The Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty) Procedure Explained

The Tummy Tuck Procedure

A full tummy tuck involves a long, curved incision running across the lower abdomen from hipbone to hipbone (see diagram for illustration). The length of the incision depends to some degree on the amount of excess skin. A second incision is necessary to free the belly button from the loose surrounding abdominal tissue. Once the incision has been made the skin and fat are lifted away from the underlying abdominal wall, exposing the vertical abdominal muscles. These muscles are often found to be stretched or separated (a condition referred to as “diastasis”) so they are commonly tightened with stitches. The loose skin is then pulled down like a window shade and the excess is removed. A small hole is made in the skin so that the belly button can be secured in its new location. To finish the procedure, the incisions are closed with some combination of stitches, clips, tissue glue, and tape.

A mini tummy tuck requires a shorter incision but muscle tightening and skin removal are usually confined to the lower half of abdomen. The belly button is generally left in place so no incision around it is necessary but it may be repositioned in some circumstances. Your doctor will discuss this with you before the procedure. As with a full tummy tuck, liposuction may be performed with a mini tuck to contour fatty deposits that aren’t being surgically removed. Abdominoplasty does not correct stretch marks although some of these may be removed with the excess skin.

Full tummy tuck surgery generally takes 2 to 5 hours to perform. The time it takes to complete the surgical procedure will depend on how much work is being done. Mini tummy tuck surgery will usually take 1 to 2 hours. Abdominoplasty is typically performed under general anesthesia, although a local anesthetic with intravenous sedation (“twilight sleep”) may be utilized. With either method, a physician anesthesiologist or C.R.N.A. (certified registered nurse anesthetist) should be present to monitor your vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse, while the plastic surgeon concentrates on the surgical procedure.


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