If you've always hated your belly pooch or that extra layer of stretched-out skin you ended up with after childbirth or dramatic weight loss, and you've tried everything to get a flatter tummy, but nothing seems to work — you're certainly not alone. When diet and exercise alone don't seem to do the trick, some women turn to plastic surgery procedures to help them drop two to three dress sizes — and get that desirable toned tummy. These days, innovations in technology has made these 'tummy tucks' less invasive and so shortened recovery times. And, while still pricey, tummy tucks — and their little sisters 'mini' tummy tucks — cost much less than they once did. Once you see the results in mini tummy tuck before and after photos, you may decide to take the plunge too.
What is a tummy tuck?
An abdominoplasty — also known as a tummy tuck — is a procedure to remove excess skin and tissue from the abdomen to create a smoother, firmer appearance, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Nearly 140,000 women go under the knife for a tummy tuck each year in the U.S. alone, making it the sixth most common cosmetic surgery — despite its relatively high risk of complications. The ASPS says the majority of patients are over the age of 42.
“In a tummy tuck, the entire abdominal skin is elevated up to the lowest rib, and then it is pulled down like a window shade and a new opening is made for the belly button. It also tightens the abdominal muscles like a corset," explains Constance M. Chen, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City. "This is why a tummy tuck can help the patient appear thinner because the abdominal skin is stretched out with the excess skin and fat removed, and the abdominal muscles are tightened.”
A study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery showed that 4% of tummy tuck patients suffered significant complications — especially when combined with another procedure. That said, many women are now turning to a slightly less risky version of the surgery known as the mini tummy tuck.
What is a mini tummy tuck?
While a full tummy tuck is done on a larger area of the stomach, the mini tummy tuck is only performed on the lower abdomen. "Standard tummy tucks require incisions that span from hip to hip and the creation of a new belly button. The mini tummy tuck offers a shorter, easy-to-conceal scar and the original belly button is unchanged," explains M. Mark Mofid, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon in San Diego and Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Tummy tuck vs mini tummy tuck
As far as costs go, a full or a mini tummy tuck cost roughly the same — around $4,000-$8,000. The biggest difference between the a tummy tuck and a mini tummy tuck? Not everyone is a candidate for the mini tummy tuck.
This TikTok from @greerplastics explains the simple differences between the two surgeries
Who is the best candidate for a mini tummy tuck?
Women who are in good physical health, done having children and have minimal to moderate excess skin, with a small amount of excess belly fat, are usually the best candidates for a mini tummy tuck, doctors say.
"The ideal candidate for a mini tummy tuck is a patient whose concern is only excess skin below the belly button and requires little to no muscle tightening. Mini tummy tucks are most effective for people within their recommended weight range but may have a small 'pooch' due to pregnancy or weight fluctuation — and the area won't tighten with exercise or diet," explains Dr. Mofid.
Doctors warn that if you're looking for weight loss or have a significant amount of excess skin or belly fat, a mini tummy tuck may not be the right procedure for you. "When patients come into the office asking about a mini tummy tuck, I review their anatomy and goals," says Lyle Leipziger, MD, chief of plastic surgery at North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center in New York. "It is often determined that many of these patients actually require a full tummy tuck in order to achieve their ideal result. It's essential to understand that a mini tummy tuck isn't a 'quick fix' for a patient needing a full tummy tuck,"
"Patients with muscle separation from pregnancy, lax abdominal wall muscles and excess skin and fat above the belly button are not candidates for a mini tummy tuck," adds Dr. Leipziger.
What are the risks of a mini tummy tuck?
As with any invasive plastic surgery procedure, although less risky than full tummy tucks, mini ones still carry risks. "The risks of this surgery include but are not limited to infection, bleeding, an unsatisfactory cosmetic result, skin necrosis, wound opening and deep vein thrombosis," warns Alexander Zuriarrain, MD, quadruple board-certified plastic surgeon with Zuri Plastic Surgery.
It also takes several months to see the results with a mini tummy tuck as the area will be swollen, and a full recovery can take several weeks or more. In most cases, you can resume light activities in two weeks. However, you'll need to avoid strenuous activities for at least six weeks to allow your body to heal. Your doctor will also require you to wear a compression garment around your abdomen for three to six weeks following the procedure.
Also, there's scarring to consider. The scar for a mini tummy tuck entails a horizontal incision line across the lower abdomen, just above the pubic area and below the belt line. It is usually around 6 inches long, though the length will vary depending on how much excess skin is removed. The good news is it can easily be hidden, even when wearing a swimsuit.
If you're considering a cosmetic procedure like this, discuss all risks with a board-certified plastic surgeon to determine if you're a good candidate.
How long do the results of a mini tummy tuck last?
While the appearance of a flat tummy from a mini tummy tuck could last a lifetime, if you stretch the area with another pregnancy or gain weight, it can diminish the results.
Are there any alternatives to a mini tummy tuck?
If you're looking to fight the battle of the bulge but don't want to go under the knife, a non-invasive procedure like CoolSculpting or TruBody fat-burning treatments can help target stubborn areas like love handles. These treatments, however, penetrate deep into the fat layer and generally won't help if you have an excess amount of loose skin.
Mini tummy tuck before and afters
1. This TikTok from @lulusbeaute shows the results 6 weeks post surgery
3. This TikTok from drIranihamd shows the results of a patient's mini tummy tuck
4. This TikTok shows @patrycjastrzelec3 after a mini tummy tuck and breast augmentation
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