Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) Basics
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What is a “FULL” tummy tuck?
The full tummy tuck (full abdominoplasty) operation is performed in an operating room under general anesthesia and begins with elevating a layer of belly skin and fat; separating it from the belly muscles all the way up to the ribs. During this dissection, the belly button is separated from the surrounding skin and left attached to the belly wall. The skin and fat are pulled down tight and the excess skin and fat are removed. The abdominal muscles are then sutured together to remove the laxity (plication). Finally, the belly button is brought out to the surface through a new hole in the skin (transposition) and the incisions are closed over drains.
How can I see what surgery may be right for me? – “The Mirror Test.”
An easy way to know if you need a full tummy tuck is to look for the following things while naked and standing in front of the mirror.
- From the front, do you have stretch marks around your belly button? When you pinch your skin, is it thick and snappy or is it thin and crepey?
- Front the side do you see skin that hangs, creating an extra fold(s) (perhaps you have to “tuck” this extra skin into your underwear or pants)? When you flex your belly muscles, does your belly still bulge?
If you answer “Yes!” to any of these questions, you will probably need a full tummy tuck.
How is recovery from a full tummy tuck?
As with any surgery, the pain after a full tummy tuck is usually worse in the 2-3 days immediately after surgery and tends to improve after that. Management of pain is usually through a combination of narcotic and non-narcotic pain medications taken by mouth, oral medications that lessen muscle spasms, and long-acting local anesthetics injected during surgery or infused from a small pump.
Post-operatively, patients are placed into an abdominal binder with smoothing foam backing. Patients wear this until about a week after the drains are removed (usually around 3 weeks after surgery). Dr. Tauber then recommends patients transition to a Spanx OnCore Firm Control Open-Bust Bodysuit (available on Amazon) for smoothing compression for the next month.
The ability to return to work and everyday activities is variable and depends on many factors including the type of work, the pain tolerance of the patient, and the extent of the procedures. Most patients are ready to return to their lives in 2 weeks.
Get more details on the management of swelling and scars in blog post: Post-Operative Care After Plastic Surgery.