A lot of people think that diet and exercise are always enough to slim down even the most stubborn waistline. But in reality, a belly that’s due to excess skin or stretched-out, separated abdominal muscles can only be improved through abdominoplasty, more commonly called a tummy tuck. By permanently removing the extra skin and tissue that so often remain behind following significant weight loss or pregnancy, a tummy tuck can help accentuate your natural shape or return your belly to its pre-baby contours again.
Recognized as a body contouring specialist and one of the top cosmetic surgeons in the Mobile-Pensacola metro area, Dr. James Koehler is a board certified cosmetic surgeon serving patients from Gulfport to Gulf Shores and beyond. Dr. Koehler offers a wide range of plastic surgery procedures for both men and women, and is known for his caring commitment to a patient-first approach.
Are You a Candidate?
Both men and women can make good candidates for a tummy tuck if they’re over the age of 18 and notice skin and tissue around the belly that haven’t responded to changes in eating habits or activity level, have recently undergone major weight loss, or have been diagnosed with separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti). Many women choose the procedure following pregnancy. It’s also important to be in good overall physical and mental health, and to have realistic expectations about your results.
Although a tummy tuck can significantly improve your figure, the surgery is primarily cosmetic and should not be confused with weight-loss surgery such as gastric bypass. That said, a tummy tuck can significantly contribute to the positive physical and psychological benefits of post-weight loss body contouring. Abdominoplasty is also commonly included as part of a mommy makeover, although the best tummy tuck results are seen in women who have already completed their families. During your consultation, Dr. Koehler will go over all your options to help ensure that you’re a good candidate for a tummy tuck before proceeding with surgery.
About Tummy Tucks
The body is designed to accommodate a wide range of shapes and sizes, so the skin and muscles stretch during pregnancy and in response to weight gain. Although many changes will reverse themselves post-baby or after weight loss, sometimes the muscles become permanently separated or skin remains lax instead of elastic. A tummy tuck can surgically correct these problems by smoothing and tightening skin and tissue around the midsection while repairing separated abdominal muscles for a firmer, flatter belly.
Dr. Koehler offers multiple approaches for tummy tucks:
- Full Abdominoplasty: A traditional abdominoplasty delivers a greater degree of correction, and is ideal for men and women with loose skin and extra fatty tissue throughout the upper and lower abdomen.
- Mini Tummy Tuck: A mini tummy tuck corrects issues only through the lower abdomen (below the belly button). Dr. Koehler uses a shorter incision during this procedure, which allows for more limited access but can also mean a faster recovery. Additionally, a mini tummy tuck doesn’t usually require any repositioning of the navel.
- Fleur de lis Abdominoplasty: This is a tummy tuck usually done on individuals that have pre-existing scars from weight loss surgery or other surgical procedures. The incisions are like a typical full abdominoplasty with the addition of a vertical incision along the midline of the abdomen. Although the incisions are extensive, this procedure can dramatically improve the contours in many patients that have had significant weight loss.
- Belt Lipectomy (Lower Body Lift): This is a tummy tuck combined with procedures that lift the outer thighs and buttocks. This procedure is typically indicated in patients that have laxity throughout the abdomen, outer thighs and buttocks. The incision for this procedure goes all the way around the waist below the belt line. The incision is placed in a such a way that clothes should cover the incision completely. This procedure is used more often in patients that have had significant weight loss or have generalized skin laxity. This procedure is usually done in the hospital with a night or two stay.
During your consultation, Dr. Koehler will go into more detail about the different types of tummy tucks, and discuss which option is more likely to help you meet your cosmetic goals.
What to Expect
The first step in any body contouring procedure is scheduling a consultation with Dr. Koehler, which will include a physical exam as well as a detailed discussion about your personal appearance goals. This is a good time to ask any questions you may have about your surgery or recovery.
Dr. Koehler begins tummy tuck surgery with an incision that runs from hip to hip (slightly shorter for a mini tummy tuck), planning a low enough scar position to allow easy cover-up by underwear or swimsuits. Through this incision, Dr. Koehler can then repair and tighten the abdominal muscles before surgically excising fatty tissue. In some cases, Dr. Koehler may also incorporate liposuction to further refine your abdominal contours, as well as ensure a natural transition to the surrounding areas like your hips and flanks. Finally, excess skin is trimmed away and Dr. Koehler closes the incision.
