Knowing what to expect can help you decide if surgery is right for you, make you feel more confident and comfortable as the Big Day approaches, and prepare you for successful recovery. Here’s what to expect from a tummy tuck.
Part 1 – Making the Decision
Should you get a tummy tuck? Step number one in making that decision is honestly assessing your goals.
- Do you look in the mirror and wonder how you can get rid of the loose skin around your abdominal area?
- When you wear jeans, do you have spill-over that bothers you?
- Do you want to look better (and feel more comfortable) in your clothes?
- Do you want to look better out of clothes?
- Do you want to simply feel better in your skin?
These are just some of the questions that people considering a tummy tuck will ask themselves. Only you know the “right” answer for yourself. A tummy tuck can positively address all of these issues, but first you need to know what you want to achieve.
Are you just wanting to lose weight? Liposuction and tummy tucks are NEVER to be considered as a weight loss solution.
While both procedures can remove inches from your waist, they are for men and women who have already done what they can to lose weight and trim down through diet and exercise or, in some cases, bariatric surgery. Tummy tuck is the finale of this process that gives your appearance the finishing touches.
Another vital part of the decision-making process involves setting realistic expectations of what your final result will look like. We aren’t all built the same way. It is important when looking at before and after galleries to compare yourself to others who start with similar body types. Taking an honest and realistic look at what is possible for you will help you decide whether or not to move forward with surgery.
There are other important factors to consider in making your decision:
- Fat location. Is your stubborn fat under the muscles or outside the muscles? Dr. Harris can help you answer this question. Liposuction and tummy tucks cannot remove internal, or visceral, fat that is underneath the muscle. They can only treat fat that is outside the muscle layer. While this issue may not affect your decision to get a tummy tuck, it can definitely affect your prospective results.
- Availability of aftercare. Do you have a friend or family member who will be able to assist you during the recovery process? Are the people closest to you supportive of your decision? Tummy tuck surgery is a procedure that will require physical and emotional support afterwards while you recover and heal.
- Your motivation. Are you doing this for yourself and not because someone else wants you to, or you feel you must live up to some cultural standard? You should never feel pressured into doing an elective surgical procedure. It is your body and it is your decision.
Part 2 – Setting the Date
The timing of your tummy tuck procedure is also an important consideration. The last thing you want is to rush your recovery, so you’ll want to plan in advance when to schedule your surgery. There are several things to think about.
- Time off. You will need to set aside enough time away from your work and home responsibilities so that you can recover without unwanted distractions. Depending on the type of work you do, you will need to consider when returning to work is feasible. Dr. Harris can discuss the limitations that are recommended following a tummy tuck, which may vary somewhat depending on the details of your procedure.
If your job or other responsibilities require strenuous activity, you may need to give yourself extra time to recover, in order to prevent any unwanted discomfort or delay healing. Our patients with “desk jobs” can often return to work sooner than those with more physically demanding careers.
- Vacations or special events you have planned. For example, if you’re planning a beach vacation, you will want to give yourself a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks before submerging any of your wounds into water (lakes, ocean, pools, spas). Not to mention you want to be well-healed so as to look your best in your swimwear.
If you’re planning a ski vacation, you will want to give yourself at least 6 weeks to recover, prior to undergoing the physical demands of snow skiing or boarding. If you aren’t fully healed, a fall could risk your recovery and results.
- Your caregiver’s schedule. We recommend that someone stay with you at all times for at least 48 to 72 hours after your procedure. The initial stages of your recovery are so important – having a caregiver will allow you to begin the healing process in the most relaxing way possible.
- Time in compression garments. Different surgical practices have different beliefs about the importance of compression garments after a tummy tuck. Dr. Harris is a firm believer in the importance of compression after a liposuction and/or tummy tuck procedure. He recommends that patients wear compression garments for about 3-4 months following their procedure.
Toward the end of that time, however, he is usually ok with patients going without the compression garments for brief periods. You can discuss these nuances with Dr. Harris during your personal consultation.
Part 3 – The Procedure Itself
Details of a tummy tuck procedure can vary based on the type of procedure you and Dr. Harris choose. For general discussion purposes, let’s look at a standard tummy tuck.
Tummy tucks at Image Surgical Arts are different from most, due to the amount of liposuction Dr. Harris incorporates into your tummy tuck. Many surgeons will do only a few areas of liposuction (or none at all) as part of a tummy tuck. Dr. Harris typically performs liposuction to at least seven areas including the lower back (sacrum), mid-back, back bra roll, waist, hips, mons and upper and lower abdomen.
This 360-degree liposuction technique is what distinguishes an Image Surgical Arts tummy tuck from what you would get elsewhere. You get “total picture” results instead of improving only your frontal appearance. After all, your body is 3-dimensional.
A tummy tuck is an outpatient procedure performed in our own accredited state-of-the-art surgical center. Depending on the details, your surgery will take between 3 to 4 hours. In general, here’s how it will go:
- You will be anesthetized, as agreed with Dr. Harris beforehand.
- You will be face-down to start, so Dr. Harris can perform liposuction to designated areas on the back and waist.
- You will then be moved onto your back, and Dr. Harris will perform liposuction on the abdomen and the front of the waist. It is important to remember that only fat which is outside the muscles can be liposuctioned. We cannot remove internal, or visceral, fat using this procedure.
- Once liposuction is complete, Dr. Harris will make an incision from hip to hip and start the tummy tuck phase. He will tighten the abdominal muscles, if they have been pulled apart (most commonly from pregnancy), then he will pull the excess skin downward (like a window shade), trim away the excess and suture the incision closed. Having also made an incision around the belly button, he will be able to position it correctly and suture it in place as well.
- Dr. Harris will place one or two drains when he closes the incision, to remove any built-up fluid.
- You will be placed in a compression garment, and we will take you to the recovery room where you will be monitored by one of our nurses until it is safe for you to go home.
Dr. Harris will see you back in the office the next morning to check on your surgical sites, show you how to do your first dressing change, make sure all is well, and answer any questions you may have.
Part 4 – Heading Home
Once you are back at home, it is important that you follow all the instructions given to you by our clinical staff. There is an important reason behind every detail, and we know you want your recovery to go as quickly and successfully as possible.
- A comfortable place to rest. Most patients find that a recliner will allow them to rest most easily, since at first it may not be comfortable to lay completely flat on your back - especially if your abdominal muscles were tightened during your tummy tuck. You won’t be allowed to lay on your belly, as that can pull on the incisions and the drain(s). As an alternative to the recliner, you may consider a chair and ottoman or a comfy couch with extra pillows to elevate and support your head and shoulders.
- Comfort zone. Surround your comfy place to rest with all the things you will need often, such as remote controls, books, water bottle, medication, etc., arranged so you can easily reach them. Prepare this set-up prior to your surgery, so can start relaxing and recovering the minute you get home.
- Caregiver. You will need to have a responsible adult with you at all times for the first 48 to 72 hours. You will not be able to “do for yourself” at first. Besides, a little extra pampering will certainly be in order.
- Absorbent padding. There will be a significant amount of drainage from your incision site, so we recommend placing absorbent padding where you will be resting. Puppy training pads are a popular choice and they work well to help keep the area around you dry and clean.
- Simple movements. Oxygen and good circulation promote healing. We will want you to walk a short distance every 2-3 hours following your surgery, to help prevent blood clots, pneumonia, and to encourage fluid drainage. It is also important to do deep breathing exercises to help keep your lungs well expanded.