Is a Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) Right for Me?
If you have loose abdominal skin, extra fatty tissue over your abdomen, or loose abdominal muscles, you might benefit from an abdominoplasty. Maybe you’ve had prior pregnancy or weight loss, or maybe your abdominal skin has just loosened with time and age. A tummy tuck gets rid of loose skin on the abdomen, tightens loose abdominal muscles, and removes extra fat from the abdomen, hips, and waist.
Are sit-ups not giving you the taut tummy you want? If you've got too much flab or excess skin in your abdomen that doesn't respond to diet or exercise, you may be considering a "tummy tuck," which doctors call "abdominoplasty."
This surgery flattens the abdomen by removing extra fat and skin, and tightening muscles in your abdominal wall.
This is a major surgery, so if you're considering it, you should know the facts before you decide whether to go forward.
Who Are the Best Candidates For a Tummy Tuck?
The best candidates for a tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, are individuals who have specific concerns related to excess abdominal skin, fat, and muscle laxity. Tummy tucks are typically recommended for those who meet the following criteria:
Good Overall Health: Candidates should be in good general health, without any medical conditions or factors that could significantly increase surgical risks.
Stable Weight: It's essential to be at a stable weight, as significant fluctuations in weight after the surgery can impact the results. Patients should ideally be close to their target weight before considering a tummy tuck.
Realistic Expectations: Candidates should have realistic expectations about the outcomes of the procedure. A tummy tuck can provide a flatter and more toned abdomen but may not achieve a perfect, "six-pack" appearance.
Excess Abdominal Skin: The procedure is most beneficial for individuals with excess, loose, or sagging abdominal skin. This can result from factors such as pregnancy, significant weight loss, aging, or genetics.
Abdominal Muscle Separation: Candidates with weakened or separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) can benefit from a tummy tuck, as the surgery can help restore muscle integrity.
Non-Smokers: It is highly recommended that candidates are non-smokers or are willing to quit smoking before the surgery and throughout the recovery period. Smoking can significantly increase the risk of complications.
Good Psychological Health: Candidates should have good mental health and a positive body image. It's important to understand that a tummy tuck is a cosmetic procedure that can enhance appearance but may not address deeper psychological issues related to body image.
Family Planning: If you plan to have more children, it's advisable to postpone a tummy tuck until after you have completed your family, as pregnancy can stretch the abdominal area again.
Adequate Recovery Time: Candidates should have the time and resources for a proper post-operative recovery. This includes taking time off work, arranging for help with daily tasks, and following the surgeon's recovery instructions.
Consultation with a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon: The best way to determine if you are a suitable candidate for a tummy tuck is to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon. They will assess your individual case, discuss your goals, and help you make an informed decision.
It's important to note that not everyone who desires a flatter abdomen is a candidate for a tummy tuck. In some cases, less invasive procedures like liposuction or non-surgical body contouring may be more appropriate. A thorough evaluation by a qualified plastic surgeon is essential to determine the best course of action for each individual.
Who Should Not Consider a Tummy Tuck?
While a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) can be a beneficial procedure for many people, there are individuals who should not consider or may not be suitable candidates for this surgery.
Here are some factors that may disqualify someone from considering a tummy tuck:
Poor General Health: People with uncontrolled medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or autoimmune disorders, may not be suitable candidates for surgery. Good general health is essential to minimize surgical risks.
Unrealistic Expectations: If a person has unrealistic expectations about the outcomes of a tummy tuck or desires a level of improvement that the procedure cannot realistically achieve, they may not be a good candidate.
Significant Weight Fluctuations: Individuals who are actively trying to lose a substantial amount of weight should postpone a tummy tuck until they reach a stable weight. Significant weight fluctuations can affect the results of the surgery.
Active Smokers: Smoking significantly increases the risk of complications during and after surgery. Candidates who smoke should quit or be willing to stop smoking for a specific period before and after the procedure.
Ongoing Pregnancy Plans: If a person plans to become pregnant or is currently pregnant, it is advisable to postpone a tummy tuck until after completing their family, as pregnancy can undo the results.
Insufficient Recovery Time: Candidates must be prepared to take the necessary time off work and activities for a proper recovery. A busy lifestyle or inability to commit to the recovery process can be a disqualifying factor.
Psychological Concerns: Individuals with significant body image or self-esteem issues that may be better addressed through therapy or counseling should consider these options before undergoing a tummy tuck. The surgery can improve appearance but may not address underlying psychological issues.
How to Prepare for Tummy Tuck Surgery
As for preparing for tummy tuck surgery, here are the steps to take:
Consultation with a Plastic Surgeon: Schedule a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon to discuss your goals, medical history, and suitability for the procedure. Ask questions and ensure you have a clear understanding of the surgery.
Medical Evaluation: Undergo a thorough medical evaluation to ensure you are in good health for the surgery. Your surgeon may request blood tests, ECG, and other assessments as needed.
Quitting Smoking: If you are a smoker, quit smoking several weeks before the surgery. Smoking increases the risk of complications and can impair the healing process.
