What Is a Tummy Tuck?
If you have excess fat and skin in your abdominal region that will not go away with diet and exercise, an abdominoplasty (or “tummy tuck”) procedure with Chicago aesthetic plastic surgeon Dr. John Kim may be right for you. If you have been pregnant or have lost weight, your skin may have stretched beyond the point at which it is still able to retract to normal. The purpose of the abdominoplasty surgery is to tighten the muscles in the abdominal wall and to remove any excess skin to reveal a more contoured, tighter abdomen.
When Dr. Kim removes the excess fat and skin from your stomach, the muscles underneath are able to tighten, resulting in a slimmer stomach. Even in healthy and fit individuals who are within the normal weight range, bulges around the waist, poor scars, stretched-out skin, or fat deposits in the abdomen can occur. Abdominoplasties are not just intended for those who have had issues with weight control, but also the procedure is targeted at people with prior pregnancy, weight fluctuations, poor genetics, or prior surgical scars. Dr. Kim can help give you a smoother, firmer abdominal profile through tummy tuck surgery.
Liposuction and abdominoplasty are not the same procedure. The purpose of liposuction is to remove stubborn fat deposits from concentrated areas. Abdominoplasty removes both fat and skin from the general abdominal area. It also involves abdominal muscle tightening, whereas liposuction is simply fat removal. Liposuction is often used in conjunction with abdominoplasty, though, for better removal of those stubborn fat pockets. Dr. Kim’s patients often opt to combine their abdominoplasty surgery with other procedures, such as an arm lift or a breast procedure resulting in a complete “mommy makeover.”
It is important for patients to note that abdominoplasty is not a way to treat obesity nor is it a replacement for healthy eating and regular exercise. Abdominoplasty is most intended for individuals already engaged in an active, healthy lifestyle but who wish to have a slimmer, smoother stomach profile.
Check out Dr. Kim’s article “A multivariate regression analysis of panniculectomy outcomes: does plastic surgery training matter?”
Opting for a tummy tuck is a very personal decision, and you alone should make the choice based on whether or not it’s right for you and not because of anyone else’s expectations. If you are a woman contemplating pregnancy in the future, or if you are a person intending to lose a substantial amount of weight, you should consider postponing your procedure until your weight is more stable. Although the results of your surgery with Chicago surgeon Dr. John Kim will be permanent, they can be diminished by weight fluctuation.
The ideal candidate for a tummy tuck has sagging and excess stomach skin, and their abdominal region seems to protrude in a disproportionate manner to the rest of the body. You may also have separated and weak abdominal muscles and excess fatty tissue in your lower stomach region. Ideally, patients are at a stable weight, do not smoke, are in good health physically, and have realistic goals for surgery.
If you are considering abdominoplasty to improve your stretch marks from weight loss or pregnancy, abdominoplasty will likely not fix this issue. That being said, Dr. Kim may be able to excise your stretch marks if they happen to be located in an area where he will excise skin and fat. Dr. Kim typically removes the skin from the space right below the belly button.
When you meet with Dr. Kim for a consultation visit in his offices on the Northwestern campus in downtown Chicago in the Galter Pavilion, he will closely examine your abdomen. You will share your expectations and goals with him, and he will inform you of the risks associated with this surgery. Together, you will create a customized treatment plan so you can make the most informed decision possible. The choice to undergo abdominoplasty surgery is very personal and the results are long-lasting, so you should gather as much information as possible.
Tummy Tuck Procedure
The incision pattern Dr. Kim will employ during your surgery is horizontally located between the pubic hairline and the navel. The shape and the length of the incision vary from patient to patient, and largely depend on how much correction of the area is needed. Dr. Kim always does his best to create incisions where they can be easily hidden, meaning where they will not be visible in a bathing suit. This is not always possible, though, as sometimes Dr. Kim must remove excess skin or fatty tissue in the upper abdomen. In that case, a second incision will have to be made around the belly button, as shown here:
Once Dr. Kim makes his incision, the excess fatty tissue and skin is removed and the abdominal muscles are repaired. With sutures, Dr. Kim brings together loose underlying tissue and muscle to tighten the abdominal wall. The stomach skin is then pulled vertically downward and excess skin is excised. The bully button is spared and is brought through a new opening created in the new abdomen. Recall that liposuction may be employed in conjunction with abdominoplasty to remove stubborn stomach fat.
There is also the option of endoscopic abdominoplasty, for use when patients have only a small degree of excess fat and muscle weakness. A major benefit of this technique is the minimized scarring. This option is something you must discuss with Dr. John Kim during your consultation visit.
