Tummy Tuck

Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

For women and men who have loose abdominal skin and fat concentrated in the abdominal area, a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is a popular cosmetic body procedure that can transform how you look and feel.

Am I a good candidate for a tummy tuck?

A common misconception about tummy tucks is that they provide a quick path to weight loss but that’s not the case. In fact, the people who make ideal tummy tuck candidates are those who are exercising regularly, eating a proper diet, and living a healthy lifestyle but for whatever reason, have extra skin and fat around their tummy that they just can’t get rid of.

It is especially common for women who have had children to visit us about tummy tuck procedures. With pregnancy, the abdominal wall muscles stretch to accommodate the expanding uterus – afterwards, these muscles are often not able to come back together completely (a condition commonly known as “diastasis recti”). In addition to the separation of the abdominal wall muscles, pregnancy can cause excess skin around the abdomen and stretch marks—all of which can be addressed through a tummy tuck procedure.

Tummy tucks also work well for those who have lost  weight, have hanging loose skin and/or fat around the midsection, and need the area around their tummy to be tightened a bit; in fact, we often recommend “mini-tummy tucks” for those who are in great shape but just have the slightest paunch or extra skin they need tightened.

The best way to determine whether or not you are a good candidate for a tummy tuck is to meet with  Dr. Watterson who has many years of excellent surgical experience and can suggest the most appropriate procedure for you.  He will hear your concerns and then offer a plan that is best for you and your particular situation.  He can show you different results and guide you to an excellent outcome.

Tummy tucks are great procedures for the right candidates! Usually, but not always tummy tucks are for patients who have lost significant weight and the skin is loose and “floppy”. Tummy tucks are for patients who have skin laxity for whatever reason such as weight loss, pregnancy and resulting stretch marks, or for those patients where the abdominal (rectus abdominus) muscles have spread apart. This can be defeating for a patient who works hard to control weight and exercise only to find a bulging abdomen in the midline.

It is generally suggested that this procedure be done after a woman completed child bearing. There are exceptions of course, and massive weight loss and other considerations are explored at the consult.

Tummy tucks have become much more refined with the introduction of “Exparel” a long acting numbing medication and progressive tension sutures which provide subtle but beautiful midline groove on the tummy.  These improvements along with the Saldanha lipoabdominoplasty have made for incredible advances in this very popular and sought-after procedure.

Safety is always paramount, and patients who are overweight increase the risk of surgery. Smokers, obese patients and those who are prone for blood clotting must be carefully screened and counseled before surgery.

There are many different types of tummy tucks including a circumferential or extended type. Standard tummy tucks are most common but are being replaced by a newer and improved technique popularized by Brazilian surgeon Osvaldo Saldanha. This is a combined liposuction and tummy tuck procedure that is truly remarkable. Other kinds are mini and skin- only tummy tucks and a technique called an umbilical float or belly button floating technique for more minor type skin issues.

All of these should match the concern of the patients and be guided by an experienced and skillful surgeon familiar with these techniques.  There is no substitution for a well trained plastic surgeon who has years of experience and judgement.  Do your homework and seek out a surgeon with top credentials, and  experience and who loves his work.

What kinds of tummy tuck surgeries are available?

Standard Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

This standard procedure is appropriate for the majority of clients. It removes flaccid abdominal skin and tightens muscles that have been separated and weakened by pregnancy or weight gain. This procedure is particularly recommended for women who are finished having children.

tummy tuck before after p1

For a number of patients who visit Watterson Plastic Surgery with specific concerns and needs, alternative forms of abdominoplasty are available:

Partial Abdominoplasty (“Mini Tummy Tuck”)

This technique, involving only a short horizontal incision, is used when the amount of loose skin is minimal and the excess fat deposits are located below the navel.

Circumferential Abdominoplasty

This procedure is most commonly performed on a client who has lost a great deal of weight and fat (perhaps after gastric bypass surgery) and now has loose overhanging skin not just on the front of the stomach, but all around the torso. In order to create the desired contour, the surgical scar will extend around the waistline, removing the fat and skin that hangs over the belt-line while also lifting the outer thigh and buttock, creating a smoother silhouette. In addition, muscles are tightened when necessary and liposuction utilized where needed.

New Advances in Abdominoplasty

As with any surgical procedure, the tummy tuck is consistently seeing new breakthroughs and innovations. A couple of major advances include Exparel and drain-free recovery.


Exparel is a non-narcotic, long-acting, local anesthetic that makes the healing and recovery process significantly easier. It’s powerful enough to make the abdomen numb for about three days, which is usually more than enough time to get patients through the most uncomfortable parts of the recovery process.

According to a study conducted at Dr. Watterson’s former practice, patients who have Exparel use only about a third the amount of pain medications that other patients use. They are also back to their normal routine sooner and feel better throughout their recovery compared to patients who did not use Exparel for pain management.

Drain-Free Recovery

The other big breakthrough is the drain-free recovery by way of progressive tension suturing. Traditionally, drains have been used to ensure that all fluid is expelled from the body; being connected to drains is messy and inconvenient, which makes this type of surgical approach so nice for patients. With this technique, the abdominal wall is incrementally tacked down to the muscles, minimizing the space where fluid might collect and eliminating the need for drains.  Dr. Watterson may still use drains after discussion with the patient.

How long is recovery time?

Tummy tucks or abdominoplasties are very much like going through a C-section. Many women can relate to that. It takes about six weeks to get back to a routine exercise regimen and one must be careful particularly in the first two weeks to be careful with activity levels to avoid postoperative bleeding.

One remarkable medical breakthrough has been the introduction of Exparel, a long acting type of “Novocain” that can decrease pain significantly by providing anesthetic relief for approximately 3 days. Dr. Watterson has  been using this for several years now and it has been a game-changer for tummy tucks. Patients can move more freely and tolerate the muscle repair much more easily, almost that we must remind patients to curb their activity levels early on.

Most patients can shower the next day. Patients are encouraged to walk about the house initially and then increase that activity. Patients can drive once off pain meds and ibuprofen is introduced early on to get patients off the narcotics which may cause constipation and feelings of nausea.

Learn More About Tummy Tuck Surgery

If you are a generally healthy person but wish to contour your abdomen while strengthening the abdominal wall, a tummy tuck procedure may be the ideal solution. The first step is making sure you’re a good patient for a safe and healthy procedure, and that you have realistic goals in mind.

Take the first step by reaching out to Watterson Plastic Surgery today. Schedule a consultation to answer any additional questions you have about the tummy tuck surgery process.

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