What to Expect Before, During, and After Tummy Tuck Surgery

Published: December 4, 2023
Category: Dr. Christine Stewart, Tummy Tuck, Blog

Have you lost a significant amount of weight or gone through a pregnancy that has left you with sagging, loose skin on your abdomen? If so, you’ve probably discovered that no amount of dieting or exercise improves the appearance of this excess skin. In most cases, surgical intervention is required to reclaim a flatter, smoother stomach and more contoured waistline. Abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, is an extremely popular plastic surgery that removes excess skin and fat from your abdomen and can even tighten separated or lax abdominal muscles. Here’s what to expect before, during, and after a tummy tuck at Edina Plastic Surgery.

What to Expect Before Tummy Tuck Surgery

Before pursuing abdominoplasty, you must understand the procedure and what it can accomplish to decide if it is right for you. Here are some essential first steps to consider before scheduling a tummy tuck.

#1 – What is a Tummy Tuck?

“A tummy tuck is a surgery designed to tighten the abdominal muscles and remove excess skin and fat from the abdomen,” explains Dr. Christine Stewart, a board-certified plastic surgeon and partner at Edina Plastic Surgery. “It utilizes precise incisions and skin redraping techniques to restore a taut, more youthful-looking appearance to your stomach. Different tummy tucks are available, depending on what is most appropriate for the patient and their aesthetic goals, including mini, standard, and extended abdominoplasty.”

#2 – Who is the Best Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?

“The ideal tummy tuck candidate is someone who has experienced a significant weight loss or pregnancy that has resulted in loose, hanging skin on the abdomen and has possibly stretched or separated the abdominal muscles,” says Dr. Stewart. “You must also be in good health, at or near your goal weight before surgery, and have maintained that weight for several months to ensure a successful outcome.”

#3 – How to Prepare for Tummy Tuck Surgery

“You’ll want to be at or near your ideal weight and as healthy as possible before your tummy tuck,” advised Dr. Stewart. “That includes quitting smoking or vaping for at least 6-8 weeks before surgery, eating a healthy diet high in protein to help support your recovery, dialing in your sleep and stress to reduce inflammation in your body, and organizing a support system of people who will help you after surgery. You’ll also need to get your home environment in order and prepared for your recovery and plan to be off work for at least a week, or two, to rest and heal.”

What to Expect During Tummy Tuck Surgery

Abdominoplasty is conducted under general anesthesia at Edina Plastic Surgery. It typically takes 2.5-5 hours to perform, depending on the type of tummy tuck and whether other procedures are added to the same surgery. Here’s what happens during a tummy tuck surgery.

#1 – Anesthesia is administered

“Once you have arrived for surgery, you will meet with your plastic surgeon, and they will map out their plan for surgery on your abdomen with markers,” explains Dr. Stewart. “You will then be given general anesthesia to ensure that you are asleep and do not experience any pain during your procedure.”

#2 – Tummy tuck incisions are made

“Once you are asleep in the operating room, your plastic surgeon will make your tummy tuck incision within your bikini line,” says Dr. Stewart. “This may range from a short horizontal incision above the pubic bone and between the hip bones for a mini tuck, all the way to an extended tummy tuck with an incision that runs from hip bone to hip bone, sometimes beyond. The exact shape and length of this incision will depend on the level of correction required to achieve your desired improvements.”

#3 – Muscle repair is performed (if needed)

“After your tummy tuck incision is made, skin and fat will be lifted to view your abdominal muscles and allow for repair,” explains Dr. Stewart. “Weakened or separated abdominal muscles will be sutured together, if necessary.”

#4 – Excess skin and fat is removed, and the belly button is repositioned

“After performing any repairs and tightening your abdominal muscles, your plastic surgeon will remove any excess skin and fat from your abdominal area by excision,” says Dr. Stewart. “Liposuction may also be used for additional fat removal and contouring. Elevating the skin in a tunnel over your six-pack muscles until the xiphoid process (or where your rib cage comes together) allows your surgeon to address excess skin and fat of the upper abdomen as well, and redrape these tissues. The belly button will then be repositioned, and incisions closed using sutures. Small, temporary drains may be placed to help your body eliminate excess fluid that develops in the surgical site.”

#5 – Incisions are Closed

After all repairs and changes have been made, your surgeon will close your incision(s) with sutures and bandage and dress the site. Compression garments may also be given at this time, as well as circulation boots to be worn for a few days after surgery to prevent blood clotting.

#6 – Recovery room

When your surgery is complete, you’ll be taken to the Recovery area, where the Edina Plastic Surgery Perioperative Team will monitor you as you wake up from anesthesia. You can return home the same day as your surgery but will need a ride from our clinic and an adult with you for at least the first 24 hours after surgery.

What to Expect After Tummy Tuck Surgery

“The recovery from tummy tuck surgery can take several weeks and will vary depending on if muscles needed to be repaired during your surgery and whether other procedures were performed with your abdominoplasty,” explains Dr. Stewart. “You should also anticipate taking one to two weeks off of work and that you will have lifting restrictions for about six weeks after surgery.”

Here is a general timeline of what to expect in the weeks following your tummy tuck surgery.

Week 1 – You will experience the most pain and discomfort the week following your surgery. This will be managed with pain medication and rest. You may have drains after surgery that will help promote healing and reduce swelling. You’ll also wear a compression garment for 4-6 weeks. Your surgeon may also require that you wear special circulation boots to prevent blood clots during this time. Although light walking will also be encouraged to promote circulation, rest is the priority for the first week after surgery. Plan not to lift anything over 5 lbs during this time to avoid straining your abdominal muscles and incision. You will also meet with your surgeon for your first post-op appointment this week.

Week 2 & 3 – Most patients feel significantly better after their tummy tuck by week two. Swelling and bruising will continue to subside. Compression garments should still be worn. Some patients feel good enough to return to work this week as long as no lifting is required at their job. Many also return to light activities around the home, such as cooking and very light cleaning duties.

Week 4 & 5 – Most patients resume their usual daily activities by week four to five, minus any heavy lifting or strenuous activity on the job, at home, or in the gym. Continue to follow your surgeon’s post-care instructions.

Week 6 – Subject to your surgeon’s approval, you should be able to return to all normal activities at this time, including more strenuous activities like weight lifting and running.

Your Tummy Tuck Results

The full results of your tummy tuck may take 6 months to a year to appreciate as swelling subsides and incisions heal.

“Tummy tuck patients can expect to see a significant reduction in the amount of excess skin and tissue, especially of the lower abdomen and waist,” says Dr. Stewart. “The body’s contours will be more balanced, and the stomach area will appear flatter and tighter. While scars are permanent, they do fade with time. Most patients see significant scar fading within a year of having their surgery. Virtually all patients deem these scars well worth the results of their surgery!

Schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss tummy tuck surgery with Dr. Christine Stewart or another board-certified plastic surgeon at Edina Plastic Surgery by calling (612) 688-3135, texting (952) 925-1765, or CLICKING HERE!

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