Everything You Should Know Before Considering a Tummy Tuck Surgery
March 11, 2022
Many of us know all too well what it is like to have extra padding around our abdomen, whether in the form of a protruding abdomen, “love handles,” or abs that lack clear definition. Often, the ideal way to get the toned and flat physique you desire is through proper diet and exercise; in other cases, though, even the most rigorous lifestyle is insufficient for toning your abdomen. And, significant weight loss can sometimes have unintentional side effects, leaving you with stretched-out and saggy skin that compromises your appearance.
If you have struggled with any of these issues and long for a more shapely and contoured appearance, you may want to consider a tummy tuck. As you think about whether a tummy tuck surgery is right for you, it is important to have all the facts about what the procedure entails, what the recovery is like, and what kind of results you can expect.
What is a Tummy Tuck?
One of the first steps in your journey is to consider the tummy tuck in light of other body contouring surgeries, including the mini tummy tuck and liposuction. These procedures all work toward the same goal (e.g., a smoother and flatter abdominal area), but can achieve different results. Your plastic surgeon can recommend the procedure that is best suited for your aesthetic goals, and in some cases, may recommend having multiple procedures in tandem to get the outcome you desire.
The Tummy Tuck: At a Glance
A tummy tuck is a procedure designed to make the abdomen thinner and firmer. During this procedure, your surgeon will cut out any excess tissue, eliminating flab and sagginess. In addition to removing unnecessary fat and skin, your surgeon will also bolster the abdominal walls. This can help produce those firm, taut abs you desire, and can also be helpful for women who have had their ab muscles damaged during childbirth.
What About the Mini Tummy Tuck?
Depending on your aesthetic goals and the placement of your extra fat and flab, your plastic surgeon may tell you that a mini tummy tuck is sufficient. Though a mini tummy tuck works in much the same way as a full tummy tuck, it involves a slightly less invasive approach, including much smaller incisions. Accordingly, the mini tummy tuck is a little bit more restrictive in what it can achieve. Specifically, this procedure can often be a good option for patients looking to lose excess fat or skin below the belly button, but it does not offer results at the upper part of the abdomen.
Is liposuction a better option?
A final option to consider is liposuction. This is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures in the entire country, and it essentially involves excess fat being drained out of the targeted treatment area with vacuum force. Liposuction may be a good alternative to a tummy tuck, particularly for patients who are looking to lose some flab and do not care about having their stomach wall strengthened. With that said, it is much more likely that your plastic surgeon will recommend having liposuction and a tummy tuck at the same time, which will provide optimal results.
Am I a Good Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?
When you join your plastic surgeon for a one-on-one consultation, you can discuss your goals and get a recommendation for which procedure is right for you. Additionally, your surgeon will take the time to ensure you are qualified to have a safe, successful surgery. This process typically involves a brief medical examination as well as an interview about your medical history. If your doctor sees any reason why you should not move forward with surgery, you will be told as much, and encouraged to consider non-surgical options for body contouring.
Generally speaking, ideal candidates for a tummy tuck meet the following criteria:
- You are in good health overall and do not have any underlying medical conditions that would prevent you from proper healing.
- You are not a smoker or are willing to cease smoking.
- You have stable, maintainable body weight.
- You have taken the time to talk to your plastic surgeon about the different treatment options, and you have realistic expectations about the process, the results, and the recovery time.
Preparing for a Tummy Tuck
A tummy tuck is a major surgical procedure and will entail a significant recovery time. However, there are certain preparations you can make that will not only ensure a successful surgery but also help you enjoy a smooth and expedient recovery.
Here are a few steps to take in the weeks before your procedure.
Stop Using Tobacco Products
Tobacco slows your body’s innate healing properties and can contribute to complications with your procedure. It is generally recommended that patients cease smoking for at least a full month before they get a tummy tuck and that they abstain from smoking for at least the first two weeks of their recovery.
Stay Away from Certain Medications
There are certain medicines and supplements that may place you at greater risk for excessive bleeding or other post-surgical complications. These include anti-inflammatory drugs and OTC pain remedies such as aspirin. Make sure you provide your surgeon with a comprehensive list of all the medicines and supplements you take and ask specifically about the OTC pain relievers it is safe to take before your procedure. Stock up on these medicines, as they may come in handy during your recovery.
