Close Up of Flat Contoured TummyOne of the most common complaints women and men have about their bodies is how their midsection looks. Even with a healthy diet and regular exercise, it can be difficult to get rid of stubborn pockets of fat or a protruding abdomen. A tummy tuck can help to address these problem areas and create a flatter, firmer abdominal profile. Excess skin is removed, abdominal muscles that have separated with pregnancy and weight gain are tightened, and small areas of fat are eliminated to streamline your physique.

If you are considering taking this next step in enhancing the way you look, here are a few questions to ask during your tummy tuck consultation to have all of the information you need to make a more informed decision:

1. Am I a Good Candidate For This Procedure?

In general, you may be a good candidate if you have excess fat and loose skin following pregnancy, weight fluctuations, or the effects of aging. It is best if women are done having children before considering this procedure. You should also be in overall good health with any chronic conditions well managed.

2. What Does a Tummy Tuck Involve?

During a tummy tuck, the surgeon will make an incision along your lower abdomen and carefully shape and sculpt the area by removing extra skin and fat. If the abdominal muscles have separated, they will be repaired and sewn back together.  This improves the fullness that was present in this area and also helps to strengthen and support the core and lower back. A second incision may be made inside the belly button to tighten skin along the upper abdomen and remove loose skin above or around it.  A new opening for your belly button may be created to leave the stomach as natural-looking as possible.

3. Will I Have Visible Scars?

Yes, you will have some scarring, but it typically fades over time and becomes less noticeable for the vast majority of patients. Keep in mind that it generally takes two years for scars to fully mature, so patience is a must.  The primary incision for the tummy tuck runs from one hip bone to the other, but it often follows the curve of the pubic region and is made low enough to be covered by underwear or a bikini bottom. The incision inside the belly button is carefully hidden made to blend in, especially if a new belly button opening is created.  Be sure that your surgeon takes the time to hide this incision rather than making one around the belly button, as these scars are impossible to hide and generally do not heal well.  Taping and tension reduction sutures may also minimize scarring. In addition, during a tummy tuck, it may be possible to remove stretch marks that are below the belly button depending on how much excess skin there is to remove. Stretch marks that are above the belly button are moved to a lower position on the abdomen.

4. How Long Does It Take To See Results?

You will likely be able to see results within two to three weeks after surgery once the majority of swelling has begun to diminish. Keep in mind that swelling will continue to resolve over the next several months, further refining the firmness, smoothness, and contour of your abdomen.

5. How Long Do Results Last?

As long as you maintain a stable weight and regular exercise, results can be long-term. Prior to getting surgery, you should ideally be within your target weight range, as fluctuations of around 10 pounds can affect the appearance of results. Likewise, getting pregnant after a tummy tuck can also re-stretch the skin and separate abdominal muscles.

6. What is the Recovery Process Like?

You will be sore for the first few days, but your surgeon will provide you with pain medication to help manage any discomfort. Wearing an abdominal binder for a few weeks helps to reduce fluid buildup and give support to the area as you heal. Since you just had major surgery on your abdomen, you should avoid any heavy lifting (including lifting small children) or other activities that may put a strain on your stomach muscles.

7. How Long Will I Need to Take Off Work After Surgery?

Many patients find that they are ready to return to work within about two to three weeks. This may vary based on the type of job that you have. You may need more time off or return to work on light or modified duty if you have a physically demanding position as opposed to a role where you can be more sedentary.

8. When Will I Be Able to Return To My Normal Activities?

After about two weeks, you should be able to resume many of your normal day-to-day activities. Light exercise is generally acceptable after four to six weeks, but you will want to get clearance from your surgeon first. You do not want to become too active too fast and impede your recovery.

9. What Happens If I Decide to Have More Children After Surgery?

Getting pregnant after a tummy tuck will not necessarily negate the results of the procedure; however, as your pregnancy progresses, your skin and muscles will continue to stretch and may not return to their previous contour after giving birth. It is recommended that you are finished having children before undergoing a tummy tuck for longer-lasting results.

10. Are You Board-certified in Plastic Surgery?

Do not be afraid to ask your surgeon about their education and credentials. Surgeons who are board-certified in plastic surgery are required to complete at least six years of surgery training after medical school, with at least three of those years in a plastic surgery residency. In addition, they must meet rigorous standards, including adhering to a strict code of ethics and passing comprehensive oral and written exams. Although some general surgeons perform this procedure, Board certification in General Surgery is a different specialty that is not focused on plastic surgery.

