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What is a Tummy Tuck? – Abdominoplasty Explained

Tummy Tuck |  Dr Eddy Dona

Thu 23rd Jun 2022


Life naturally brings changes; whether that be weight fluctuations, pregnancy, the natural aging process or other little surprises along the way, our bodies are ever-changing. After some of these changes, your body may not look or feel the way that it used to. So, if you’re embarrassed, ashamed or frustrated with what you see when you look down at your stomach – you’re certainly not alone.

Abdominoplasty, or a tummy tuck, can be considered both a cosmetic and reconstructive surgical procedure that sculpts and smoothens the midsection by removing excess, overhanging skin and the associated fatty tissue from the abdomen and tightening the abdominal muscles achieving an enhanced contour, tone and function.
This procedure can also repair abdominal muscles that may have been stretched and separated during pregnancy, eliminating the unwanted stomach bulge. Abdominoplasty surgery begins with the surgeon making a horizontal incision along the lower abdomen, below the underwear line so that the underlying abdominal muscle can be tightened and the excess skin along with its fatty tissue can be removed. In cases where the rectus muscle has separated (divarication), they will be brought back together and sutured internally along with the connective tissues. The navel, or belly button, will be repositioned and the incision will be closed. The incision is strategically placed along the public hairline so that the scar can be hidden underneath your underwear.
The tummy tuck is an effective surgical procedure to sculpt and shape the body in ways that diet and exercise cannot achieve alone. So, while a tummy tuck assists in shaping and toning the abdominal area, it is not a substitute for bariatric surgery or weight loss and therefore should be seen as a contouring procedure.

Who is Suitable for a Tummy Tuck?

The most suitable candidates for abdominoplasty are those who have overstretched skin, excess stubborn fat, unsightly scars and stretch marks, and are generally unhappy with the appearance of their abdomen. Whether pregnancy, considerable weight loss, natural aging or issues resulting from previous surgeries, this procedure may be the solution.

You may undergo tummy tuck if you are looking to:

  • Enhance your self-image and self-confidence
  • Strengthen your core, improving flexibility and posture
  • Remove unsightly scars, including cesarean scars and stretchmarks
  • Alleviate itching, infections and irritations caused by excessive skin
  • Alter the contour of your abdomen, creating a sexy and shapelier you
  • Stop experiencing hygiene issues due to excess skin hanging below the pubic region
  • Repair structural abdominal defects such as Diastasis recti (separated abdominal muscles), hernias and other abnormalities caused by trauma, obesity, pregnancy and extensive weight loss

The Advantages of Tummy Tuck Surgery

While abdominoplasty is often performed with the aim to eliminate excess, overhanging skin after pregnancy or extreme weight loss, there are other benefits that also come with having a tummy tuck performed.

A Tummy Tuck Removes Excess Skin

Gaining and carrying additional weight for an extended period of time can permanently damage the collagen and elastin fibres in your skin, making it more difficult for your skin to contract back after weight loss. While anyone can suffer from sagging skin, it is more prevalent in those who have lost a significant amount of weight or have undergone multiple pregnancies. Sagging skin can be the cause of embarrassment and more serious issues like itching, infections and irritations. Many people turn to surgical intervention like abdominoplasty when the volume and elasticity of their skin deteriorates, and they are left with a pouch of sagging skin around the abdomen. A tummy tuck procedure eliminates the excess skin and fat in the abdominal region.

A Tummy Tuck Can Repair an Abdominal Hernia

An abdominal hernia occurs when a stomach organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue holding it in place. This typically happens when muscles in the stomach have weakened, often appearing in and around the belly button as a bulge. When left untreated, hernias can cause serious discomfort. Combining a tummy tuck with a hernia repair offers patients an effective two-in-one solution. Abdominoplasty offers complete access to the abdominal cavity, so the hernia ‘sac’ containing the bulge can be easily identified and repaired by pushing the hernia back into the abdomen and strengthening the abdominal wall with stitches or synthetic mesh. Patients can have their uncomfortable hernias repaired and abdomen contoured in the same procedure – effectively avoiding ongoing pain and successive recovery periods.

A Tummy Tuck Can Remove C-Section Scars and Stretchmarks

Obstetricians are professionals whose expertise lies in delivering babies, so inevitably the aesthetics of a potential scar is less important to them than the health of the mother and newborns. This means that patients are often left with a depressed or deformed caesarean scar that is painful, raised, visible through clothing and distorting the surrounding abdominal tissue. Fortunately, Dr Eddy Dona is an expert in skin and wound repair and strives to make a scar look as good as possible.

