance.
Is a Tummy Tuck Permanent?
The results of tummy tuck surgery can last many years into the future as long as some basic lifestyle habits are maintained for as long as possible. Limiting weight fluctuations and sticking to a healthy diet and exercise regimen are some of the best ways to extend the outcome of tummy tuck surgery. There is always the possibility of “recurrent laxity,” but that is a condition we usually only see in patients with massive weight loss (greater than 70 lbs). Keeping control of weight with diet and exercise is the key. Reducing consumption of alcohol and beverages that are high in sugar (or eliminating consumption of those entirely) can also be very helpful. The natural process of aging will still have an effect on the elasticity of the skin, but taking some of these steps to maintain a stable weight and live a healthy lifestyle can make a world of difference.
Is a Non-Surgical Tummy Tuck Possible?
It is natural to wonder whether there are any non-surgical alternatives to tummy tuck surgery that can achieve the same results. Due to the nature of the concerns that abdominoplasty is designed to address, the simple answer is that there are no non-surgical methods capable of replicating the outcome of tummy tuck surgery. The “Tummy Tuck Belt®” and other devices or exercises that purport to provide similar results to surgical abdominoplasty cannot remove excess skin, tighten/repair abdominal muscles, or redrape the abdominal skin to provide a firmer feel and a flatter appearance. The goal of tummy tuck surgery is to address those very concerns. That said, there are certainly other options for patients who are experiencing different types of aesthetic conditions. If excess fat rather than loose musculature or inelastic skin in the abdominal region is what is primarily causing the concern, then a procedure such as liposuction may be the recommended treatment. Dr. Boynton can evaluate the condition of your skin and the concerns you are experiencing to determine the most ideal way of achieving your abdominal enhancement goals.
How Much Does Tummy Tuck Surgery Cost?
The cost of a tummy tuck from Boynton Plastic Surgery typically starts in a range between $14,000-$16,000 and upwards at our Outpatient Surgery Center, which is in close proximity to our office. For patients who want (or possibly need) to stay overnight in the hospital, additional costs would apply. Since each abdominoplasty procedure is customized to the patient’s needs, the total price of tummy tuck surgery varies from one individual to another. Factors such as the complexity of the operation and how much time the procedure will take, the surgeon’s fee, the techniques utilized, fees for anesthesia and the surgical facility, and other components will all be taken into account for the overall price. Once your treatment plan is developed during the initial tummy tuck surgery consultation, a member of our team will calculate an estimate of the total cost and go over it with you in detail. Our practice accepts a wide variety of payment methods, and we work with CareCredit®, one of the most well-known plastic surgery financing companies in the nation. CareCredit® offers many flexible low- and no-interest financing plans, making it possible for qualified applicants to pay for their procedure on a convenient monthly basis.
Additional Tummy Tuck FAQs
What is the recovery time? Back to work? Working out?
Patients generally need to plan to be off work for two weeks. As far as cardio, working out can often be started at two weeks. Light weights can typically commence at four weeks, and sit-ups or crunches need to wait about six weeks.
How long will I be in the surgery center or hospital?
Patients who do not have this procedure performed on an outpatient basis often simply stay overnight and usually go home by 7 or 8 am the morning after the procedure.
Will I have tummy tuck drains?
Yes. Drains help remove the fluid that the body creates after the surgical “undermining” of the abdomen during the procedure. They are well-concealed within clothing. Dr. Boynton and his team have developed a special way you can shower the next day with drains (one issue that was often a major deterrent to many traditional approaches to tummy tuck surgery was that you could not shower until after the drains came out). There is another technique that is called “progressive tension sutures,” or PTS, that can sometimes avoid drains—some practitioners who utilize this method perform what’s known as “drainless tummy tucks.” In Dr. Boynton’s experience, even with these sutures, seromas (described below) are much more common when compared to the utilization of drains. Dr. Boynton says that 95 percent of his patients’ drains are only necessary for about five days, and a short course of drains is typically not a big deal. One of the aspects of Dr. Boynton’s technique enables a way to hold the patient’s drains while they shower without having to involve another person, which can be very helpful for patients.
What will my belly button look like?
The belly button will look a little funny for a few weeks as it heals. Often, it is the slowest part to heal and requires a simple gauze to be placed “in the hole” for a few weeks. The incision heals “inside” the belly button, leaving a natural-appearing belly button after the procedure.
How long will the incision be?
Dr. Boynton utilizes a shorter and lower scar for his tummy tucks than most traditional techniques. Patients who have had tummy tucks complain most about the scars on the sides. Some techniques involve a “high angled” scar that juts out from a swimsuit. Dr. Boynton keeps his low. Some patients with massive weight loss (greater than 80 lbs) might require an “extended” tummy tuck, which may extend a bit farther around if there is loose skin that needs to be addressed on the “side.”
What about a mini-tummy tuck?
Mini tummy tucks are “mini” with their results. This technique only removes a small amount of skin. The lower abdomen is plicated, leaving the upper abdomen loose and often creating a noticeable bulge. It also pulls the belly button down. There are very few “true” candidates for this procedure. Most patients who think they need a “mini” abdominoplasty actually need a full tummy tuck and are not happy with a mini. The recovery is not that much faster, and patients are not often happy with the overall results.
When you tighten up the muscles will they still function normally?