In the weeks leading up to your tummy tuck surgery, try to eat a balanced and nutritious diet. There are a number of reasons why this is important, but the main one is that it will bolster your immune system, helping you stave off infection and mount a robust recovery.
Arrange for Transportation and a Helper
You will not be able to go through the tummy tuck process alone. In addition to having a qualified plastic surgeon in your corner, you also need to recruit someone to serve as your helper. This may be a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a grown son or daughter, or simply a good friend.
You are going to be put under general anesthesia for your tummy tuck, and you may be groggy and a bit disoriented when you awake. You will not be allowed to drive yourself home, so ensure you have transportation lined up.
We would also encourage you to find a helper who can stay with you for the early part of your recovery, at least two to three days. This way, if there are any serious complications, you have someone who can call the surgeon’s office and drive you in for an evaluation if needed. This is not a likely scenario, but it is good to be prepared.
Additionally, keep in mind that your body is going to be weak and sore for the first few days of recovery, and it may prove taxing even to do simple things like get up and go to the bathroom. You will want to rest and recover as much as possible, which means having someone in the home to bring you food or drinks, to help with basic household duties, and to assist you as you get up, shower, etc.
Stock Up on Supplies
When you are recovering from a tummy tuck procedure, the last thing you are going to want to do is head out to the store to run an errand. And while you will have a helper with you to pick up supplies as needed, it makes more sense to make sure you have everything you need in advance.
So, what kinds of supplies will you need? Here is a brief shopping list:
- Make sure you fill any prescriptions your surgeon gives you, including prescriptions for antibiotics and for pain medications.
- Grab any recommended OTC pain relievers.
- Ensure that you have plenty of loose and comfy clothing to wear around the house for those first few days.
- Get a pile of books or magazines to keep you occupied.
- Invest in some ice packs, some petroleum jelly, a hand-held showerhead, and a chair you can use in the shower.
- Make sure you have food and drinks on hand, including bottled water and plenty of healthy, nutritious snacks. Avoid junk and empty calories in favor of fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Prepare Yourself Emotionally
As the day of your surgery approaches, keep in mind that tummy tucks tend to involve some emotional ups and downs. On the eve of the procedure, you will likely be feeling excited about achieving a sleek new appearance. You may also be nervous about the procedure itself, which is entirely normal!
Afterward, you will need to devote several weeks to make a full recovery. While the worst of the side effects will subside after the first three to five days, it may be a month before you fully feel like yourself again. The bruising and swelling you experience might mean that it takes a few weeks before you are truly able to see your results.
All of this requires patience. People who get tummy tucks are almost always satisfied in the end, but you will need to be patient and trust the process. Above all, be gentle with yourself. It is perfectly normal to experience a range of emotions during your tummy tuck journey.
The Day of Your Surgery
What can tummy tuck patients expect on the day of surgery?
To start, your surgeon will provide you with clear instructions about what you are allowed to eat and drink the night before your procedure, and when you need to stop eating and drinking altogether. (You will likely be asked to start fasting at midnight, but always check the specific instructions from your surgeon.) It is crucial to follow these steps to the letter. If you eat or drink anything outside of your surgeon’s guidelines, they may have to cancel your tummy tuck procedure altogether.
When you arrive at the surgery center, you will change into a gown and have an IV drip started by the nurse. Your surgeon will check in with you and answer any last-minute questions you may have about the recovery period. Most surgeons will also provide a detailed, written list of recovery instructions.
During your procedure, you will be fully sedated in order to avoid experiencing any pain. Once you are sedated, the procedure itself may take anywhere from three to five hours. When it is completed, you will be moved to a recovery room, where the surgeon will monitor your condition for another one to three hours. Once it is clear that you are in good shape and that the surgery has been a success, you will be allowed to have your helper drive you home.
Recovering from a Tummy Tuck
Following any major surgery, your body will need some time to rest and recover. A tummy tuck surgery is no exception. Be sure to follow all of the recovery guidelines you are provided, which are really intended to help you avoid complications, minimize scarring, and get back to normal life.
With that said, here are a few important things to know about recovering from a tummy tuck.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from a Tummy Tuck?