During the tummy tuck procedure, the incision is typically made along or below the c-section scar so it can be completely removed. The same is for any other scars along the belly, such as those from previous abdominal surgeries or stretchmarks. Essentially, a tummy tuck will eliminate scars between your bikini line and your belly button, and the new incision scar will be hidden beneath your underwear. Scars outside the area of excised skin will persist, but they will move lower as the remaining skin is stretched down.

A Tummy Tuck Can Tighten The Abdominal Walls, Correcting Diastasis Recti

Excessive inner-abdominal pressure causes diastasis recti, which is the separation of your abdominal muscles and connective tissue as your body adjusts to an expanding uterus during pregnancy. Although experiencing some abdominal separation during and following pregnancy is to be expected, the abdominal muscles may become permanently separated, weaker and appear overstretched, leaving you with a sagging or bulging stomach and stretched skin that cannot retract. Along with the stretched-out skin, excessive fatty deposits between the muscles and organs, and weakened muscles, this separation can also contribute to incontinence, lower back pain, hernias, digestive issues, weak core strength and the stubborn pooch that sticks around long after giving birth. Repair surgery is commonly combined with abdominoplasty, which aims to tighten and rejuvenate the abdominal area, restoring your pre-pregnancy physique and alleviating associated symptoms.

The Different Types of Tummy Tuck Procedures

The type of tummy tuck best for you depends entirely on your anatomy and aesthetic goals. Some patients may be able to contour their abdomen through the standard or mini tummy tuck procedure, while others may require a more extensive abdominoplasty surgery, such as a fleur de lis abdominoplasty. The amount of excess skin and acceptance of additional scaring will determine whether you have a mini, traditional or a fleur de lis tummy tuck surgery. Unfortunately, scarring is an inevitable part of surgery, and the scars will never completely disappear. So, you will have to decide whether you are prepared to accept a better contour with more scars or a weaker contour with fewer scars.
See the differences between the traditional, mini and Fleur de lis tummy tuck below.
Traditional Tummy Tuck

Abdominoplasty, commonly referred to as a tummy tuck, is one of the most common plastic surgical procedures that concentrates on contouring and toning the lower abdominal area. Abdominoplasty surgery traditionally involves a horizontal incision along the lower abdomen so that the underlying abdominal muscle can be tightened, and the fatty tissue and excess skin be removed. In cases where the rectus muscle has separated (diastasis recti), they will be brought back together and sutured internally, along the connective tissues. The navel, or belly button, will be repositioned and the incision will be closed. The incision is strategically placed along the public hairline so that the scar can be hidden underneath your underwear. If you previously had a c-section with pregnancy, the caesarean scar is often removed and replaced with a tummy tuck incision that can be hidden beneath your underwear.

Mini-Tummy Tuck

A mini tummy tuck is less invasive than abdominoplasty surgery and is an effective alternative for patients with less excess skin and fat. This procedure offers a smaller incision and suits women who need less correction, with excess skin laying exclusively in the lower abdomen region. A mini tummy tuck cannot address the upper abdominal area, typically avoids separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) and the belly button stays in place. The scar is like a caesarean scar but is still likely to be concealed beneath your underwear. Although the procedure certainly benefits the right candidate, very few people are actually suitable for a mini tummy tuck. The standard abdominoplasty procedure for most people considering abdominal surgery produces the best results.

Fleur De Lis Tummy Tuck

The fleur de lis abdominoplasty (FDL), or vertical abdominoplasty, is a more complex and extensive surgical procedure than a traditional tummy tuck. It allows patients to achieve better contouring over their entire abdomen, with excess skin in both the vertical and horizontal directions removed. With a standard tummy tuck exclusively removing skin in the horizontal direction, a fleur de Lis tummy tuck does involve additional scaring. This is a viable alternative for patients who have excess skin in both the lower and upper abdomen, and in their sides or hips.

The fleur de Lis abdominoplasty is the only tummy tuck that allows for the skin across the entire abdomen to be tightened. The fleur de lis incision includes the usual vertical incision along the hip bone, in addition to another horizontal incision from the bottom of the ribs down to the pubic area, intersecting with the first incision. This allows for loose skin from the lateral side of the abdomen to be removed. Together, these incisions allow for excess skin to be detached from both above and below the first vertical incision and also both the left and the right of the horizontal incision.

