Tummy Tuck

What Is a Tummy Tuck?

A tummy tuck (otherwise known as an abdominoplasty) is designed to remove excess skin and fatty tissue from the abdomen. When the underlying abdominal muscles are stretched or torn, a tummy tuck can also tighten and repair these tissues. Our board-certified plastic surgeons, Dr. Neil J. Zemmel and Dr. Karishma Reddy, can use tummy tuck surgery to target all three layers of the outer abdominal wall and can create a flatter, more toned, athletic-looking silhouette.

Being a petite build woman and having gone through 2 successful pregnancies, one of which was twins, I was unhappy with my midsection. I chose to have an abdominoplasty done. After going to 3 local surgeons for consultations, I was most impressed by the professionalism of Dr. Zemmel and his staff. They are extremely committed to helping you feel confident about yourself and working with you every step of the way in order to achieve the realistic look you are striving for. Not only is Dr. Zemmel honest but he is also trustworthy! The surgery along with the recovery was not as terrible as I had planned it to be. You will definitely need help for the first week or two, which the office prepares you with all of this information during your pre-op visit. Any questions or concerns that you have, even up to the day of the surgery they are right there with you, every step of the way. If I was asked now, being 4 months post op, would I change anything or have done anything differently. I would have to say ‘no.’ If anything, I would not be as nervous as I rightfully was going into the surgery, had I known how supportive and helpful Dr. Zemmel and the wonderful ladies in his office are!

Devyn O

August 26, 2013


Who Is a Candidate for Tummy Tuck Surgery?

Tummy tuck surgery can benefit men and women who are at or near their ideal weight but have excess abdominal skin that prevents them from attaining their ideal figure. Some tummy tuck candidates have undergone massive weight loss and have a significant amount of lax skin remaining. Patients who wish to eliminate areas of excess fat as well as excess skin can combine a tummy tuck with liposuction to maximize the impact of their procedure. Mothers often choose to undergo a tummy tuck to repair the muscles stretched or torn during pregnancy, reduce the visibility of stretch marks, and regain their pre-pregnancy figure. The best way to determine your candidacy for tummy tuck surgery is to schedule a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon.

A tummy tuck can also be performed as part of a more comprehensive mommy makeover.

How Is the Tummy Tuck Procedure Performed?

A tummy tuck (full abdominoplasty) can effectively address overhanging abdominal skin and protrusion due to lax musculature. By tightening the abdominal muscles, your plastic surgeon can create a firmer abdominal wall and a narrower waistline. Since all excess skin and fatty tissue is removed, the stomach can also appear flatter and smoother.

The tummy tuck procedure begins with an incision along the abdominal wall. This incision is typically placed as low as possible, just above the pubic area, and can be easily concealed beneath underwear or a bikini bottom. Once the skin is lifted from the abdomen, your plastic surgeon can tighten the underlying musculature (the rectus abdominis muscles) and repair any tears. The skin and fatty tissue are then pulled taut across the abdomen and any excess tissue is removed. Stretch marks or C-section scars can often be excised in the process. Finally, the navel (umbilicus) is repositioned to its proper height and can be tailored to achieve the most natural appearance. Tummy tuck surgery usually takes 2-3 hours to complete, depending upon the patient’s unique needs.

What Is a Mini Tummy Tuck?

Some men and women may not need a full abdominoplasty to achieve their goals. A mini tummy tuck targets just the area of the lower abdomen below the navel, but can still achieve a flatter, more toned silhouette. During the consultation process, your plastic surgeon will perform a physical examination, thoroughly discuss your expectations for the procedure, and help you decide if a mini tummy tuck is right for you.

A mini tummy tuck begins with a small incision low on the abdominal wall. This incision is often shorter than full tummy tuck surgery and can be easily concealed with underwear or a bikini bottom. Only the abdominal muscles below the navel can be tightened during a mini tummy tuck, and a smaller amount of excess skin and fatty tissue can be removed compared to a full tummy tuck. Some stretch marks and any prior C-section scars can still be eliminated. During mini tummy tuck surgery, the navel remains in the same position. This procedure typically takes 1-2 hours to complete.

What Is Tummy Tuck Recovery Like?

Immediately following the tummy tuck procedure, patients can expect mild swelling, soreness, and bruising. These side effects should subside in a few days, and any discomfort can be easily managed with oral pain medication. Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy typically perform tummy tuck surgery as an in-patient procedure, allowing our highly trained staff to ensure your safety and make you comfortable during your first night. Your surgeon will visit you again in the morning before you are discharged.

When moving around during the first few days after tummy tuck surgery, soreness and stiffness is common. However, moving around the house when you feel comfortable enough to do so can reduce the risk of blood clots. Drainage tubes are usually removed after 5-7 days during a follow-up appointment with your surgeon. At that time, you may choose to return to work, although some patients choose to wait longer. It takes some patients several weeks to feel “like themselves” again after surgery.

