The abdomen is a problem area for so many people. No matter how much you exercise or watch your diet, it may seem impossible to achieve the toned, flat stomach that you desire. For some, this is simply due to a genetic pre-disposition to carry excess fat in the mid-section. For others, however, age, weight gain/loss and pregnancy may have stretched the skin and muscles of the abdomen to a point where no amount of crunches will make a difference. A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure that tightens loose abdominal muscles and removes excess skin and fatty tissue. The result is a smoother, flatter stomach that is more proportional to the rest of your physique. A tummy tuck may be performed alone or in conjunction with another body contouring procedure such as liposuction, a breast augmentation or a breast lift.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Doherty offers his patients the full range of abdominoplasty procedures. This includes both the full tummy tuck and the mini-tummy tuck either with or without drains. The right option for you is going to depend on your needs, your anatomy and your goals. Most patients these days are web savvy and have read about the mini-tummy tuck. They hope for this procedure as they think it is less invasive. However, the mini-tummy tuck is only effective in patients whose loose skin is below the belly button. This is why it imperative that you be assessed in person.
Tummy Tuck Consultation
During your initial tummy tuck consultation at one of his Boston area offices, Dr. Doherty will perform a full physical exam. He will evaluate whether or not you have any muscle laxity as well as your degree of skin laxity. Most women who have had children or who have gained and lost a significant amount of weight are going to have loose skin both above and below the belly button. In order to achieve a smoother, flatter stomach, the belly button will need to be re-positioned with a full tummy tuck. All of this will be discussed with you in detail.
Some patients also have a looseness of the abdominal wall or core. This is often due to childbirth and/or significant weight gain/loss. Known as diastasis, this looseness is actually a separation or splaying of the abdominal muscles. During your exam, Dr. Doherty will be able to determine whether or not this is an issue for you. If so, this can be treated DURING your abdominoplasty procedure. Dr. Doherty will place sutures along your abdominal wall, much like a corset. This will knit together the right and left abdominal muscles for a much improved abdominal contour.
Anytime that the skin is cut, there will be a scar. But there are steps that can be taken to ensure that your tummy tuck scar is as inconspicuous as possible. First, Dr. Doherty utilizes precise surgical techniques. Second, he places the scar as low as possible so that it can be concealed by a bathing suit or underwear. And last, he recommends post-surgical use of silicone and/or energy-based treatments. Products like Silagen and Biocorneum or laser resurfacing and micro-needling are begun three weeks after surgery. His goal is for you to be able to wear whatever you want (or nothing at all) and feel completely comfortable.
*Each patient is unique and individual results may vary.
Are You a Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck may be right for you if you have:
- Loose or weak abdominal muscles due to aging or pregnancy
- Sagging or excess skin in the abdominal area
- Fat in the lower abdomen that is unresponsive to exercise
Any surgical patient must be in good health. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions that may adversely affect your surgery, these will need to be discussed in detail during your initial consultation. Also, make sure to tell Dr. Doherty about any previous abdominal surgeries or cesarean sections that you have had. Scars from these operations may affect your tummy tuck, but they can also be incorporated into the surgical plan.
The ideal abdominoplasty patient is one who is a non-smoker, is done having children and is close to their ideal weight. As with the breast lift, it is best to postpone your abdominoplasty if you are still planning to get pregnant. The reason for this is that pregnancy after an abdominoplasty can stress your newly tightened muscles which will likely cause a need for additional surgery. And no one wants to have more surgery than absolutely necessary.
A tummy tuck is performed under sedation or general anesthesia at an accredited surgical center or hospital. During your abdominoplasty procedure, Dr. Doherty will place a horizontal incision in your pubic area, typically right above the pubic hair line. The length of the incision will depend on the amount of excess skin that needs to be removed. The incisions for both men and women can be hidden within the area normally covered by a swimsuit or undergarments. Dr. Doherty has his tummy tuck patients bring these garments into their pre-operative visit in order to assist him in planning the incision placement.
In the operating room, Dr. Doherty brings together the loose muscles (diastasis) and connective tissue, and secures them in their new location with stitches. Think of it a bit like a corset. Once the muscles are tight, he then removes the remaining excess skin from the abdomen. Since Dr. Doherty takes a 360° approach with all of his body contouring patients, liposuction will often be combined with an abdominoplasty in order to re-shape the flanks. The result is a firm, toned-looking abdomen and a trim waistline.
Benefits of a Tummy Tuck
Aesthetically, a tummy tuck will smooth and flatten your abdomen. It will create a stomach that is more proportional to the rest of your body, making you look and feel more youthful and energetic. But a tummy tuck can also:
- reduce the incidence of stress urinary incontinence
- improve your posture
- correct a ventral hernia
If you suffer from one of these conditions and wonder whether or not a tummy tuck may help, schedule a consultation in order to be evaluated. You may even be a candidate for a mini-tummy tuck.
