What to Expect With a Tummy Tuck

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If you're signing up for a tummy tuck—also called abdominoplasty—your surgeon should go over the details of the surgery with you ahead of time. Be sure to ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand. This includes weighing the risks and benefits of having a tummy tuck. Knowing what to expect before, during and after a tummy tuck is a good way to feel at ease going into the surgery.

Before Surgery

People usually have an abdominoplasty to make their belly look better. It is not emergency surgery. This means your surgeon can take extra time to make sure you are ready. It's important to make sure you are a good candidate for the procedure. You should be in good health. You will have a complete medical exam and laboratory studies to make sure you are healthy for surgery. If you are a smoker, you should stop before surgery.

Your surgeon may advise you to try weight loss and exercise before trying surgery. If you are planning to lose weight or to become pregnant, your surgeon may ask you to delay surgery. It’s important to be realistic about what the surgery can achieve. You want to do this surgery for yourself, not because someone else wants you to.

Be sure your surgeon knows about all medications, vitamins and supplements you are taking. Some drugs can increase your risk of bleeding. If you take these, you may need to stop taking them for a while before your procedure. 

During Surgery

You might have this surgery at a hospital or at a surgical facility outside the hospital. Some surgeons have a surgical facility in their office. 

Talk with your surgeon about anesthesia. You may have options. Some people want to be asleep for the procedure. For that, you would get general anesthesia. Others choose to have the procedure with local anesthesia. You get an injection of anesthetic to numb the entire area for the surgery, but you are awake during the procedure. You also get a medication to make you relaxed and sleepy. 

During the procedure, your surgeon will likely perform surgery with the following steps:

  • Make an incision above your pubic area.

  • Make an incision around your belly button.

  • Lift up your belly skin (called a skin flap).

  • Pull together and tighten your belly muscles with stitches.

  • Remove fat from beneath the skin flap.

  • Stretch the flap back down tightly and remove excess skin from the end of the flap.

  • Stitch or staple the flap back down into place.

  • Make a new opening for your belly button.

  • Place tubes to drain any blood or fluid that forms under the flap.

  • Place a pressure dressing on your belly.

After Surgery

In most cases, abdominoplasty is done as outpatient surgery. That means you can go home the same day. You’ll need someone to drive you home. You also should have someone stay with you for at least the first day after your surgery. 

Your surgeon will prescribe some medication to help with pain. It may be hard for you to stand up straight for a few days. 

This is what usually happens after surgery:

  • You will rest at home the day after surgery.

  • You have to avoid all strenuous activity. Ask your surgeon when you can return to full activity.

  • You will have a bandage and a wrap-around elastic support over your belly.

  • You will go back to your surgeon to have the dressing and tubes removed. The surgeon may also take out any stitches. Ask your surgeon when you can start showering and taking baths.

  • After your dressings have been removed, check your incision area regularly for signs of bleeding, redness or swelling. Know what number to call in case of a problem.

Complete recovery may take a few weeks. Make sure to follow all your surgeon’s instructions and keep your follow-up appointments. Once you fully recover, you should have a trimmer, tighter and smoother belly.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 17
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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