Patients are encouraged to resume light exercise after 2-3 weeks. Strenuous activity, vigorous exercise, and lifting heavy objects (as well as small children) should be avoided for 4-6 weeks. Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy recommend wearing a compression garment 3-4 weeks after your procedure to help facilitate the healing process. After six weeks, your body will have mostly recovered and you can see the results of your tummy tuck. However, as residual swelling resolves and your body completely recovers, you may continue to notice improvements for the next 6-12 months. Scarring will also continue to fade over the course of the first year, though this mark can be easily concealed with underwear or bikini bottoms.

Tummy Tuck Before & After Photos

Visit our patient gallery to browse tummy tuck before and after photos. These pictures demonstrate the potential of the contouring procedure, helping you understand the type of results our surgeons can help you achieve.

How Much Does Tummy Tuck Surgery Cost?

The average cost of tummy tuck surgery in Richmond ranges between $10,000-$15,000, which includes the surgeon’s fees, operating room and facilities charges, anesthesia fees, post operative compression garments, and routine postoperative visits. Each tummy tuck procedure is customized based upon the unique needs of the patient and, as a result, there is no fixed cost. Variables that may influence the price of a tummy tuck can include the volume of excess skin, if there is abdominal muscle damage, and which type of tummy tuck (full or mini) is performed. Additional procedures, such as the removal of excess fat with liposuction, will also add to the total cost. When comparing the cost of tummy tuck surgery among different practitioners, Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy remind patients that the experience of the plastic surgeon as well as the geographic location of the practice are often factored into the price. With our plastic surgery financing options, patients at Richmond Aesthetic Surgery can take advantage of low monthly payment plans with little to no interest. To learn more about the opportunities available with our third-party lenders, please contact a member of our staff.

Is Tummy Tuck Surgery Covered by Insurance?

Tummy tuck surgery is typically categorized as a cosmetic procedure and, as such, is not usually covered by health insurance. In some cases, however, patients may be eligible for coverage if they are experiencing a medical concern as a result of their excess tissue. This includes functional issues caused by the fatty layer covering the lower abdomen (abdominal panniculus). Patients seeking tummy tuck surgery for this concern often need pre-authorization prior to surgery.

Will I Have Tummy Tuck Scars?

As with any surgery, some scarring will remain after the healing process is complete. However, Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy use the latest surgical techniques and technology to minimize the prominence of scarring. During the consultation process, the exact placement of the incision for your custom-tailored treatment plan will be thoroughly discussed. The tummy tuck incision is typically placed very low between the hips, just above the pubic area. This placement allows a bikini bottom or underwear to easily cover the scar. Although the scar may appear pink or raised immediately after surgery, the prominence of the tummy tuck scar should fade over time into a thin, flat, white line.

Are there Risks to Tummy Tuck Surgery?

All surgery comes with some degree of risk, which is why seeking a board-certified plastic surgeon for your tummy tuck is essential for your safety. Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy make patient safety their top priority, and they will not recommend tummy tuck surgery unless it is the best option for you. If you are a good candidate, they will provide an in-depth look at the pros and cons of abdominoplasty. This includes all the possible risks you should be informed about, such as infection, bleeding, seroma, changes in skin sensation, swelling, scarring, and pain. Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy will ensure you are aware of your risks prior to your surgery.

What Happens if I Become Pregnant After Tummy Tuck Surgery?

If a woman becomes pregnant after undergoing tummy tuck surgery, there should be no safety risks for either the mother or the child. However, pregnancy is likely to compromise the results of the tummy tuck. During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles can become stretched or re-torn and may not revert back to their original state after childbirth. Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy recommend planning your tummy tuck after you have completed your family to best maintain your results. If you do have a pregnancy after your procedure and would like to restore your initial results, a second tummy tuck may be performed.

Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction for Abdominal Contouring

Liposuction is an extremely versatile procedure designed to remove isolated pockets of excess fat. Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy can use liposuction to target the abdominal area, and the resulting scars should be smaller compared to a tummy tuck. Abdominal liposuction may be ideal for patients who want a flatter stomach and whose primary concern is stubborn fat that has proven resistant to diet and exercise.

Tummy tuck is designed to address excess skin at the abdomen and waist as well as loose or torn abdominal muscles. For patients who have a protruding stomach as a result of stretched or torn underlying musculature, liposuction will not achieve the desired results. Women who have had one or more pregnancies and patients who have lost a significant amount of weight often greatly benefit from the muscle tightening aspect of the tummy tuck procedure. In addition, any excess skin can be removed during the procedure for a smoother, more toned appearance.

For patients who struggle with excess fat as well as excess skin or damaged musculature, your surgeon may recommend combining the two procedures for a more comprehensive body rejuvenation.

Are There Alternatives to Tummy Tuck Surgery?

A tummy tuck is the most effective way of removing excess or lax tissue in the abdomen, which often includes liposuction to eliminate isolated pockets of fat. Although patients can often achieve the most significant contouring in their midsection by undergoing a tummy tuck (with or without liposuction), some individuals may see improvement with the non-surgical CoolSculpting® procedure. CoolSculpting does not address excess skin and cannot correct stretched or torn abdominal muscles; however, it can help reduce fatty tissue that has not responded to diet and exercise.