11. How Much Experience Do You Have With This Procedure?

Not all plastic surgeons perform the same types of procedures. Ask how many times the surgeon has done tummy tucks and how many years they have been in practice. Ensure that you feel comfortable with their level of experience and their explanation of the process.

12. Can I See Before and After Photos of Previous Patients?

Get a better feel for the type of results you can expect by asking to see before and after photos of other patients. This can also help you get a sense of what is realistic and how people’s bodies who are similar to yours have changed. You can see where scars will be visible and what they may look like as well.

13. Where Will the Surgery Be Performed?

Some surgeons have privileges at local hospitals or outpatient surgery centers, while others have operating rooms set up within their offices to perform procedures. Ask what types of certifications their facilities have and what safety standards they have in place.  Operating rooms in a private office-based setting should be fully accredited to ensure that they meet the same standards for safety as hospital operating rooms.  It can also be comforting to ask about the training of any other professional who will assist with the surgery, including anesthesia personnel and nurses.

14. How Much Does Tummy Tuck Surgery Cost?

There is no standard price for the procedure. Costs will vary depending on the complexity of the surgery and the amount of work that needs to be done, operating room fees, charges for anesthesia administration, and other factors. Your surgeon can give you a more accurate cost estimate after your consultation.

15. Is Tummy Tuck Surgery Covered By Insurance?

Because a tummy tuck is considered to be cosmetic and not medically necessary,  it is not typically covered by insurance.

16. Can I Combine Other Procedures With a Tummy Tuck?

Depending on what type of results you are looking to achieve, you may be able to combine a tummy tuck with other procedures, such as liposuction or breast augmentation and/or breast lift, to address multiple areas of concern at once. This may prevent you from having to undergo several different surgeries and several periods of recuperation.

17. How Should I Prepare Before Surgery?

Prior to surgery, try to remain as healthy as possible and avoid getting sick. If you are a smoker, you will need to quit smoking at least six to eight weeks before your surgery date and continue avoidance for at least that long afterward.  All nicotine must be avoided, including nicotine patches and gum.  Smoking and nicotine can interfere with your recovery and will increase your risk of complications.

18. How Should I Prepare For After Surgery?

It is a good idea to have someone stay with you for the first one to three days after surgery. You should limit your activity and need to rest. Arrange for others to help with childcare, cooking, cleaning, and transportation until you are back on your feet. Gather everything you will need for the first few days of recovery, such as water, snacks, pillows, blankets, books, and other entertainment, and keep it close by wherever you will be staying.

19. Are There Any Risks of Tummy Tuck Surgery?

As with any surgery, there are some basic risks associated with a tummy tuck, such as bruising, bleeding, and infection. Talk to your surgeon about what steps you can take to reduce the risk of complications and how any concerns or problems are handled.

20. How is Pain Controlled?

Traditionally a pain pump or strong prescription pain relievers have been used to manage pain following surgery. However, some surgeons have begun using a long-lasting muscle-numbing medication known as EXPAREL to promote greater comfort during recovery. Exparel reduces sensation in the area and allows for more mobility with less discomfort. As you continue to heal, over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol are often sufficient to control any lingering pain.  It is important that you avoid all blood-thinning medications such as Aleve, Motrin, Advil, and aspirin before and after surgery.  Check with your surgeon before taking any medications.

Preparing for Your Consultation

In addition to the above questions, it can be beneficial to keep a notebook handy to jot down any other questions that come to mind. Remember that there are not any “bad” questions, and your surgeon has likely heard them all before. You are the one undergoing surgery, so be sure to ask what you need to know in order to feel as comfortable and confident as possible about the procedure and recovery.

Enhance Your Abdominal Contour with a Tummy Tuck

Get the flatter, smoother, tighter abdomen you have been dreaming of with the help of a tummy tuck. Learn more about effective ways of addressing problem areas and fine-tune your physique by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Brucker at Brucker Plastic Surgery in La Jolla.  In our experience, a tummy tuck offers one of the highest degrees of satisfaction of any plastic surgery procedure.  Stop settling for a mid-section that makes you feel self-conscious, and take steps to improve how you look and feel today.