Absolutely. The covering, or “fascia,” of the muscles is tightened in order to centralize the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles). They actually function better from a physics standpoint since they are back “in place” where they were prior to the weight gain or pregnancy.
When can I resume eating?
Most patients have liquids the day of surgery and resume low-salt, non-spicy or non-greasy solid foods the day after surgery.
Will I ever need a two-stage procedure? With extra liposuction on the top?
Some patients have quite a bit of “fullness” at the top part of the abdominal area. This area cannot be liposuctioned much at the time of a tummy tuck because it can jeopardize the blood supply to the skin and affect healing. So, for safety reasons, when this area needs more correction than can be done with a tummy tuck, a second outpatient procedure is performed to focally address this area at three months after the tummy tuck with liposuction as a one-hour outpatient procedure.
What is a dog ear deformity?
This is a small area of fullness at the corner or end of the incision. If one arises and needs correction, it can usually be done as a minor procedure in the office.
Do you use pain pumps?
Yes. In fact, the original practice for which Dr. Boynton was a part of in 2005 was the first practice to research with pain pumps after tummy tuck surgery and found it to be helpful in lessening pain and discomfort. Now we utilize EXPAREL®, which is effectively an “internal pain pump.” EXPAREL® is a special molecular form of local anesthesia that breaks down over 72 hours, so it delivers pain control for three full days, which can genuinely make a difference in terms of patients getting up and around with significantly less pain medicine, constipation, or even the need for hospitalization when compared to how it was prior to this advancement.
How safe is a tummy tuck?
Tummy tuck surgery (abdominoplasty) can be a very safe procedure as long as it is performed by a highly-qualified, experienced, and extensively trained plastic surgeon. It is important to remember that no surgical procedure comes without risk. Although rare, potential complications such as infection, long-term numbness in the surgical area, excessive bleeding, skin discoloration, fluid accumulation, long-term pain, and significant swelling are some of the associated risks of tummy tuck surgery. With that in mind, a board-certified plastic surgeon such as Dr. Boynton who has performed this treatment successfully many times and who is committed to the highest standards of safety and ethics can dramatically reduce the risk of complications. Dr. Boynton gets detailed medical clearances on all of his patients undergoing this procedure, including specialists when necessary, in order to deliver the most comprehensive safety to each patient.
What can I eat after tummy tuck surgery?
There are typically no continuous food restrictions following an abdominoplasty, although there are some dietary precautions to take in order to aid the recovery process. In the first several days after surgery, it is particularly important to drink lots of water and refrain from drinking beverages that are not clear liquids. A relatively “light” diet should be followed in the first few days after tummy tuck surgery—one that is low in salt and not spicy or excessively “greasy.” With that in mind, patients need protein to heal. Individuals can eventually incorporate (gradually) soft foods such as pudding, soup, raw fruits and vegetables, and soft cheeses, with a return to their normal dietary regimen shortly after; however, individuals are advised to continue maintaining a healthy diet throughout the entire recovery process and long into the future in order to keep the positive aesthetic results of tummy tuck surgery going for as long as possible. Dr. Boynton and his plastic surgery team will provide patients with any necessary dietary guidelines to prepare for the recovery process.
What is seroma after tummy tuck surgery?
A seroma after tummy tuck surgery is basically a subdermal collection of fluid that can look like a cyst or a lump, often appearing in an area close to where the incisions were made. Seromas can be very small or very large, and they can manifest immediately or even several weeks after just about any kind of surgery. Seromas should be drained when they appear – Dr. Boynton has a specialized technique to drain them in the office that doesn’t even require a numbing solution. They are rare because Dr. Boynton uses drains; however, when they do occur, they need to be properly treated and taken care of. Some seromas become infectious and must quickly be treated and drained to prevent the likelihood of severe complications. Individuals who have a seroma, particularly those who are experiencing drainage and/or pain around the seroma, a fever, or other signs of infection, should reach out to our office immediately for additional instructions. Even without those symptoms, patients who notice a seroma should contact our office so it can be properly treated.
How can I reduce swelling after a tummy tuck?
The best way to reduce swelling is the use of proper/well-fitted compression garments that are provided and measured by our team and surgical nurse. It is very common for temporary swelling to occur after most surgical procedures, and patients should expect swelling in the abdominal region after tummy tuck surgery. Fortunately, there are ways to help mitigate and control swelling during recovery. Our team can recommend some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications that may be useful, and wearing any prescribed compression garments (noted above) as instructed can also help manage swelling as the area heals. Even some dietary modifications can be helpful to reduce swelling. Minimizing intake of alcohol and foods/beverages that are high in salt is often advised. Additionally, it is important to come in for all scheduled follow-up appointments so we can evaluate your progress during the recovery period.
How long do I need to wear compression garments after a tummy tuck?
A compression garment will likely be prescribed following abdominoplasty. The garment will only need to be worn for the recommended amount of time during recovery so that it can help speed along the healing process and maintain the post-operative results. While it depends on one’s unique anatomy, in most cases patients will only need to wear the compression garment for about six weeks; however, some individuals may need to wear the garment for up to three months. Still, the minimum amount of time is six weeks and most individuals don’t need to wear the compression garment beyond that time unless they have lost a significant amount of weight. Each patient will be given individual recommendations by our team in terms of when it is okay to discontinue use of the garment. For the first several days after surgery it is typically necessary to wear the compression garment at virtually all times of the day and night, with the exception of bathing and showering.