Another factor for you to consider is the distinction between the two main variations of the abdominoplasty that Dr. John Kim can perform:
- Complete Abdominoplasty = The incision runs horizontally from hipbone to hipbone and remains low. If you require a great deal of abdominal correction, this procedure will likely be right for you. The belly button is moved, and muscle and skin are removed and rearranged to re-contour your new abdominal profile.
- Partial (or Mini) Abdominoplasty = The incision is short in length and runs low. This surgery is for patients with fat deposits located primarily below the navel. The belly button itself is not moved. The skin and muscle between the belly button and the incision will be rearranged, with some excised. This will create a tighter, firmer contour.
Dr. Kim usually performs his abdominoplasty surgeries on an outpatient basis, meaning you will go home the same day. Directly following surgery, he will apply dressings and/or bandages to your incisions and perhaps a compression garment will be wrapped around your abdomen as well. This is for support of the newly wounded tissues during healing. Dr. Kim may also place small, thin drains under your skin in your stomach region so any excess blood or fluid that wants to accumulate will in fact drain out of your body. Dr. Kim and his staff at Northwestern Plastic Surgery will be sure to provide you with specific directions on how to care for your abdomen after surgery so as to avoid infection or any other surgical complication.
Dr. Kim will specify what to expect during your healing process and recovery period. It is essential that you follow his guidelines for work, activity, and driving restrictions as well as the need to see him for follow-up visits. It is imperative that your incisions are not placed under excessive force, pressure, or motion during your healing period. Every patient’s healing process is different, so Dr. Kim will monitor you closely in the weeks following your surgery.
The healing process differs by individual as well as by the extent of correction that occurred during surgery, but typically you can expect to return to non-strenuous work after 1-3 weeks of rest. After a few weeks, you will likely be able to resume normal day to day life as well as mild exercise.
Within about 2 weeks after surgery, you will notice the swelling subside, and you will start to see your firmer, smoother abdominal profile. Scars will likely remain prominent during the first few months following surgery, but they will gradually lighten in color and flatten out. They will never disappear entirely, but they should be unnoticeable under bathing suits and most clothing.
Dr. Kim gives patients outstanding results through abdominoplasty. If you have weakened abdominal muscles, excess skin, or excess fatty tissue, he can help you achieve a thinner waist and better contoured stomach profile. He can help you attain a more beautiful physique which can boost your self-confidence. He will encourage you to maintain that initial fulfillment you will feel after surgery by keeping your weight in control and leading an active, healthy life.
If you wish to gather more information on abdominoplasty with Chicago aesthetic plastic surgeon Dr. John Kim, take a look at the following websites to learn if this is the right fit for you:
Tummy Tuck FAQs
What is an abdominoplasty?
An abdominoplasty, also known as a “tummy tuck,” is a procedure that removes excess tissue and skin from the abdominal area and repairs muscles to create a smoother, more contoured abdomen.
Do I need abdominoplasty or just liposuction?
An abdominoplasty is for men and women with a protruding abdomen due to muscle laxity, excess skin and fat. For individuals with isolated “pockets” of fat, liposuction may be the best option. However, the best candidates for liposuction are individuals who have good muscle and skin tone, so for patients following pregnancy or massive weight loss, abdominoplasty may be the best option.
Should I be at my ideal weight before having an abdominoplasty?
For optimal results, it is recommended that patients be close to their ideal weight prior to their surgery. This will give patients the best shape and cosmetic outcome. A tummy tuck will remove excess tissue and fat, tightening the muscles of the abdomen, so even patients who are moderately overweight will see a significant improvement in their results.
Can an abdominoplasty help me lose weight?
An abdominoplasty is not a weight loss surgery. Patients should not undergo abdominoplasty to lose weight. Rather, they should have already lost the weight through diet, exercise, or weight loss surgery and desire to improve the contour of their midsection.
Can I have breast surgery or liposuction at the time of a tummy tuck?
Abdominoplasty is frequently performed as part of a “Mommy Makeover” procedure. Abdominoplasties are often coupled with other procedures, including breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reduction, or even liposuction. Undergoing these procedures at the same time is often desirable for patients looking to avoid multiple surgeries.
Can I repair my abdominal muscles with exercise?
When the abdominal muscles become significantly weakened and separate, exercise will not repair the abdomen. The gap that develops will need to be surgically repaired to return the muscles to their natural position. Following this repair, patients will be able to return to exercising and rebuilding their core strength.
Are the results permanent?
