Pretty much everyone has heard of a tummy tuck. But did you know that there are multiple types of tummy tucks?
The broad term “tummy tuck” actually refers to an abdominoplasty, which creates a firmer, flatter belly and a tighter waistline by removing excess skin and fat as well as tightening the underlying abdominal muscles. It is a very effective procedure but not necessarily a substitute for weight loss through diet and exercise. It is also not a “one-size-fits-all” solution for everyone who wants to improve their abdominal contour.
There are actually several different types of tummy tucks, each designed to effectively address specific issues of the abdomen to achieve the desired abdominal contour. How do you know which type of tummy tuck is right for you? The answer depends on the starting point of your existing anatomy and your desired goals.
The Classical Abdominoplasty
Suitable for healthy men and women who have overstretched abdominal muscles and excessive skin around their mid-sections, the classical abdominoplasty is ideal for people who want to flatten the abdomen both above and below the belly button.
Also called a traditional or standard tummy tuck, this procedure requires a horizontal incision between the hip bones in the lower abdomen and most often an incision around the umbilicus (belly button). During the procedure, the plastic surgeon tightens the muscles and pulls down the skin over the abdomen, removing the excess. Liposuction can also be used during the procedure to further contour the waistline and hips if desired. Once the desired contours have been achieved, the surgeon repositions the belly button and closes the incision. The typical recovery period is about two weeks.
Even people who are at their ideal body weight can be bothered by a stubborn belly pooch that no amount of dieting and exercise will erase. The mini tummy tuck is designed for exactly this situation. This modified technique flattens out a small bulge in the lower abdomen by treating the region between the mons pubis and the belly button. It does not address the upper abdominal contour to any significant degree.
A small horizontal incision is made between the hip bones in the lower abdomen that will normally be covered by a bikini bottom. This exposure allows the surgeon to tighten the muscles of the lower abdomen and remove the excess skin. This generally does not involve repositioning the belly button. A mini tummy tuck is often combined with liposuction to remove any adjacent fatty deposits of the abdomen. Since this procedure is less invasive than a classical abdominoplasty, patients generally enjoy a quicker recovery. Most are able to return to their normal activities in a week or so.
The Extended Abdominoplasty
As its name suggests, the extended tummy tuck is a more extensive version of a classical abdominoplasty. It is intended to address issues faced by men and women who enjoy general good health but have unwanted skin and fat excess in the lower abdomen, hips and sides of the lower back.
For an extended tummy tuck, the horizontal incision stretches across the lower abdomen and around the hips. Because the extended tummy tuck removes more skin from a wider area than the classical technique, it is often reserved for massive weight loss patients. A vertical incision may also be required to deal with the horizontal skin excess — a variation known as an anchor abdominoplasty. The belly button is repositioned before the incision is closed. Patients who undergo this procedure should expect recovery to take a few weeks.
The Reverse Abdominoplasty
Every now and then, there are people who are displeased only with the contour of their upper abdomen. They may have loose skin of the upper abdomen which is draping over the belly button. Often, they describe this as a “frowny” belly button. People bothered by this issue may be a candidate for a reverse tummy tuck. This is a modified technique that removes only excess skin of the upper abdomen by placing an incision in the fold below each breast. It can also be combined with liposuction to reduce any fatty deposits that may be present. This is a specific type of tummy tuck which is only expected to address problems in the upper abdominal area. For this reason the recovery tends to be somewhat quicker with people back to work within a week or so.
It All Depends on Your Starting Point
While the amount and location of your excess skin are clearly major factors in determining which type of tummy tuck is appropriate, other aspects of your anatomy may also come into play. Skin quality and body type can both impact your results. Scarring from previous surgeries also needs to be considered. The placement of excessive fat deposits matters as well. While tummy tucks are effective in reducing fat that is located in front of the muscle wall, it does not address the deeper fat that is located within the abdominal cavity.
For best results, tummy tuck options should be tailored to the patient’s unique needs. Consulting with a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is absolutely crucial. After discussing your individual goals and examining your anatomy, your plastic surgeon can educate you about the possibilities for your particular case. Your plastic surgeon will also help you understand what type of result you can expect and design a treatment plan that includes the appropriate type of tummy tuck to achieve your specific goals. Your safe and happy outcome is the ultimate goal.
The West Georgia Center for Plastic Surgery, a Tanner Medical Group practice, is located in Carrollton. Dr. Stephen Kahler is a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. He is also a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. For more information or to inquire about a personalized consultation, call 770-834-6302 or visit WestGeorgiaPlasticSurgery.org.