According to education and advocacy organization the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (the Aesthetic Society) in its “Statistics Report 2020-2021,” more than 242,000 tummy tucks were reported in 2021一a sizable increase of 49% over the previous year.
However, not all tummy tucks are the same. While they’re all designed to help achieve a slimmer appearance, they differ in the abdominal area of concentration, procedure, and recovery time. Also, a tummy tuck can only help reduce fat on the exterior of the muscle wall, not visceral fat located more deeply behind it. Results will vary depending on skin elasticity, body type, and fat deposit location.
Here’s more about the four types of tummy tuck (aka abdominoplasty), and which might be right for you.
1. Standard or Full Tummy Tuck
A standard tummy tuck is the most common, and designed for a slimmer look around the waist. It focuses on the midsection, between the sternum and belly button.
This procedure typically starts with a horizontal incision below the navel from hip to hip, followed by tightening of slack or separated abdominal muscles (a condition called “diastasis recti”). The skin is pulled down over the abdomen, and any excess connective tissue or skin is removed. The procedure will often include a repositioning of the navel. This may sound like a second procedure, but it’s a routine part of a standard tummy tuck.
Recovery time typically takes a minimum of two weeks.
Best for: An adult who leads a healthy lifestyle with minimal to moderate excess weight or loose skin in the mid-abdomen. Also, women with an excess amount of loose skin in the midsection from a previous pregnancy.
2. Mini Tummy Tuck
A mini tummy tuck is done on the lower abdominal region to reduce excess skin and connective tissue, often due to aging. It’s that pooch that no number of celery stalks or crunches can conquer.
In a mini tummy tuck, the incision tends to be shorter and just below the bikini line. The procedure is similar to a standard tummy tuck, including a tightening of lower abdominal muscles, with the skin pulled tight and the excess removed. No repositioning of the navel is required.
Expect a minimum of one week for recovery.
Best for: Adults with loose skin or minor excess weight below the belly button.
3. Extended Tummy Tuck
An extended tummy tuck is a more extensive version of the standard option that reaches beyond the tummy to the hips and sides of the lower back. A horizontal incision is made across the lower abdomen that extends around the hips. A vertical incision may also be required depending on the size of the treatment area.
During surgery, slack abdominal muscles are tightened, tissue and excess skin from the abdominal and flank regions removed, and the skin resecured. As with a standard tummy tuck, repositioning the navel is typically required.
Recovery takes longer than a standard tummy tuck due to the longer incision and more extensive tucking. Expect two to three weeks of recovery time, at a minimum.
Best for: Adults who have had significant weight loss, excess skin, or a flabby abdomen. Also, those struggling to slim down love handles or back fat regions.
Selecting the right plastic surgeon for your procedure will be pivotal to your success.
4. The Reverse Tummy Tuck
The reverse tummy tuck helps reduce excess skin on the upper abdomen rather than the mid or lower abdominal regions. A horizontal incision follows the lower breast fold across the lower sternum to the remaining lower breast fold, essentially where the bra line would be. Upper abdominal muscles (upper rectus) can be tightened, and excess connective tissue and skin removed.
In some cases, excess skin can also be utilized under the breasts for added fullness and shape or repositioning. This is often done in tandem with a mastopexy (breast lift).
Recovery takes approximately one to two weeks.
Best for: Adults with loose excess skin in the upper abdominal region but minimal muscle slackening (if any) impacting the midsection or lower abdominal contouring. Women undergoing a breast lift or requiring recontouring after breast implant elimination or mal-positioning.
Before you undergo tummy tuck surgery, you will have at least one consultation with your plastic surgeon. During this meeting, you will discuss your goals, medical history, and current health. The surgeon will also recommend which tummy tuck is appropriate for you and further discuss the procedure, risks, and recovery.
Your surgeon may also recommend discontinuing smoking several weeks ahead of your procedure. Smoking can decrease blood flow, damage tissue, and hamper healing.
The Day of Your Surgery
Regardless of the type of tummy tuck you select, the procedure involves the use of general anesthesia or intravenous sedation. Most tummy tucks require general anesthesia, which necessitates the surgery be conducted in an outpatient healthcare setting or hospital with an anesthesiologist present. With intravenous sedation, your procedure can be performed in a medical office without the need for an anesthesiologist.
Surgery can take anywhere from one to five hours, depending on your procedure. In some cases, patients can stay overnight in the hospital.
Immediately following surgery, you may experience routine pain, swelling, numbness, bruising, and fatigue. This is to be expected and will subside over time in most cases. Your surgeon will provide instructions on caring for your incisions, drains (where applicable), and surgical dressings. They will also prescribe pain medication when necessary.
All abdominoplasties leave scars. However, an experienced surgeon can help minimize and hide these effectively. Expect at least one follow-up appointment with your surgeon to check your recovery progress.
Most patients can expect to resume daily activities, such as driving and shopping, within a week or two after surgery.
Tummy Tuck Cost
According to the aforementioned Aesthetic Society Statistics Report 2020-2021, the average surgeon’s cost of abdominoplasty for 2021 is $6,764. However, the price can vary widely depending on the procedure, your surgeon’s experience, and geographic location.
And like any surgery, additional fees could include those for the medical facility, anesthesia, medical tests, post-surgery garments, prescriptions, and follow-up care, among others. Talk to your surgeon before your procedure to get a full breakdown of related costs.
Selecting the Right Plastic Surgeon
Selecting the right plastic surgeon for your procedure will be pivotal to your success. At a minimum, ensure they are board certified and have extensive experience in your surgical procedure. Consider researching potential candidates through online resources, such as the Federation of State Medical Boards, recommendations from previous patients, and with your regular health care providers.
If you're interested in getting a tummy tuck, learn more about the process during a consultation with Dr. Anthony Buglino.
Dr. Buglino is a board-certified plastic surgeon with years of experience performing tummy tucks and helping patients achieve their optimal health and beauty goals across Long Island and the greater New York City area.