Medication Review: Discuss all medications and supplements you are taking with your surgeon. Some medications may need to be adjusted or temporarily discontinued before surgery.
Pre-operative Instructions: Follow your surgeon's pre-operative instructions closely. These may include dietary guidelines, hydration, and skincare recommendations.
Plan for Recovery: Arrange for someone to help you with daily tasks during the initial days of recovery. Ensure you have time off work and a comfortable, quiet space for post-operative rest.
Compression Garments: Purchase any recommended compression garments or clothing that you will need during recovery.
Diet and Nutrition: Maintain a healthy diet leading up to surgery to support your body's healing process.
Manage Stress: Reducing stress through relaxation techniques or counseling can be beneficial in the lead-up to surgery.
Follow Fasting Guidelines: Abide by fasting guidelines provided by your surgeon, typically starting the night before the surgery.
Remember that each patient's situation is unique, and your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions tailored to your needs and circumstances. Proper preparation and adherence to your surgeon's guidance are critical to ensuring a successful tummy tuck surgery and recovery.
Possible Complications of Tummy Tuck:
While tummy tuck surgery is generally safe when performed by a skilled plastic surgeon, there are potential complications and risks to be aware of, including:
Infection: Infections can occur at the incision sites, which may require antibiotics and, in rare cases, additional surgery.
Poor Scarring: The surgical incision will leave a scar, and although efforts are made to minimize scarring, some patients may develop thicker or more visible scars than desired.
Hematoma: A collection of blood under the skin can occur, necessitating drainage.
Seroma: Fluid buildup may develop, requiring drainage or aspiration.
Wound Healing Issues: Some individuals may experience delayed wound healing or skin necrosis (tissue death) near the incision sites.
Anesthesia Complications: Adverse reactions to anesthesia, although rare, can occur and may lead to complications.
Blood Clots: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) are potential risks, particularly in individuals with risk factors such as smoking, obesity, or prolonged immobility.
Numbness and Sensation Changes: Temporary or permanent changes in sensation, such as numbness or hypersensitivity in the abdominal area, can occur.
Asymmetry: Achieving perfect symmetry is challenging, and minor differences in appearance between the right and left sides of the abdomen may occur.
Taking Care of Yourself After Surgery:
Proper post-operative care is crucial for a successful recovery from a tummy tuck:
Follow Surgeon's Instructions: Adhere to all post-operative instructions provided by your plastic surgeon.
Rest: Get plenty of rest to aid in the healing process.
Medication: Take prescribed medications as directed, including pain medication and antibiotics.
Compression Garment: Wear the recommended compression garment to minimize swelling and support the healing tissues.
Hydration and Nutrition: Stay well-hydrated and maintain a balanced diet to support healing.
Wound Care: Keep the incision sites clean and dry, and watch for any signs of infection.
Activity Restrictions: Avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting during the initial recovery period.
Follow-Up Appointments: Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments with your surgeon for assessment and care.
Returning to Daily Life:
The timeline for resuming daily activities can vary, but here are some general guidelines:
Work: Most individuals can return to light, non-strenuous work within 2-3 weeks. Jobs requiring heavy lifting or physical activity may require more time off.
Exercise: Gradually reintroduce exercise and strenuous physical activities following your surgeon's recommendations, typically around 6-8 weeks post-surgery.
Driving: You can typically resume driving once you are off pain medication and can safely maneuver the vehicle.
Swelling: Swelling may persist for several weeks to months but should gradually subside over time.
Tummy tuck surgery is usually considered a cosmetic procedure, and most health insurance plans do not cover it. However, in some cases, if a tummy tuck is deemed medically necessary due to abdominal hernias or other health issues, there may be partial coverage. It's essential to consult with your surgeon and insurance provider to determine whether your specific case qualifies for any coverage. Be prepared for the likelihood that most costs will be out-of-pocket.
If you’re unsure about how to best help your recovery process go smoothly, focus on the proper activities, diet, medicines, and hygiene. Join our Bodypeace Membership and get access to the tools needed to heal and recover.
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About The Author:
Dr. Nikki LeToya White MSEd-TL, Ph.D. RHN is the founder, director, and full-time board-certified trauma-informed nutritionist, folk herbalist, and wellness consultant at Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. She created Spiced Life Conversation, LLC Art Wellness Studio, and Botanica to provide the Metro Atlanta area with counseling and coaching services where clients are carefully matched with the right program for healing abandonment and childhood emotional neglect trauma that cause codependency, emotional eating, financial stress, and imposter syndrome as it relates to the fear of success and being abandon. We help you begin your emotional healing journey with ease. Recently, we have expanded to include an online membership site so we now provide support to people living all over the world. All of our recovery coaches provide at least one evidence-based treatment to assist in your recovery. Dr. White is a big proponent of self-care and helping people live a fulfilling life! She has been in full remission with both codependency and emotional binge eating disorder since 2016. In living a life in recovery from sugar addiction. I love my low-sugar balanced lifestyle.
Dr. Nikki LeToya White