Following pregnancy and weight loss, the youthful contours of the abdomen can be lost to muscle laxity and skin excess. Despite your best efforts in the gym, the concave, tight abdomen of youth is replaced by a more unflattering shape with loose, hanging skin sometimes called a “muffin top.” An abdominoplasty, also known as a tummy tuck, can restore those youthful contours and give you back that flat, toned look with a refined waistline and a renewed self-confidence to pursue your active lifestyle.
A tummy tuck is a plastic surgical procedure that addresses both skin laxity and muscle separation of the abdominal wall. Excess fat in the abdomen is also commonly treated during a tummy tuck. The most common setting in which loose skin and muscle separation occur is following pregnancy or weight loss. The muscle separation that occurs following pregnancy is known as “diastasis recti,” and it is often incorrectly considered a hernia. Some patients also have a true abdominal wall hernia that can be repaired at the time of abdominoplasty. Many patients note a fatty or hanging mons (pubic area) that can also be improved as part of a tummy tuck procedure.
How is The Aesthetic Center of Connecticut different?
- Body contouring is about shape, and plastic surgeons are the physicians who are most experienced and qualified in this area. Dr. O’Connell has over 35 years of hands-on experience in body contouring, and abdominoplasty is one of the surgical procedures that he specializes in.
- In most cases, Dr. O’Connell performs an advanced technique of abdominoplasty that does not require drains or permanent sutures.
- Dr. O’Connell is the originator of the BAND-Abdominoplasty, which stands for the hallmarks of his technique, “Bidirectional, Absorbable, No Drain.” His technique includes repair of the muscle diastasis utilizing bidirectional Quill™ sutures, which are also used to close the skin. In order to reduce the risk of long-term infection, only absorbable sutures are used and no permanent suture material is utilized in most cases. Finally, whenever possible, Dr. O’Connell performs a drainless tummy tuck, or “no-drain abdominoplasty,” with an advanced technique utilizing progressive tension sutures.
Tummy Tuck Candidates
Good candidates for abdominoplasty should be in good overall health. Tummy tucks produce permanent scarring, and prospective patients should be aware of the locations of these scars and the fact that no guarantee can be provided as to the appearance of the scars. While we understand that weight loss can sometimes be extremely difficult, it is best to be at or near your goal weight prior to abdominal contouring. Abdominoplasty may be an option if you have:
- Diastasis recti: a separation of the rectus abdominus muscles that can result from pregnancy or the aging process
- An unattractive C-section scar with excess skin
- A loosened, fatty, unattractive, or hanging mons (pubic area)
A Dissatisfying Midsection
- Loose, wrinkled, or hanging skin of the abdomen. This can be unsightly and can even create problems with hygiene
- Scarring of the abdomen that you wish to reduce
- Fatty excess of the abdominal wall in combination with the above
Types of Tummy Tucks
The various types of abdominoplasties are categorized by the amount of skin that is removed, the location of the scars, the extent of undermining performed during the procedure, and whether liposuction is concomitantly performed. Some common types of abdominoplasties are:
Skin is removed from the umbilicus (belly button) to the pubic area with repair of muscle separation (diastasis recti) sometimes accompanied by fat removal via liposuction. Scarring is usually in the bikini line area (“hip-to-hip”) and around the umbilicus.
Skin is removed from the pubic region upward but stops well short of the umbilicus. Muscle repair and liposuction are commonly performed. Scarring in the suprapubic or bikini area is shorter than in full abdominoplasty, and there is usually no scar around the umbilicus.
Skin is removed in a limited area just above the pubic area and is usually not accompanied by muscle repair. Scarring is limited to a small region of the suprapubic area, resembling an extended C-section scar. This can be an excellent alternative for women with a slight amount of overhang just above their C-section scar.
A type of full abdominoplasty where more limited undermining is performed and replaced with more extensive liposuction.
Your Tummy Tuck Consultation
As with all plastic surgical procedures, safety is paramount. During your confidential consultation, Dr. O’Connell will carefully review your medical history including allergies, medication and tobacco use, and, especially, any excessive tendency for clotting. Because pregnancy and weight loss can affect each prospective abdominoplasty patient differently, Dr. O’Connell will carefully evaluate the relative contributions of skin excess, muscle separation (diastasis recti), and fatty excess to help you determine which procedures might provide the best aesthetic results for you.
You will have an opportunity to view explanatory videos and interactive diagrams on TouchMD® as well as photographs of prior tummy tuck patients to help you understand your anatomy and the effects of pregnancy, weight loss, and the aging process and also to understand your aesthetic goals. The various options for abdominal contouring, both surgical and non-surgical, will be reviewed along with their risks, costs, and potential benefits, and you will have ample opportunity to have all your questions answered. Finally, you will be provided with written materials to help you understand the options for abdominal wall contouring—you can even review your consultation at home with TouchMD.
Following abdominoplasty, you will rest in the “beach chair” position but are encouraged to ambulate immediately after surgery. Our patients initially wear an abdominal binder with padding. You will be provided with pain medication and medications to prevent nausea and vomiting as well as detailed written instructions. Most patients are allowed to shower at 48 hours.
Most patients are able to drive in about 7 days and can return to sedentary work in about 10 days. For many years, Dr. O’Connell has allowed his patients to resume gym workouts at 21 days following surgery (provided that no true hernias were repaired during the procedure). Dr. O’Connell will see you several times during the postoperative period to ensure that healing is progressing normally, to review your care, and to address any questions or concerns that you might have.
