With the kids back to school and a bit of chill in the air, September is the perfect time to start thinking about how you’d like to look over the holidays. Sound crazy? Just hear me out. Any surgical procedure is going to produce some swelling as the body heals. And this swelling is going to be much more easily camouflaged by bulky sweaters and winter coats than summer tees. Furthermore, it’s best to keep any incision lines out of the sun which, let’s be honest, we naturally have less of in Boston come September/October.
With all the surgical options available to patients, one of the more popular is the abdominoplasty, also known as the “tummy tuck”. So many of us struggle with a tad more girth around the middle than we’d like. Pregnancy, weight gain/loss and Father Time can all help to weaken the skin and tissues of the abdomen. The result is a permanent pouch that is resistant to even the most stringent diet and exercise regime. But which tummy tuck is best — mini or full?
While patients today are very informed, thanks to the internet, on what an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck is, many are still confused about the difference between a mini-tummy tuck and a full tummy tuck. The word “mini” is often deceiving. It implies that whatever follows it is smaller, cuter and better for you.
A mini-tummy tuck may produce a smaller incision line. And a smaller incision line typically requires less downtime for recovery. This is true. However, the mini-tummy tuck procedure is only appropriate for a very small number of patients — specifically those whose loose abdominal tissues are located solely below the belly button. These patients typically have a smaller lower bulge that bothers them and excess skin above a C-section scar. In general, this rules out anyone who has:
- Had a baby
- Gained or lost more than 10 lbs.
- Abdominal tissues that have lost elasticity due to age
Full Tummy Tuck
The primary difference between a mini-tummy tuck and a full tummy tuck comes down to your belly button, also known as your umbilicus. Patients who require a full tummy tuck have loose skin and muscle throughout the entire abdomen. In other words, things sag both above and below your belly button. On the web, many sites talk about the fact that your belly button will need to be moved during a regular abdominoplasty. This is not actually true. Your belly button stays in place. However, the skin around it moves. Basically, I will pull down and tighten the loose skin and muscles of the abdomen and create a new exit hole for your belly button so that it is proportional to your now long, lean abdominal area.
Drains – Are They Mandatory?
I want to take a moment to address the issues of drains. It is probably one of the three biggest deterrents for patients when it comes to getting an abdominoplasty (the others are the scar and downtime). However, what many patients don’t realize is that today, I can often perform a tummy tuck procedure without drains. Furthermore, those patients who do require drains are always underwhelmed by how bothersome they actually are.
Basically, the drains are there to remove fluid. Any time that the deep tissues and surface skin are separated, it is going to create an open space. And the body’s healing response to this open space is to fill it with fluid. With a drainless tummy tuck, I can minimize the space, using progressive tension sutures and possibly tissue glue to seal the deeper tissues and surface skin together. Although not appropriate for every patient, the drainless tummy tuck can be a game-changer. All options and possibilities will be discussed with you in detail during your initial consultation.
Don’t Fear Tummy Tuck Recovery
The other thing that I hear all the time from my patients is that they would like a flatter stomach, but they are scared about the recovery. Healing from abdominoplasty surgery has gotten a really bad rep for being both long and painful. You will need to give yourself 2 weeks off from work and/or many of your more strenuous daily activities. This is major surgery and your body needs time to heal properly. But I have a number of tools in my tool chest for making your recovery as comfortable as possible. This includes the minimal dissection, local anesthetic and non-narcotic pain medication.
And I can’t sign off without addressing the compression garment. It is amazing to me how many patients are resistant to this. But here is what you need to understand: the job of the compression garment is to reduce swelling. And since swelling is what creates discomfort, wearing your compression garment will make your recovery less painful and much faster.
So, if you are bothered by an abdomen that won’t go flat no matter how many vegetables you consume, then schedule an appointment to come in and speak with me about a tummy tuck. Wouldn’t it be nice to ditch the Spanx this New Year’s Eve?
To find out more about a mini-tummy tuck or a full tummy tuck with Dr. Sean Doherty at his Boston or Brookline office, contact us.