What to Know About Tummy Tucks, According to a Plastic Surgeon

·5 min read
Hand of surgeon
Hand of surgeon

Image Source: Getty / busracavus

With more people openly talking about the beauty procedures and plastic surgery they've had - from less-invasive treatments like fillers to more-intensive surgeries like the Brazilian butt lift - the idea of asking for information has become less taboo. If you've ever wondered about tummy tucks, specifically, you've come to the right place.

"A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a procedure in which the abdominal contour is improved," plastic surgeon Smita Ramanadham, MD, tells POPSUGAR. "Essentially, the abdominal skin and fat excess is removed, and the internal abdominal muscles are tightened."

To answer some of your most pressing questions about the procedure, Dr. Ramanadham is breaking down everything you'll want to consider before getting a tummy tuck below.

What Is a Tummy Tuck?

Like Dr. Ramanadham mentioned, a tummy tuck is a plastic surgery that removes fat or excess skin around the abdominal area. They are also often folded into bigger "makeovers." "Tummy tucks oftentimes are combined with other procedures like liposuction," Dr. Ramanadham says. "If combined with a breast procedure, we refer to this as a 'mommy makeover.'"

People's reasons for getting tummy tucks vary across the board. "Oftentimes, patients may choose to have this procedure after pregnancy or weight loss as the last step in their journey to improved self-confidence," he says. "Patients feel better in their clothes and bathing suits. They have a flatter, more contoured abdomen and improved core strength."

How Much Does a Tummy Tuck Cost?

Since it is typically an elective cosmetic procedure, tummy tucks aren't covered by insurance. The cost of the procedure depends on a host of factors, like geographic location and the surgeon you see for the procedure, and Dr. Ramanadham says it can range from $6,000 to $12,000. "Other fees would apply as well and can include anesthesia or facility fees, amongst others."

What to Expect During a Tummy Tuck

Close up surgeon hands in white sterile gloves using scalpel, doing plastic surgery in operating room. Surgeon cutting patient belly with blue marks on skin. Concept of medicine and abdominoplasty.
Close up surgeon hands in white sterile gloves using scalpel, doing plastic surgery in operating room. Surgeon cutting patient belly with blue marks on skin. Concept of medicine and abdominoplasty.

Image Source: Getty / Ivan-balvan

Tummy tucks are invasive procedures done under general anesthesia and are done in a hospital or accredited surgery center, so you should expect to make the proper arrangements both before and after surgery. Before the operation, once the consultation is done and the surgeon is chosen, the doctor will review all pertinent information to properly prepare for the surgery. This is largely dependent on the procedures performed.

"Expect to see your primary-care doctor for medical-clearance letters as well as any presurgery testing such as blood work and COVID tests," Dr. Ramanadham says. "Once your surgery is scheduled, payment is due in advance, and you will have to not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery."

As for the surgery itself, expect to be in the operating room for a few hours. "The length of the procedure varies based on the amount of fat/skin removed and if combined with liposuction or other procedures," Dr. Ramanadham says. "But in general, a tummy tuck alone can range between two to four hours for the surgery."

Postoperative care will also need an intense level of detailed planning. "Some surgeons choose to keep a patient overnight in the hospital for monitoring or may require a hotel stay with a private nurse," Dr. Ramanadham says. "Regardless, recovery will be discussed in detail but can involve surgical bras, abdominal binders, or other compression garments and can also include drains. It is also important to arrange for a ride from the hospital, make arrangements for child care and work, and to have someone available to help at home, especially immediately after the procedure."

Healing Time After a Tummy Tuck

One of the biggest concerns with any major cosmetic surgery is the healing time, and tummy tucks can expect a generally longer downtime. "Typically, the first week postoperation might be relatively tough," Dr. Ramanadham says. "The majority of pain is due to the muscle tightening. Patients must be bent at the hips for the first four to seven days until their skin stretches enough so they can stand straight, which can be uncomfortable. Most surgeons also use drains that are typically removed in the office after one to two weeks depending on their output."

As for feeling "normal" again, patients start to feel like themselves after two to three weeks, but you should wait to return to full activity for four to six weeks after surgery.

Are Tummy Tucks Permanent?

While the results of tummy tucks are permanent, don't expect your results to look the same forever. "Tummy-tuck results will change with the effects of aging, pregnancies, or weight changes," Dr. Ramanadham says. Additionally, the procedure cannot be reversed; however, revisions can be made in some instances to address the appearance of scars and contour area, for example.

Potential Risks With Tummy Tucks

As with any surgery, there are potential risks that come with getting a tummy tuck. According to plasticsurgery.org, these can include, but are not limited to, bleeding, fluid accumulation, skin loss, infection, and numbness. It's important to be aware of the potential issues that may stem from this extremely invasive surgery and to have a plan in place with your doctor on how to address any potential side effects should they arise.

How to Find the Right Doctor

One of the the most important factors to consider when it comes to this procedure is your surgeon. Taking the time to research the best doctors to suit your needs is key: "The only qualified doctors to perform these procedures safely is a board-certified plastic surgeon by the American Board of Plastic Surgery," Dr. Ramanadham says. "This is the only board that is valid. A cosmetic surgeon or other cosmetic-surgery boards do not maintain the same quality and safety standards, training, or education and are not qualified doctors for this procedure, so always make sure that any potential doctor being considered meets this criteria."

To narrow down your search, visit websites like plasticsurgery.org, which is the official website of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, or surgery.org, which is the official website of the Aesthetic Society. The members of these societies are all board-certified plastic surgeons, and information contained on these websites comes straight from them.