The tummy tuck (also known as abdominoplasty) is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures performed in the United States. It is ideal for patients who have excess skin and tissue in the abdominal area. A tummy tuck also addresses the separated abdominal wall muscles (diastasis recti) that can occur after weight fluctuations and pregnancy.
If you are considering a tummy tuck, along with reviewing the benefits of the procedure and the expected recovery time with your surgeon, it will be important to understand the incision scar that will remain after surgery.
Types of tummy tuck incisions
Incisions for a tummy tuck most commonly extend from hip bone to hip bone as well as a small incision around the belly button. This allows your surgeon to remove all the tissue below and just above the belly button. Any stretch marks in that area will be removed as well. The belly button is brought out through a new opening but stays in its original place on the abdominal wall. If liposuction is part of your procedure, these additional incisions are very small and generally made in an area of tissue to be removed.
The mini tummy tuck is best for those who have minimal excess skin or roundness that is limited to the area just below the belly button. This can be done with a shorter incision - often the same length or a bit longer than a typical C-section scar. The incision and recovery for a mini tummy tuck are often less than that of a more traditional abdominoplasty.
For patients with a lot of excess skin due to multiple pregnancies or a large amount of weight loss, an extended incision may be recommended. Patients who have successfully lost weight with gastric bypass or diet and exercise in excess of 100lbs can have laxity and excess tissue that extends both horizontally and vertically. The procedure is sometimes referred to as a fleur-de-lis tummy tuck. In addition to the standard tummy tuck incision, it includes a vertical incision from the lower breastbone to the pubic bone. The final scar will resemble a large upside-down T.
Caring for your incision to minimize scarring
No matter what incision you plan to have for your tummy tuck it is important to review your plastic surgeon's aftercare program so that your incision heals with the best scar possible. Most surgeons use surgical glue and steri strips or paper tape at the time of surgery. They may transition you to a scar cream after two weeks and some will incorporate laser therapy to optimize scar remodeling following surgery.
It will be important to keep your incision out of the direct sun and use sunscreen for the first several months after surgery to help your scar heal to its best potential. It will take a full year for the scar to completely fade.
Next steps on your tummy tuck journey
Tummy tuck surgery should be tailored to your individual body type and may include additional procedures such as liposuction to achieve the best results. It is important to seek a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon to determine whether you are a candidate for a tummy tuck procedure and discuss the surgical plan that best meets your needs and expectations.
- Katerina Gallus, MD | San Diego, CA
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons or Her Body Bank.