The specific recovery timeline can vary from patient to patient, based on a number of different factors: Age, genetics, the type of tummy tuck, general health, and post-surgical care.
The majority of patients say that the worst of their pain subsides within 48 hours. Similarly, most patients are cleared to remove their drains and start showering like normal after 48 hours.
During the first few days, you will mostly want to rest. By the end of the first week, you will be feeling more like your normal self, and some patients are ready to return to work within 10-14 days. However, it may be a month before you are cleared for vigorous exercise or heavy lifting.
What Kind of Pain Can I Expect?
It is normal to experience some tenderness around the incision site, with the worst of the pain occurring during the first couple of days. Long-lasting pain medications may be used during surgery, combined with prescription painkillers in order to manage discomfort.
What Can I Eat Following a Tummy Tuck?
Your diet choices are crucial for ensuring a smooth recovery. We recommend drinking plenty of water, eating lean proteins, and getting plenty of vitamins to help fight off infection. Meanwhile, we recommend avoiding foods with a lot of added salt. Steer clear of soda, as the carbonation can cause some really uncomfortable bloating and gas. Finally, abstain from alcohol, as it can thin your blood and potentially interfere with your medications.
What About Bathing?
Your surgeon will recommend that you avoid bathing, swimming, or soaking in hot tubs for about six weeks. Basically, you want to avoid too much moisture around the incision site, which can increase your risk of infection. You can shower 48 hours after surgery and will receive clear guidelines from your plastic surgeon.
How Long Will the Swelling and Bruising Last?
It is normal to have some lingering swelling and bruising for up to six months after your tummy tuck procedure. With that said, the majority of your swelling and bruising should begin to heal within one to two weeks. You will notice improvement every day. Ice packs, a sound diet, and getting up and moving around are all steps you can take to keep the swelling under control and promote healing.
Tummy Tuck Recovery: Some Dos and Do Nots
There are a number of other instructions to keep in mind as you seek full recovery from your tummy tuck. Consider some dos and do nots:
- Get plenty of fiber. One of the most common symptoms of tummy tuck recovery is constipation, which is really a result of all the medicines in your system. You can mitigate this issue by ensuring a diet that is rich in fiber, both leading up to and following your procedure.
- Sleep on your back with your head slightly elevated. This is generally the best position to minimize your risk of bleeding and to avoid any undue pressure or stress on your wounds.
- Get up and move around. Over the first week or so, try to spend a little bit more time each day getting up and walking around. At first, this may just be walking around your house. Within a few days, try working up to a stroll down the street or through your neighborhood.
- Ask for help as you need it. Tummy tucks are serious business, and it is perfectly natural to need a little help with basic household tasks, as well as personal hygiene. Be ready to ask for a hand while you bounce back from the procedure.
- Go to the gym until directed to do so. If you resume regular exercise too quickly, it could ultimately set back your recovery. Do not return to the gym or to similarly strenuous workouts until your surgeon gives you the all-clear.
- Indulge in a hot bath. We mentioned this before, but it is worth emphasizing just how risky it is to submerge in water; baths and swimming pools can seriously increase your risk of infection, and you will want to avoid them until your surgeon says otherwise.
- Give up. Finally, just remember that there is bound to be a cycle of emotions following your tummy tuck. You may have days when you do not see the progress you had hoped for, or days when you second-guess your decision to have a tummy tuck at all. Remember to be patient, trust the process, and go easy on yourself. Once you get through the recovery period, you will be able to see your results more clearly and be proud of yourself for taking this big step toward a confident and healthy appearance.
What About Scarring?
One final issue is the incision site. For a full tummy tuck, you will usually have a horizontal incision made somewhere above the pubic hairline, but below the belly button. A skilled surgeon can keep the incision as small as possible and position it so that it can be easily camouflaged by your paints, underwear, or swimsuit. With that said, you can anticipate at least some mild scarring following the procedure; the scar will fade over the course of the first year. Following the recovery instructions can help keep the scar as small as possible.
Find Out More About Tummy Tuck Surgery
If you are looking to lose stubborn flab or saggy skin, a tummy tuck can be a good option. Before scheduling your procedure, however, it is important to gather all the information you can about the process, the recovery, and the likely outcomes. To get more information, make an appointment for a consultation with Omni Cosmetic in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.