Tummy tuck surgery—also called abdominoplasty—is a popular surgery that removes extra skin from the lower abdomen. It also usually corrects a condition known as diastasis recti, where each row of the six-pack ab muscles separate from one another. While the condition is not inherently dangerous, it can make patients more susceptible to hernias, reduce core strength, make exercising more difficult, cause bad posture, contribute to back pain, and cause stress urinary incontinence.
Extra skin does naturally form all over the body with age. However, certain life events and conditions can accelerate the collection of extra skin on the abdomen as well as cause muscle separation. These circumstances are generally the reasons that many patients seek tummy tuck surgery.
The most common reason women undergo tummy tucks is due to changes and damage done to the body during pregnancy. Post-pregnancy, the skin, and muscles will likely heal and retract some. For some patients, it may return completely to normal; however, with multiple pregnancies or if, like most women, the body will not totally return to its pre-baby contours or strength.
During pregnancy, the skin and muscles of the abdomen must stretch to accommodate the growing fetus. Usually, these structures have not stretched like this before, contributing to the loose skin and separation of the abdominal muscles. Once a woman is done having children, they may consider an abdominoplasty to address these issues.
Massive weight loss is the second most common cause—and the top cause for men. Similar to pregnancy, when a massive amount of weight is lost, the skin often cannot retract adequately enough to show off the patient’s true body contour. Additionally, weight gain and then loss or rapid changes can contribute to diastasis recti.
Every tummy tuck patient will have a different experience; it is not a one-size-fits-all procedure. Based on a patient’s anatomy and needs, a plastic surgeon may adjust every aspect of the procedure to fit them and provide the best possible outcome.
Here’s how to get the best Tummy Tuck Results
Tummy tuck results can be life-changing. While patients cannot control many parts of the surgery, they can help promote good results. Here are a few ways patients can promote good results from their tummy tuck.
1. Get to a Stable Healthy Weight:
Tummy tuck surgery is not weight loss surgery. If a patient is working on losing weight, they should achieve their goal (or close to it) before surgery. While a totally “healthy” BMI is not always necessary, patients should be able to maintain their current weight for at least three months and have lost enough weight for a good result.
Add Liposuction: An abdominoplasty may remove some fat. However, this is not the main objective of the surgery. Adding liposuction to a tummy tuck procedure can help address areas that may affect the look of the abdomen, such as the waist and lower back. Liposuction can also help remove stubborn pockets of fat on the abdomen for a smoother result.
2. Choose the Right Plastic Surgeon:
One of the most important things a patient can do to promote the best tummy tuck results is to pick the right plastic surgeon. All surgeons have their own aesthetics and techniques. Finding the one that matches the patients is vital. They should also feel comfortable with their plastic surgeon and not be afraid to ask questions about their procedure.
3. Don’t Use Alcohol Or Nicotine:
Alcohol and nicotine products can slow and hinder healing. Nicotine (aka smoking) must be avoided between the two because it constricts the blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the surgical area. This can lead to worsened healing and visible or thick scarring, putting a patient at increased risk of complications. Alcohol may be able to be continued in moderation after one to two weeks. With that said, it is best to avoid it altogether for as long as possible.
Avoid Lifting / Strenuous Activities: After any surgery—medical or cosmetic—the surgeon will likely tell a patient to take it easy and avoid strenuous activities and lifting. This is because it can cause the incision to open, which slows healing, increases the risk of infection, and can worsen scarring. Strenuous exercise can also worsen or prolong side effects such as swelling.
4. Eat Right (Avoid Soft Drinks, Embrace Carbs):
Ensuring to eat a healthy and varied diet during a tummy tuck recovery is important. Protein, carbs, and fat are all necessary and should be included. The best practice is avoiding processed foods, high-sodium foods, and foods with high sugar content.
5. Stay Hydrated:
Drinking enough water helps the body function properly. It also will keep the patient more comfortable. A lesser-known benefit is that it will also keep patients getting up to go to the bathroom, which helps reduce the chances of blood clots.
6. Plenty of Sleep:
A golden rule of surgery recovery is, “If you want to sleep, sleep.” The body requires a lot of energy and resources to heal. Patients will likely feel more tired, especially in the first week or two after surgery.
7. Reduce Stress: Stress can have surprising effects on the body. Keeping the recovery period as low-stress as possible improves the patient’s mental well-being and promotes better physical healing.
8. Prepare Family, Home & Refrigerator for Recovery:
One way to reduce stress is to prepare for recovery before surgery adequately. Clean the house, pre-make meals, make plans for a caregiver, and consider having family members help with kids. This reduces the patient’s responsibilities and leaves them at peace, knowing these small elements are already taken care of.
Follow post-op instructions to the word
Following post-operative instructions is important for achieving good tummy tuck results. Many plastic surgery procedures have similar instructions. Some of the most common include:
Post-Surgery Diet & Exercise:
Some plastic surgeons may recommend increasing protein intake, while others may recommend light exercise after one to two weeks. Most surgeons advise patients to slowly and carefully walk around their houses a few times per day. However, whatever instructions a surgeon provides, following them is likely key to seeing a good result from their abdominoplasty.
During recovery, the abdomen may become more or less sensitive. Usually, this is temporary, and normal sensation returns. Avoid eating foods that may cause bloating or stomach upset, as this will only worsen an already sensitive stomach. Also, some plastic surgeons recommend undergoing lymphatic drainage massages to help reduce swelling, inflammation, and overall discomfort. Sometimes desensitization exercises using cotton balls or erasers.
Tummy tuck patients need to remain hunched over for about one to two weeks to prevent stress on the incision. The patient will likely use a walker temporarily.
Long-Term Lifestyle Changes:
Patients may need to alter their lifestyles to maintain tummy tuck results. For example, changing their diet, working out more, or quitting smoking. Patients should not partake in more strenuous exercise in the first six weeks than light walking. Patients can then transition to low-intensity exercises such as yoga, leisurely cycling, and water aerobics. Maintaining a good diet rich in healthy fats, fresh vegetables, fruit, and whole grains promotes better healing.
Like other plastic surgery procedures, there is no one correct way to make tummy tuck results last. Ultimately, if patients live a healthy lifestyle and stay determined, they can keep their results for decades.