With a healthy lifestyle consisting of regular exercise and a healthy diet, the results achieved through an abdominoplasty should remain. Significant weight gain or pregnancy could cause the abdominal muscles to stretch apart again, and reverse the results of the initial procedure. However, patients should remember that cosmetic surgery is not a permanent fix, and the body will continue to age, with the effects of gravity eventually showing.
Can I have a tummy tuck between pregnancies?
We often encourage women to wait to undergo an abdominoplasty until after they are finished having children. This will help maximize and prolong their results.
How long is the surgery?
Depending on the patient, and other procedures that may be taking place, an abdominoplasty typically takes between two to three hours.
What kind of pain can be expected following surgery?
For most patients, the pain is not severe, may last a few days, and is usually well-controlled with pain medication during this time. Most patients are ready to return to work and resume light daily activities within 1–2 weeks.
When can I begin exercising after my abdominoplasty?
Light exercise can usually be resumed within 2-3 weeks. More vigorous exercise, such as running, heavy lifting, and abdominal strength exercises, can typically begin 4–6 weeks after surgery.
How long does it take to see the final result?
Patients will notice a dramatic improvement in the contours of their abdomen immediately after surgery. As swelling subsides over the first several weeks, the results of their abdominoplasty will be in full effect!
How soon can I return to work after an abdominoplasty?
Typically, individuals are able to return to work after about two weeks. The exact amount of time will depend on the extent of your abdominoplasty, your pain tolerance, and the physical demands of your work.
For more information on abdominoplasty, please contact board-certified cosmetic surgeon Dr. John Kim at his office at Northwestern Plastic Surgery.
Is tummy tuck a solution for obesity?
Tummy tuck is not a weight management tool. In fact, obese individuals are advised to lose as much weight as possible before considering abdominoplasty. Patients who have lost significant weight and now notice loose skin on the belly are good candidates for the procedure.
Are there other options?
Tummy tuck is often an ideal surgical solution for loose skin and weakened muscles that may have developed in the abdominal area as a result of weight loss, pregnancy or simple aging. The stomach benefits from a smooth, tucked-in profile after removal of excess skin, some fat and tightening of abdominal muscles. Women often choose abdominoplasty as way to restore tone to stomach muscles that weakened or separated during pregnancy.
For patients whose fat is located mostly below the belly button, a partial abdominoplasty, or “mini tummy tuck,” may be advisable. Liposuction may be the preferred choice when creating a more natural-looking body shape requires the removal of a significant amount of fat in targeted areas. The two procedures can be combined in a same-day surgery known as lipoabdominoplasty. This technique has the added benefit of giving the surgeon increased flexibility in shaping the abdomen and surrounding area. It is an option for patients who have been unable to reduce their weight sufficiently to allow for a successful abdominoplasty.
Will tummy tuck erase stretch marks?
If your stretch marks are located in the lower abdomen, they will disappear when the skin is surgically removed. Stretch marks on the mid-portion of the abdomen can be improved but not entirely eliminated. Stretch marks on the upper abdomen usually remain.
How soon after a C-section can I have tummy tuck?
Dr. Kim recommends that women who are not nursing wait about three months. This allows time for the uterus to regain its normal size and shape. In addition, moms who are breastfeeding should avoid general anesthesia.
Will a pregnancy reverse the results of tummy tuck?
Yes, and that is why Dr. Kim recommends that women wait until after their final pregnancy to have the procedure. Pregnancy puts a great deal of strain on the abdomen, and muscles that have been repaired in an abdominoplasty may once again separate. Similarly, women or men who gain substantial weight in the future may see a recurrence of the issues that led them to choose tummy tuck. Barring future pregnancies and dramatic weight gain, your tummy tuck should not need to be repeated to maintain your smooth and fit profile.
Will I retain my natural belly button?
Yes, although it may undergo some repositioning, depending on the amount of skin that needs to be removed. The belly button is typically separated from the surrounding skin, then sewn back after muscles and skin are tightened. In the case of a mini tummy tuck, the belly button is not separated or moved.
Will I have scars?
Because tummy tuck requires a large incision in the lower abdomen, scars are unavoidable. Dr. Kim is careful to make the incision in the least noticeable area, usually on the bikini line. If scarring is a concern, a mini tummy tuck or liposuction can be considered, if appropriate.
Are there other benefits of tummy tuck?
In addition to the benefit of increased self-confidence, there may be other positive side effects. Tummy tuck appears to reduce the incidence of stress urinary incontinence and improve ventral and umbilical hernias. A tighter abdomen also seems to be associated with improved posture and even better weight management. For example, a study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found evidence of short- and long-term weight loss in women who underwent the procedure. Removal of fat cells appeared to alter the hormonal activity that governs appetite.