May 2020

What is a Tummy Tuck and what does it involve?

A ‘Tummy Tuck,’ or, as its known in the trade an Abdominoplasty, is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures. It flattens the abdomen by removing excess fat and skin and tightens the muscle in the abdominal wall. People tend to focus on the removal of excess fat but the tightening of the muscle in the abdomen is just as important. Everyone is born with a slight separation between each side of the rectus muscle, better known as the ‘six pack,’ and with age, changes in lifestyle and crucially, pregnancy, that slight muscle separation increases, causing the skin of the belly to sag. Something only a tightening of the muscle can effectively correct. "A tummy tuck brings the muscle edges together, which acts like an internal corset, pulling your belly in," according to one plastic surgeon (1).


Who should have a Tummy Tuck?

Someone with excess fat in the abdominal area may not necessarily be a good candidate for a tummy tuck.  The elasticity of the skin may be fine and there may be little or only a slight degree of muscle separation, so doctors will recommend tummy liposuction rather than a tummy tuck. The same applies to women planning to have children. The time for a tuck is not before but after a woman’s child-bearing period is complete. In fact middle-aged women whose abdominal skin and muscles have been stretched in pregnancy constitute the largest group undergoing a tummy tuck procedure


tummy tuck


The Tummy Tuck Procedure

Despite its humorous nick-name, a tummy tuck is major surgery which can take from one to five hours under general anaesthetic. Two incisions are made. One from hip-bone to hip-bone, close to the pubic area, the other around the navel. The skin is separated from the abdominal muscles which are then pulled closer together and stitched in place to narrow the waist and tighten the belly. The separated skin flap is then stretched over the freshly tightened muscles and the excess skin trimmed away.  The navel, or belly-button, as we all affectionately know it, has been drawn down in this process and is reattached in a natural-looking position. A drainage tube may be applied to remove excess fluid from the operation site. The incisions are closed and a sterile dressing applied. 

This is a complete abdominoplasty, there’s also a partial, or mini abdominoplasty which involves shorter incisions and is usually performed on people whose excess fat is located below the navel. With a mini tummy tuck it’s usually not necessary for the navel to be moved. The operation is shorter - around two hours - and recovery time is correspondingly quicker.

As regards recovery time, most people are able to head home, after a couple of hours in the recovery room but complete recovery can vary from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, dependent, obviously on the individual’s general health. Plastic surgeons prefer to operate on non-smokers, as smoking carries a greater risk of complications and significantly slows the healing process. They also advise avoidance of strenuous activity and, particularly, the lifting of heavy objects. Recovery can be painful and prescription painkillers may well be necessary.  A return to work is often allowed after two or three weeks, but it shouldn’t be attempted without consultation with a doctor.


Tummy Tuck Results and Risks

In addition to the usual risks of major surgery, the risks attendant on tummy tuck surgery include: asymmetry (lopsidedness), scarring, and loose or numb skin. There are more serious risks for people who smoke or have bad circulation, diabetes, heart, lung, or liver disease, such as hematoma (bleeding), seroma (build up of fluid), blood clots and infection.

But in general people tend to be happy with the results of a tummy tuck. A flatter abdomen is evident immediately after the operation and, as long as a healthy, balanced diet is maintained, along with regular exercise, the results are permanent.



(1) Alan Matarasso, quoted in: "Considering a Tummy Tuck? Here's What to Expect from Abdominoplasty." on:

March 7th 2019, viewed on February 22nd 2020


'Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)' on:

2nd September 2016, viewed on 22nd February 2020


'What You Need to Know About A Tummy Tuck Surgery' on:

Updated on January 29th 2020, viewed on 22nd February 2020