The scarring from abdominoplasty surgery is designed to be hidden as much as possible by a swimsuit or undergarment. There is often a scar adjacent to the belly button that remains visible in two-piece swimwear.
According to recent statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a tummy tuck is $5,493. It is important to understand that the cost of tummy tuck surgery can vary widely and the average fee noted above does not include facility and anesthesia costs or other related expenses such as medications, garments, and medical tests. Because most full and modified abdominoplasties are performed under general anesthesia in hospitals or other licensed outpatient facilities, the facility and anesthesia costs can easily account for 50 percent or more of the total cost.
While most health insurance plans do not cover tummy tuck surgery, Dr. O’Connell offers patient financing through CareCredit.
At The Aesthetic Center, most mini abdominoplasties are performed under local anesthesia, and costs are substantially lower.
All medical and surgical procedures carry risks and potential complications, and the final decision whether to proceed with surgery is a personal one based upon your evaluation of the risks and potential benefits of abdominoplasty.
Some risks of tummy tuck surgery include:
Bleeding, infection, and difficulty with wound healing
Seroma: an accumulation of fluid beneath the abdominal skin
Venous thromboembolism (VTE): e.g., blood clots that can travel to the lungs
Malposition of the belly button
Because of the added risk of VTE associated with abdominoplasty, at The Aesthetic Center, all patients are risk stratified with a Caprini score in order to help determine appropriate risk reduction measures.
Before & After Photos
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the tummy tuck procedure steps?
In most cases, Dr. O’Connell performs abdominoplasties under general anesthesia and patients return home the day of surgery. Most commonly, a full abdominoplasty is performed. At The Aesthetic Center, mini abdominoplasties are usually performed under local anesthesia, again as an ambulatory, outpatient procedure.
Most full abdominoplasties, including Dr. O’Connell’s BAND-Abdominoplasty, utilize a gently curved incision in the bikini area to obtain access to the lower abdominal wall. The umbilicus is also encircled with a separate incision. The separation of the rectus muscles is visualized and securely repaired. The excess skin and fat in the area below the umbilicus is removed, and progressive tension sutures are placed to eliminate the need for drains. In some cases, the mons is secured in a higher, more aesthetic location prior to closing the incision in layers. While the umbilicus is the same belly button you started with, it now has a scar around its periphery, and sometimes the belly button is shortened or modified to make it more attractive.
Liposuction can be performed as part of the procedure, and any true hernia of the upper abdominal wall can usually be repaired at the time of abdominoplasty.
Are there any tummy tuck alternatives for me?
For some patients considering abdominal contouring, the recovery time, risks, scarring, and costs can remove abdominoplasty from consideration, at least temporarily. This does not, however, necessarily mean that abdominal contour cannot be improved.
For patients who do not wish for abdominoplasty or who are not candidates for abdominoplasty, The Aesthetic Center offers the following alternatives:
Different types of abdominoplasties including modified abdominoplasty and mini abdominoplasty
Liposuction: a procedure also known as suction lipectomy, or lipoplasty, in which fat is removed from an area of the body by suction through small incisions
CoolSculpting®: a non-invasive technique to remove fat without need for needles, incisions, lasers, or anesthesia with essentially no recovery time
ThermiTight®: radiofrequency-based skin tightening with minimal recovery time
IntraGen™: A non-invasive GRID fractional radiofrequency-based procedure that smoothes and tightens skin
Each of these procedures presents its own unique set of potential benefits, costs, and risks. The last four can be performed independently of abdominoplasty. It is important to note, however, that for patients who are best served by abdominoplasty, the above referenced procedures involve compromises and modification of the aesthetic goals.
What is a reverse abdominoplasty?
A reverse abdominoplasty is an uncommonly utilized technique where skin excess is pushed upward and the resulting scarring is placed under the breast area.
What are some key tummy tuck words I should know?
Abdominoplasty: a surgical procedure to correct skin and fat excess and muscle laxity of the abdominal wall, also known as a tummy tuck
Diastasis recti: separation of the rectus muscles of the abdominal wall
Drains: tubes that remove blood and serum following surgery. Whenever possible, by performing a drainless tummy tuck (or no-drain tummy tuck), Dr. O’Connell avoids the use of drains during abdominoplasty
Mons: the area of the genitalia where the pubic hair is located
Can liposuction be combined with abdominoplasty?
Liposuction is commonly used during abdominoplasty surgery to help refine aesthetic results.
Can I go home after my abdominoplasty?
In most instances in our practice, abdominoplasty is performed as an outpatient procedure, with our patients returning to their homes on the day of surgery.
Are there drains with abdominoplasty?
Dr. O’Connell performs drainless abdominoplasty utilizing a special technique known as progressive tension suturing without the use of drains.
How do I prepare for a tummy tuck?
As part of the preoperative process, you may be asked to:
Obtain blood work to evaluate your blood counts and clotting system
Stop taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamins, supplements, and other medications that can increase the risk of bleeding
In some cases, you will be asked to obtain a medical evaluation from your primary care physician
In most cases, abdominoplasty is an outpatient procedure, and you must have a responsible adult drive you home from your surgery and stay with you for at least the first 24 hours