*Each patient is unique and individual results may vary.
Full Tummy Tuck vs. Mini-Tummy Tuck
The main difference between a full tummy tuck and a mini-tummy tuck comes down the belly button. A full tummy tuck addresses loose skin and muscle both above and below the bellow button. In this procedure, the belly button is cut away from the surrounding tissue and brought out through your newly relocated abdominal skin. In other words, the belly button remains where it is, but is surrounded by relocated skin.
In those rare patients who only have a moderate amount of loose skin located solely below the navel or belly button, Dr. Doherty will perform a mini-tummy tuck. Since the treatment area is smaller so is the incision and the recovery time. However, most patients who have had children, gained or lost weight or whose loose skin is due to age will require a full tummy tuck in order to deliver optimum results.
Drains or No Drains
Historically, one of the biggest deterrents for patients who want a tummy tuck has been the need to wear drains. When a tummy tuck is performed, the deep tissues and surface tissues of the stomach are separated in order for the surgeon to reconstruct your abdomen. But this creates an open space. The body’s natural healing process is to produce fluid which then fills this space. This fluid needs to be removed. This is where the drains come in. Most tummy tuck patients have at least one, but more often than not, two drains to remove the fluid. They can be cumbersome, embarrassing and irritating.
Today, it is possible to perform an abdominoplasty without drains. Dr. Doherty uses tissue glue and progressive tension sutures to seal the surface and deep tissues of the stomach together so that your body can heal without drains. Whether or not this is the right option for you will be discussed in detail during your initial consultation.
*Each patient is unique and individual results may vary.
Most patients will find that their abdominal muscles feel tight after surgery. This is totally normal. However, Dr. Doherty wants his patients out of bed and walking around as soon as possible This will improve your circulation, help your muscles to get used to their new position and speed along your healing process.
Surgery causes swelling. It is part of the recovery process. But swelling can also cause pain. So, it’s important to decrease your swelling as much as possible. This is why Dr. Doherty has his tummy tuck patients wear an abdominal binder and/or surgical garment for a few weeks after surgery. It’s a bit like wearing Spanx — a slight pain, but well worth it in the long run.
While every patient heals at his or her own rate, you can expect to be bruised and swollen for at least two weeks. Patients want to avoid lifting and bending for 3-4 weeks. But after this time, your body should have healed enough that you can return to most non-strenuous activities as well as light exercise. During your initial consultation, Dr. Doherty will ask you about your lifestyle. He will then be able to give you more personalized recovery advice.
As the abdominoplasty healing process progresses, patients will notice a difference in how they look and how their clothes fit. Many patients find that a tummy tuck improves their self-esteem, making them feel more youthful, energetic and less self-conscious about their appearance.
To find out more about an abdominoplasty with Dr. Sean Doherty at his Boston or Brookline office, contact us today or call (617) 450-0070 to schedule a consultation.
Is it possible to achieve a flat stomach without surgery?
It depends. If you are overweight and/or don’t exercise regularly, you can definitely improve the look of your stomach by incorporating a healthful eating and exercising regime. However, if your weight is in a good place and your body is toned, but you still have a flabby stomach then a tummy tuck is probably going to be the answer.
I am worried about the scar from a full tummy tuck. Can’t I get away with a mini?
It depends on what you need. If you have loose skin above your naval, a mini-tummy tuck will not deliver a smooth, flat stomach. So then, you’ve gone through the hassle of surgery, taken the time off to recover, still have a scar, but you don’t have the results that you wanted. The important thing with any plastic surgery procedure is to get the right one for your needs, your anatomy and your goals.
How much time do I realistically need to take off from work in order to recover from my tummy tuck procedure?
At least two weeks. Possibly more if your job is strenuous or if you are taking care of young children at home. This is something that will be discussed in detail during your initial consultation.
I have heard that recovery from a tummy tuck is painful. Is this true?
Every patient experiences pain differently. But, in general, the recovery from a tummy tuck is pretty tolerable for most patients. They are uncomfortable, yes, but any pain can be managed with over the counter medications or prescription pain meds if necessary. Dr. Doherty does not want his patients to be in discomfort. However, he also wants you off prescription pain meds as soon as possible. This will enable you to return to your daily routine more quickly.
How soon until I see my tummy tuck results?
You will notice an improvement in your stomach contour immediately. However, you can expect your abdomen to be swollen and bruised for the first couple of weeks. It then may take anywhere from 3-6 months for your swelling to fully subside and for your final results to reveal themselves. Patience is a must.