What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck is surgery to correct a loose or flabby abdomen or belly. A tummy tuck, also called abdominoplasty, involves removing excess skin and fat, and tightening weak or separated muscles. Many people seek a tummy tuck for cosmetic reasons to create a firmer, flatter abdomen. Others need a tummy tuck to remove excess skin after significant weight loss. 

A tummy tuck is a major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all your treatment choices before having a tummy tuck.

Types of tummy tuck

The types of tummy tuck include:

  • Complete or traditional tummy tuck treats the entire abdomen by using a large hip-to-hip incision and another incision around the navel. Patients who require significant fat removal and restructuring of the abdominal wall need this type of tummy tuck.
  • Partial or mini tummy tuck treats only the lower part of the abdomen below the navel using small incisions. This type of tummy tuck is appropriate for patients who suffer mainly from loose abdominal skin and excess fat that is concentrated below the navel.

Other procedures that may be performed 

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to a tummy tuck. These include:

  • Belt lipectomy, or body lift, to remove loose hanging skin from the waist down
  • Breast surgery to lift sagging breasts
  • Buttock augmentation or lift to improve the appearance of the buttocks by lifting and tightening the skin or using implants or fat injections to add fullness and roundness to the buttocks
  • Liposuction to remove excess fat
  • Thigh or arm lift to remove sagging skin on the thighs and arms

Why is a tummy tuck performed?

Your doctor may recommend a tummy tuck to remove loose, sagging skin or excessive fat on the abdomen. This often occurs as a result of significant weight loss, pregnancy, heredity, aging, or a prior surgery. 

Your doctor may only consider a tummy tuck for you if other treatment options, such as diet and exercise, have been ineffective and if you are seriously unhappy about the appearance of your abdomen. Ask your doctor about all of your treatment options and consider getting a second opinion.

Who performs a tummy tuck?

A plastic surgeon performs a tummy tuck. Plastic surgeons specialize in correcting physical defects that affect a person's appearance or ability to function.

  • Traditional tummy tuck involves making an incision across the bottom of your abdomen, from hip to hip. Your surgeon will also make an incision around your navel. Your surgeon will remove excess skin and fat and tighten your abdominal wall by securing muscles together with stitches. Surgery involves repositioning your navel, pulling the remaining skin to its new position, and closing your incisions. 
  • Partial tummy tuck involves making a small horizontal incision below the navel. Your surgeon will remove excess skin and fat through this smaller incision. Your navel does not require repositioning with this procedure. Unlike a traditional tummy tuck, this procedure is usually an outpatient procedure.

Your doctor will advise you on which procedure is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital or surgical center based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different procedures and ask why your doctor/surgeon will use a particular type of procedure for you.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your surgeon will perform your tummy tuck using either general anesthesia or regional anesthesia. 

  • General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the procedure and will not feel any pain. You may also have a peripheral nerve block infusion in addition to general anesthesia. A peripheral nerve block infusion is an injection or continuous drip of liquid anesthetic. The anesthetic flows through a tiny tube inserted near your surgical site to control pain during and after surgery.
  • Regional anesthesia is also known as a nerve block. It involves injecting an anesthetic around certain nerves to numb a large area of the body. You will likely have sedation with regional anesthesia to keep you relaxed and comfortable.