Since abdominoplasty is most often performed as an outpatient procedure, the majority of patients can plan on returning home the same day as their surgery. Although mild activity, like taking short walks, can help promote healthy circulation and prevent blood clots, it’s important to avoid more vigorous exercise for approximately 6 weeks. Dr. Koehler will ask you to wear a compression garment initially to help reduce swelling and prevent fluid buildup. Most men and women can return to work in a couple of weeks, and any discomfort is typically controlled well with oral medication.
Risks and Complications
The risks associated with a tummy tuck include those that are possible with any major surgery, like bleeding or infection. A common concern after abdominoplasty is seroma, or fluid buildup, but this is usually controlled through the use of post-surgical drains.
The most serious concern is getting a blood clot in your legs (deep vein thrombosis) which can be life threatening if it spreads to your lungs (pulmonary embolism). If you take hormone replacement medication, discontinuing estrogen replacement medications 4 to 6 weeks prior to surgery may decrease the likelihood of this.
Also, Dr. Koehler and staff will employ preventive measures such as foot pumps during surgery and the administration of low dose blood thinners when indicated. The best prevention is to make sure you get up and walk the days following your surgery. Lying in bed and not getting up surgery places you at the greatest risk. Dr. Koehler will go over all the risks and benefits with you before your surgery so you’re fully informed about what to expect.
Your New Look
You should see a difference right away after your tummy tuck, although your final results will initially be disguised by post-op swelling. You can expect to feel sore at first, especially when standing fully upright, although this should pass quickly as your body adjusts. Over time, your scar should continue fading and become less noticeable. Most importantly, you’ll be able to show off a distinct waistline again, and enjoy a renewed sense of self-confidence about your body.
Tummy Tuck FAQs
How do I choose a tummy tuck cosmetic surgeon near me?
When choosing a cosmetic surgeon for your tummy tuck, look for qualifications such as an affiliation with the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, recent before and after photos of real tummy tuck results and positive online reviews from previous clients. Schedule a consultation or two and meet with each cosmetic surgeon at the top of your list before making your decision.
What’s the best tummy tuck technique for me?
The majority of tummy tuck candidates will see the best results from a full abdominoplasty versus a mini tummy tuck. However, if you only have a small amount of excess skin in the area below your belly button, you could be a good candidate for the mini technique. Following significant weight loss, Dr. Koehler may recommend the fleur de lis tummy tuck technique for enhanced results.
Should I include liposuction with my tummy tuck?
Many people choose to include liposuction with abdominoplasty when both excess skin and stubborn fat in the abdominal area are concerns. During your consultation, Dr. Koehler can help you decide if adding liposuction to your tummy tuck could help to improve your final results.
How close to my ideal weight do I need to be before a tummy tuck?
The closer you can come to your target weight before your procedure, the better your results can be. However, if you’re having trouble losing those last few pounds, a tummy tuck with liposuction should be able to help. You should maintain a healthy weight for at least several months prior to your procedure to ensure optimal results.
Does a tummy tuck hurt?
Abdominoplasty is performed under general anesthesia, so you shouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure. Afterwards, expect some tenderness, soreness, bruising and swelling. These symptoms can be controlled with prescription and over-the-counter pain medications, as well as wearing a special compression garment and following Dr. Koehler’s recovery guidelines closely.
How long is the recovery after a tummy tuck?
Abdominoplasty is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, so you should be able to go home the same day. Expect to take around 2 weeks off work to recover from your tummy tuck. Strenuous physical activity should be avoided for 6 weeks. During this time, you will be asked to wear a compression garment to help reduce swelling and keep you comfortable.
Will my results be long-lasting?
Yes, tummy tuck results can be very long-lasting, provided you follow healthy eating and exercise habits. It is possible to gain weight following a tummy tuck, which can hinder your results. If you have children after getting a tummy tuck, you may require a revision procedure to achieve your same results.
Does a tummy tuck get rid of stretch marks?
If your stretch marks are located on the area of excess skin being removed during your tummy tuck, then yes, those stretch marks will be removed as well. However, not all stretch marks may be removed in this process, and it is not possible to guarantee that any will be permanently removed.