Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Adam Boettcher explains what the tummy tuck procedure entails, costs, recovery, aftercare, and expected results
Tummy tucks are one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the world. We perform tummy tuck surgery – also known as abdominoplasty – to remove excess fat and skin on the stomach and achieve a flat, toned abdomen.
Many patients get tummy tucks because their abdomen bulges, sags, or feels loose due to aging, genetics, past pregnancy, prior surgeries, or significant weight changes. Around half of the tummy tuck consults I see are also interested in the mommy makeover, which includes a breast augmentation or lift, tummy tuck, and liposuction to restore the body after the effects of pregnancy and breastfeeding. To read more about the mommy makeover procedure and costs associated, read my other article: How Much Does A Mommy Makeover Cost, and What Does the Procedure Entail?
But while tummy tucks typically make patients look trimmer and more toned, I need to stress: these procedures are not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Tummy tucks also won’t remove stretch marks, unless the marks are located where we’re excising tissue for the procedure.
In this article, I want to address some of the common tummy tuck questions we get at our practice, including:
- What Should I Expect? Tummy Tuck Surgery Overview
- Am I A Good Candidate for Tummy Tuck Surgery?
- How Much Does a Tummy Tuck Cost?
- Procedure Recovery and Aftercare
- How Much Weight Do Tummy Tuck Patients Lose?
- Tummy Tuck Scarring
Tummy Tuck Surgery Overview
Tummy tuck surgeries are extremely popular, and patients are generally very happy with their results. A 2012 study published in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported that 93% of 1,589 patients who underwent a tummy tuck procedure said it was worth it.
Many patients want to know what the procedure entails. Here are the procedural steps you can expect:
- First, the anesthesiologist will administer IV sedation or general anesthesia, and we’ll prep and clean the surgical areas.
- Next, we make an incision just above the pubic bone from hip to hip. If we’re removing skin in the upper abdomen, we’ll make a discrete second incision around the belly button. Tummy tuck incisions vary in length and shape based on how much excess skin we’re removing, but we aim to keep them as small and discrete as possible.
- In patients who have diastasis recti following pregnancy, we’ll correct the defect by pulling the rectus muscles back together.
- Finally, we pull down and trim excess skin, make a new belly button opening, and close the incisions.
In patients receiving an abdominoplasty along with liposuction – called lipoabdominoplasty – we’ll also contour the abdomen by removing undesired excess fat. Many patients prefer combining these procedures to address sagging skin and excess fat deposits at the same time, with a single recovery period.
Am I A Good Candidate For A Tummy Tuck?
The best candidates for tummy tuck surgery are generally in good health, non-smokers, and aren’t experiencing big weight fluctuations.
If a patient comes in for a consult and they’re expecting to lose a substantial amount of weight or they want to get pregnant, then we may advise postponing the procedure. We also encourage patients to have realistic expectations about outcomes. Tummy tucks are used to lift, tighten, and tone the abdomen, but they aren’t a quick-and-easy weight loss solution.
How Much Does A Tummy Tuck Cost?
The average tummy tuck costs around $6,154, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons – but this average estimate doesn’t include anesthesia, operating facility fees, and other expenses.
When you meet your board-certified plastic surgeon for a tummy tuck consult, make sure to ask them for a quote that includes all ancillary fees, including:
- Surgeon fees, which vary based on location and provider
- Anesthesia fees
- Hospital / accredited surgical facility fees
- Medical tests
- Post-surgery garments
- Post-operative care
- Post-operative scar lasering procedures
Health Insurance Coverage
Tummy tucks aren’t usually covered by health insurance. Sometimes, insurance providers will cover a portion of panniculectomy costs, if the patient’s skin (pannus) overhangs their pubic area, causes chronic and treatment-resistant skin irritation, is linked to back pain, and/or interferes with everyday activities. Unlike tummy tucks, panniculectomies only remove sagging skin and are not used to achieve a desired aesthetic effect.
Tummy Tuck Recovery and Aftercare
Although recovery varies, many tummy tuck patients feel fully recovered within three to five months. I advise patients to avoid strenuous activities for at least six weeks, to promote better healing and results.
Here are some other key points I want patients to know about tummy tuck recovery and aftercare instructions:
- Incision Aftercare: After surgery, we apply a surgical dressing or bandage to protect the incision wound. Patients should keep the wound clean, and be gentle with the area. In some cases, we’ll place small tubes at the incision area. These drains help remove fluids that naturally collect near the wound to promote healing. While soreness is typical, we want patients to call us right away if they experience increased swelling, redness, discharge, or worsening pain near the incision.
- Compression: We provide patients with a compression garment, which applies gentle pressure to the abdomen, reduces swelling, and supports the abdominal muscles. We instruct tummy tuck patients to wear this garment for around two months to yield the best results.
- Medications: After a tummy tuck, we prescribe pain medication to help patients feel more comfortable while healing.
- Return-to-Work: After two weeks, most patients feel well enough to return to work, as long as their jobs aren’t physically strenuous.
- Exercise: While we encourage patients to get up and move around after their surgery, we don’t want patients to push themselves physically – particularly in the first few weeks of healing. By week three, some patients feel up to doing very easy, low-impact exercises that don’t strain the abdomen. By six weeks after surgery, most patients are able to resume all their pre-operative activities.
- Driving: Patients can’t drive themselves home after surgery, and won’t be able to operate a car for a couple of days due to the lingering effects of anesthesia. Most patients return to driving after two to three weeks.
- Swimming: We don’t advise patients to submerge in an ocean or pool until they’re eight weeks post-op, to reduce the risk of infection.
- Bathing: Patients can shower after 48 hours, and don’t need to worry about removing their bandages or cleaning the incision. While showering, avoid hot water, keep showers brief, and gently pat or air dry your abdomen to avoid damaging the tissue.
How Much Weight Do Tummy Tuck Clients Lose?
It’s important to note that tummy tucks are not a weight loss strategy. Most abdominoplasty patients lose around 2-5 pounds of excess skin and fat after the procedure. Lipoabdominoplasty patients can lose an additional 2-10 pounds. Due to safety precautions, we don’t remove more than 5 liters of tissue using liposuction during a single procedure.
Tummy Tuck Scarring: What to Expect
As plastic surgeons, we are well-trained in wound closure and aim to minimize the appearance of scars in every procedure we do. Tummy tuck scars usually fade within several months up to a year. In some cases we can incorporate cesarean section scars into the tummy tuck scar, to reduce visibility.
At Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona, we’ll often provide laser scar treatments to tummy tuck patients during post-operative appointments to minimize the appearance of scars.
Book Your Tummy Tuck Consultation Today
If you’d like to learn more about abdominoplasty or lipoabdominoplasty procedures, we’d love to bring you in for a consultation. Our team of board-certified plastic surgeons and experienced providers at Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona can answer your questions and discuss a wide range of surgical and non-surgical body contouring treatment options.
Author Profile: Adam Boettcher, M.D., is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona partner. Dr. Boettcher specializes in cosmetic surgery, facial trauma, complex hand reconstruction, and oncologic reconstructive procedures. He joined Plastic Surgeons of Northern Arizona in 2012.