What to Expect After a Tummy Tuck
A tummy tuck (also known as abdominoplasty) is a surgical procedure that removes excess skin and tightens lax muscles to firm and flatten the stomach. Ideal for improving the body changes associated with pregnancy, significant weight loss and the natural aging process, there are a variety of tummy tuck techniques, and it’s important to understand that any approach involves at least one incision that is hidden by panties and bikini bottoms (although the resulting scar’s length and shape depends on the type of tummy tuck performed). Most tummy tuck patients will also have an incision on the inside of their belly buttons. New York City plastic surgeon Dr. Mark Schwartz performs the full scope of abdominoplasty variations and will suggest the ideal technique for your unique concerns and goals.
Full abdominoplasty: This traditional tummy tuck technique uses incisions across the lower abdomen and within the navel to remove excess skin, tighten muscles and reposition the belly button to the optimal location. Liposuction is often incorporated to further refine the contours of the stomach and yield the best possible outcomes.
Mini abdominoplasty: Ideal for women whose excess skin and muscle laxity is limited to the area below the navel, this abdominoplasty approach requires only one incision ranging from a few inches in the pubic region to a complete incision across the lower abdomen. No muscle tightening or skin removal is performed above the level of the belly button.
Extended abdominoplasty: The most extensive tummy tuck technique, an extended abdominoplasty, is used for patients that require a longer incision to address love handles and excess skin around the hips. The muscles are tightened similar to a full abdominoplasty and liposuction is performed as necessary.
Patients that undergo a full or extended tummy tuck usually rest in the “beach chair” position for several days. Most tummy tuck patients return to work after two weeks, but it is important to gradually return to your routine as you begin to feel better. Dr. Schwartz will provide specific guidelines about resuming exercise and other activities based on the type of tummy tuck performed.
After surgery, the tummy tuck incision is bandaged to keep it clean and protected, and drains are often placed to stop fluid from accumulating under the surface and to minimize swelling. These drains are typically emptied twice a day after surgery, and Dr. Schwartz will have you keep track of the amount of fluid that comes out. Drains may be removed after as few as five days, or may remain for up 10 days depending on the amount of fluid that is draining and the extent of the tummy tuck procedure performed. Patients are usually instructed to wear a compression garment for three weeks to minimize swelling and help the skin adhere to the stomach’s new contours. Many patients like to wear the binder for a longer time since they feel “secure” with the extra support. Following tummy tuck surgery, heavy lifting and exercise must be avoided for at least four to six weeks.
Patients are always asking, “how will I feel after a tummy tuck?” Soreness and discomfort are unfortunately a short-term, but manageable part of this procedure. Patients are given prescription pain medication, and Dr. Schwartz injects a long-acting local anesthetic called Exparel. Exparel is a non-narcotic medication that is injected during surgery to help minimize discomfort over the first few days after the procedure. Resting in the “beach chair” position with your back propped up and with pillows under your knees will keep your waist slightly bent to minimize pulling on repaired muscles. Dr. Schwartz emphasizes that it can take up to six months to see the final outcomes of tummy tuck surgery, but every patient’s recovery experience varies and is influenced by their preoperative condition and the tummy tuck approach that is used.
Interested in learning more about the tummy tuck option that is ideal for you? Contact board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Mark Schwartz, at 212.737.9090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.