During your consultation with Dr. Zemmel or Dr. Reddy, they will recommend the most appropriate solution that can help you achieve your aesthetic goals. Although CoolSculpting cannot provide the degree of fat reduction possible with liposuction, it can provide satisfactory contouring results for the right candidates.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions About Tummy Tuck Surgery

How Much Weight Can I Lose with a Tummy Tuck?

It is important to note that tummy tuck surgery is not a weight loss solution. The procedure is designed to remove excess skin and repair stretched abdominal muscles, which may also involve liposuction for contouring isolated fat deposits.

Will I Need to Wear Compression Garments After My Tummy Tuck?

You will need to wear a compression garment after your tummy tuck to help reduce swelling and prevent fluid buildup. This garment should have a snug fit but not interfere with breathing or cause pain. You will need to wear your compression garment at all times for the first two weeks, except when showering. After that, you should wear it at least half the time. Although you may still have residual swelling after 4 weeks, you may be able to stop wearing your compression garment by this point. More details about your compression garment use will be explained to you during your consultation and at your follow-up appointments.

Does the Tummy Tuck Belt Work?

There is no scientific evidence that products like the tummy tuck belt or other slimming garments work to reduce the size of one’s abdomen long-term. These “weight loss” products may create the illusion of a slimmer appearance, but they have not been proven to permanently contour one’s tummy. If you want to achieve a tighter abdomen, you may want to improve your fitness or consider a skin-tightening procedure, such as tummy tuck surgery or CoolSculpting®. Those with a significant amount of excess fat tissue in the abdomen may be more appropriate for liposuction surgery.

How Long Does Swelling Last After Tummy Tuck Surgery?

The majority of swelling after tummy tuck surgery lasts about 4 weeks. At that point, your swelling should go down significantly and you may begin to see how your final results will look. To help control swelling, you will need to wear a compression garment, which helps facilitate healing. Keep in mind that swelling may take up to a year to completely subside.

How Soon Can I Exercise After My Tummy Tuck?

Patients can typically return to light activities after two to three weeks. You may be able to resume more strenuous exercise once you reach the four-week mark, though lifting objects over 5 pounds should still be avoided. How soon a patient is able to return to working out will be determined on a case by case basis, depending on the extent of their surgery and rate of healing. While you may be anxious to return to exercising, you should take care not to over-exert yourself, as this can lead to complications with your recovery. After six to eight weeks from your surgery, you should be able to resume all physical exercise, including strength training.

How Long Will My Tummy Tuck Results Last?

With the proper maintenance, tummy tuck results can last for decades. If you become pregnant or experience significant weight gain in the future, this can affect your results and may cause the need for a secondary tummy tuck procedure. This is why Dr. Zemmel and Dr. Reddy advise patients wait to undergo tummy tuck surgery until after they have completed their family and once they are near their goal weight. For long-lasting results, tummy tuck patients should follow a healthy diet and exercise regimen.

Should I Get a Tummy Tuck Before or After Liposuction?

The order in which you schedule your tummy tuck and liposuction will depend on your individual needs, the status of your overall health, and the state of the areas you wish to target. There are cases where patients may have a simultaneous liposuction and tummy tuck procedure. However, due to the expected bleeding and trauma from these procedures, a simultaneous operation will only be recommended if there is a limited amount of fat cells being removed during the liposuction.

If you are a patient who needs to have each procedure scheduled separately, our team will work with you to figure out what will be best for you during your preoperative consultation.

What Will My Belly Button Look Like After Tummy Tuck Surgery?

Our plastic surgeons will be well aware of your post-surgery goals and will keep in mind that you want to have a seamless transition to normal life following your procedure. Having said that, our plastic surgeons attempt to make your body as natural looking as possible following tummy tuck surgery, including your belly button.

In most cases, the belly button will be avoided and will not be adjusted at all as the incisions will be made around it. In other cases, however, your belly button may need to be repositioned due to the extent of your procedure. The moving of the belly button is only called for if it will benefit the natural look of your abdomen

Will a Tummy Tuck Get Rid of My Pregnancy Stretch Marks?

Our tummy tuck procedure, much like abdominoplasty at other practices, is not designed to get rid of stretch marks. However, because some excess skin will be removed during the treatment, any stretch marks that existed in the targeted area before surgery will likely be removed for good. It should be noted, though, that a tummy tuck should not be expected to remove stretch marks and is instead designed to make your abdomen look slimmer and more toned.

How Should I Sleep After Tummy Tuck Surgery?

Sleeping is an essential part of achieving your desired tummy tuck results. Much of the healing process will take place when you are actually asleep. That said, the position in which you sleep is important, as it will help you heal properly and minimize complications.

During your recovery, you will be instructed to sleep on your back while maintaining a bent body shape, as this ensures your abdomen is not stretched any more than it needs to be. This shape will protect the results of your tummy tuck. In order to keep this bent shape when you sleep on your back, you may opt to use pillows to slightly prop yourself up. We recommend that you begin sleeping on your back in the lead up to your surgery so that when the time comes you will feel comfortable in that position.

Contact Richmond Aesthetic Surgery

For more information about tummy tuck or mini tummy tuck surgery, please schedule a consultation at Richmond Aesthetic Surgery today.