Tummy Tuck: Demystified

One of the most popular procedures in Plastic Surgery is an abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck. It is also one of the most misunderstood procedures.

A tummy tuck is a surgical procedure designed to correct the contour of the abdomen: skin, fat and muscles. It is most often mentioned as part of a Mommy Makeover-breast and body procedures designed to correct the changes after pregnancy-but can also be relevant for women and men after significant changes in weight.

In my hands, this is an outpatient procedure and generally takes about two hours; OR time is obviously longer with additional procedures. The surgery involves an incision in the lower part of the abdomen, often below or in line with an existing C section scar. The skin is released to the belly button, an incision made around the belly button, and the skin released to the top of the abdomen. This access allows tightening of the muscles in the middle and restoration of the flat contour of the abdomen. The skin is gently redraped and trimmed and the belly button delivered through the skin before the incision is closed. Viola…tummy tuck complete!

For most patients, a couple of drains are placed before the skin is closed. These remain in until the fluid they are draining is effectively gone. The fluid is blood for the first day or so then a straw-colored fluid at the time they are removed. It is painless to have a drain removed and done in the office in a matter of minutes. Patients are in a surgical girdle right after surgery that closes up the side like a clam shell so that it is easy to take on and off. After a couple of weeks, patients are transitioned to a different style of girdle, not unlike an adult onesie, and stay in that for a total of 8 weeks.

Patients have told me that the sensation of a tummy tuck is like doing 400 sit ups at once-a sensation of aching muscles but not significantly painful. By about two weeks, most of my patients have drains out and have been released to drive and return to work if their job is not too physical. By the end of the second month, barring any unforeseen consequences, they are back to their regular routines, albeit with a tight core and tiny waist.

The most serious risk related to this operation is a blood clot from the legs that could migrate to the lungs, a pulmonary embolism. This is related to tightening the core and partially addressed by putting the patient in motion. Walking is essential after a tummy tuck and patients should not be afraid to try to stand up straight. If this is a procedure you have been considering, contact our office to obtain more information at 817-870-4833 or request an appointment. Happy healing!


Emily B. McLaughlin, MD, FACS

West Magnolia Plastic Surgery, PA