What Scarring to Expect With a Tummy Tuck

Scarring is almost always a big concern for patients considering a tummy tuck. Like all surgical scars, abdominoplasty scars will never completely disappear. While the incision scars from the tummy tuck procedure are permanent, most patients feel that the scars are worth accepting in achieving their desired abdominal appearance. The degree of scarring depends on what type of tummy tuck surgery you undergo.

A standard tummy tuck scar will stretch across the pubic hairline from hip to hip so that the scar can be hidden underneath your underwear. A mini tummy tuck scar is also positioned along the public hairline, but the scar is noticeably smaller than the standard incision. The fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty promises a horizontal scar along the pubic hairline and a vertical scar along the midline of the abdomen extending from the ribs vertically down to the pubic area.

Approximately twelve months after the procedure, your scars will have flattened and faded. It is not uncommon for some scars to take up to two years to lighten and become more discreet.

Tummy Tuck Recovery

The length of a tummy tuck recovery period fluctuates from person to person. Generally, it can take six months to feel completely healed after the procedure. Although the most intense part of the healing period is within the first couple of weeks, postponing intense physical activities and considerable work stress during recovery is essential. Strenuous activities, especially those that engage the core, should be avoided for a minimum of six weeks after surgery.

The pain associated with the tummy tuck procedure is typically at its worst during the first week, peaking on the second or third day, with swelling and bruising increasing throughout the week. In the beginning, activities that engage the core muscles, such as getting out of a seated position, bending down or deep breathing, can be particularly painful. That is why most patients stay in hospital for a couple of days so that they are assisted with these activities and more comfortable. You will also be prescribed pain medication to alleviate some of the discomfort associated with the procedure.

During the first couple of weeks after tummy tuck surgery, you will be experiencing pain, discomfort and fatigue that will most likely deter you from wanting to exercise. And, resuming exercise too soon after surgery can lead to complications, including wound injuries and infections.

A compression garment will also be provided during the first six weeks to assist with the swelling. We also recommend performing a gentle daily massage to these areas starting a few weeks after surgery to help control the swelling and facilitate the settling process.

Overall, the tummy tuck is an invasive procedure and recovery is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. It will take up to six weeks before you can begin returning back to your pre-operative daily routine.

The Cost of a Tummy Tuck

Finding a tummy tuck cost estimate without consultation is very difficult because there are multiple variables to consider. Your tummy tuck procedure estimate will reflect the complexity of the procedure, including your anatomy, aesthetic goals, and pre-existing conditions.

Medicare does not cover elective surgical procedures purely completed for cosmetic purposes. Abdominoplasty is primarily considered a cosmetic procedure, but it may be medically necessary for certain situations. In such cases, you may be eligible for a Medicare rebate if you meet the criteria and conditions. If your stomach is causing chronic discomfort, distress or functional issues, you may be eligible for a rebate. The best thing to do is to speak with your GP and get a referral for a plastic surgery consultation. Without a referral, a claim cannot be made even if you are eligible. Whether your private insurance covers abdominoplasty or not largely depends on the policy you have. If you have private health insurance with hospital cover, you may be eligible to have the hospital component and anaesthetic subsidised. It is best that you clarify with your health insurance fund what will be covered before you book the surgery, you may also be covered for part of the procedure. For example, your insurance may cover the cost of a hernia repair that is causing discomfort. Once Dr Dona has fully assessed you, a report can be sent to your health insurance provider to determine whether the procedure is considered medically necessary.
Overall, the costs associated with a tummy tuck, including the surgeon’s fees, anaesthetist’s fees and hospital fees, are contingent on the length and complexity of the procedure. Unfortunately, it is impossible to give an accurate estimate without a consultation because the procedure can vary depending on your specific physiology. To learn more about tummy tuck pricing, click on our article about tummy tuck prices.

Get in Touch

Having stubborn abdominal fat and loose skin can lead to serious health issues and hurt your confidence and self-esteem. Whether it was caused by pregnancy, considerable weight loss or genetics, a tummy tuck offers both physical and emotional benefits. If you are considering undergoing tummy tuck surgery and would like more information, the best way to have all your questions answered is to book a consultation with Dr Dona. Please call us on 1300 373 662 or email us at [email protected]

Learn More About; Tummy Tuck Surgery

  1. Tummy Tuck Scarring & Scar Care
  2. How Much Does A Tummy Tuck Cost?
  3. Fleur De Lis Tummy Tuck
  4. Tummy Tuck Before & After Gallery
  5. Tummy Tuck FAQ
  6. Tummy Tuck Recovery