Highlighting Tummy Tucks

Highlighting Tummy Tucks


All about tummy tucks

Have a few inches or centimeters around your waist that you’d like to tuck away? Have you recently lost a significant amount of weight and are left with extra skin that is hard to live with? Or maybe you have a gaping battle wound, brought about by shrapnel or a cannonball that has left you with skin you just can’t stomach.

The first tummy tuck was performed in the late 1800s and served absolutely no aesthetic purpose. This was not your mother’s plastic surgery but it might have been great granddad’s. Impossible to perform without completely removing the navel, early tummy tucks saved lives, not Instagram likes. These patients came to the operating room seeking life in general, not a new lease on life, as we sometimes promote in aesthetic surgery.

This article is the fourth in a series highlighting some of the most popular plastic surgery procedures. In the Highlighting series, we tell you ALL the alternative names of the surgery so you learn the medical terminology as well as develop a little street cred with slang terms. We share a little history of the procedure and describe the general process. We mention possible complications and give you an idea of the typical recovery time.

Also known as/similar or related names are:

360 tummy tuck, abdominal lipectomy, abdominoplasty, dermolipectomy, drain-free tummy tuck, extended tummy tuck, Fleur-de-lis tummy tuck, FDL, mini tummy tuck, panniculectomy

First recorded tummy tuck

Two French doctors, DeMars and Marx, performed the first recorded tummy tuck in 1890. At that time, the procedure was called a dermolipectomy - a resection of skin and underlying subcutaneous tissue - and is a broad term that also encompasses other body-contouring procedures like thigh reductions, arm lifts, etc. The earliest tummy tucks were impossible to perform without removing the navel, leaving the patient belly-buttonless and greatly hindering any pioneering on the body piercing scene.

Then American gynecologist Dr. Kelly performed a similar procedure called a transverse abdominal lipectomy in 1899. Unfortunately, this surgery removed the entire navel area also. The French had continued making improvements on the procedure and in 1905 successfully completed the first abdominal lipectomy that preserved the belly button. German Dr. Weinhold further improved the procedure in 1909, making use of both vertical and horizontal incisions to completely avoid removing the navel.

General process

Modern medicine has seen the birth of several variations of the tummy tuck. There’s a clinic in Boston that published an informative article defining the different techniques. We will describe the general process for our favored technique, the extended tummy tuck.

First you are given general anesthesia and once safely asleep, you are completely cut in half, much like the magician with the box and saw. (Just kidding! The box and saw are only used for the 360 tummy tuck/FDL.)

Just kidding again. Who doesn’t like a good belly laugh? To reiterate, you are NOT cut in half. In an extended tummy tuck, your surgeon will make an incision near your pubic hairline, possibly extending from one hip bone to the other. You will discuss the length of your scar with your doctor.

Through this horizontal incision, the surgeon will remove excess skin and subcutaneous fat from your abdomen while also repairing any internal muscle damage. An extended tummy tuck is part of what is commonly known as a “Mommy Makeover” because it can repair the separation of your abdominal muscles (aka diastasis recti, caused by growing a human in your uterus) by sewing them back together.

Usually an extended tummy tuck will include some level of liposuction (possibly 360 liposuction) during the procedure. Extra skin is cut away and the remaining skin will be pulled taut. Your belly button may change shape or location depending on what you and your surgeon have discussed. For more details about the extended tummy tuck, read what healthline.com has to say.

Many surgeons place drains before closing your incisions. These drains collect the naturally-occuring fluids that your body produces after trauma. Your surgeon and his team will safely navigate you through drain maintenance and care.

You will awake with internal and external stitches that will most likely dissolve on their own after a few weeks. And you will be wearing a compression garment of some kind, usually a faja. Check with your surgeon for further details regarding your stitch sitch and compression session. Just remember, compression is your friend.

What could go wrong?

Complications that may occur include:
  • Hematoma (collection of blood) or seroma (collection of other fluid) - drains are left behind after surgery to collect all fluid and prevent these situations. Your surgeon or a nurse may also use a syringe to collect additional fluid that accumulates after drains are removed.
  • Changes in skin sensation - your nerves have been cut and need time to grow back together. Any repositioning of internal tissue may also affect nerve sensitivity but should resolve within a few months.
  • Unfavorable scarring - all surgery leaves a scar and you should discuss where you want your scar prior to surgery. Some surgeons can place it safely below your bikini line while others favor a higher position.

What could go right?

The good things that you can internalize in your gut are:
  • A tighter belly. No more extra skin hanging around.
  • Improved posture. With the exception of the expected (and encouraged) hunching over during your recovery period, your posture will improve with a flatter, tightened abdomen.
  • More room in your closet/smaller clothes. No need to account for extra fat or skin with oversized shirts and pants.

Recovery time

Your downtime will depend on the type of tummy tuck you have. Typically, the recovery time for abdominal surgery lasts a minimum of two weeks. The maximum time varies depending on each patient, but generally speaking, patients feel closer to 100% again after 6-8 weeks. Talk to your surgeon for specific guidelines on when you can resume certain activities.

The last stitch

A tummy tuck is an effective way to improve many aspects of your life while removing roadblocks to your happiness. (Speaking of roadblocks, you know that you can still get pregnant after plastic surgery, right?)

Unexpected bundles of joy aside, expect that you will look better in smaller, tighter clothes. You will physically feel lighter and tighter. You will be able to button the fly of your jeans without performing your own daily version of a tummy tuck. And you’ll get to keep your belly button!


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