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Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)

tummy tuck before and after

One of the many cosmetics procedures we offer at Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists is abdominoplasty, otherwise known as a tummy tuck. A tummy tuck is a cosmetic operation to rid the lower abdomen of stubborn superfluous skin and fat that simply will not go away no matter how much you exercise or diet. The procedure also usually repairs separated, damaged, or stretched muscles, and its purpose is to provide a toned, flat, and pleasing abdominal profile without unsightly bulges or bumps.


Dr. Michael Litrel and Dr. James Haley are two of our board-certified doubly accredited urogynecologists in OB/GYN and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS) whose qualifications enable them to diagnose, treat and perform all reproductive pelvic and cosmetic surgeries pertaining to women’s health, including tummy tucks.

Dr. Michael Litrel discusses tummy tucks

What Causes This Excess Skin and Fat?

Pregnancy is the prime culprit causing loss of collagen and elastin. Rapid weight gain over a period of 9 months has its drawbacks. Though a baby typically can weigh anywhere from 6 to 11 pounds, women gain, on average, 20 to 40 pounds. No matter how carefully a woman maintains her weight throughout gestation, growing an entire little human being in less than a year can cause a lot of abdominal distension-not to mention stretch marks. Bringing him or her into the world with one final push can also leave considerable sagging around the midsection that does not return to its original shape.

Another contributor to excess skin and fat can be substantial weight loss. Whether pounds are eliminated sensibly over a long period of time, or quickly through weight loss surgery, crash dieting or illness, restoring previous contour and firmness to a stomach that was stretched to capacity can be difficult.

Some abdominal surgeries or injuries may leave muscles damaged, lowering their ability to function properly. This can result in creating skin flaccidity.

Skin naturally sags and muscles contract more sluggishly with age as well, resulting in flaccid, droopy overhang. A tummy tuck can correct the damage caused by all these factors.

What are Some of the Problems That Can Occur Regarding Excess Fat and Skin?

Surplus fat and skin can be minimal, or it can be so excessive that folds of abdominal skin can hang as far down as the pubic area. Women sometimes struggle almost compulsively to lose weight and firm up through diet and exercise, yet still see no result. Their discouragement and frustration can lead to depression, social withdrawal, isolation and intimacy avoidance. Many wear bulky clothing to camouflage stubborn bulges, suffering uncomfortably during hot weather rather than expose their bodies.

Physically, their mobility is sometimes limited. Although they may keep themselves scrupulously clean, body odor can emanate from skin folds or from profuse sweating. In some extreme cases, severe chafing, rashes, even fungal infections may occur deep within overlapping creases.

Socially, based on their physical appearance, they may be overlooked for employment opportunities or judged to be ‘fat’ or ‘lazy’, adding to their already fragile self-esteem. Even though we know true beauty comes from within, the society we live in today has put a high standard on outer appearance.

What are the Benefits of a Tummy Tuck?

Cutting away skin and fat can reduce weight-in some cases up to 10 pounds. This additional weight that defies gravity and hangs downward can cause a slouching condition called swayback. A tummy tuck can alleviate this strain, ease discomfort, and correct the poor posture that resulted from it.

By tightening the abdominal area, stretch marks are also eliminated.

A tummy tuck can also provide psychological relief. Abdominoplasty can restore confidence and a sense of pride in body image. A trim waistline, firm stomach and a refreshed sense of attractiveness can work wonders on a woman who previously thought she’d never see her feet again under her protruding belly.

Am I a Good Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?

If you have an abundance of loose skin and fat in the lower abdomen that has stubbornly resisted all your reduction efforts, you may want to discuss this with our doctors. Typically, you might be considered for a tummy tuck if:

  • You no longer plan to have any more children
  • You have achieved your desired weight and plan to diligently maintain it
  • Are a non-smoker
  • Are in good health
  • Do not have any serious medical issues that can endanger you during abdominoplasty.

Are There Different Tummy Tuck Methods?

There are two types of tummy tucks-traditional and mini. The ideal one for you depends entirely on the amount of loose skin and fat you have around your midsection. These are the procedures:

The traditional or full tummy tuck: This is usually the surgery recommended for most patients. It addresses three abdominal layers-the muscle, fat, and skin. Skin is excised between the navel and pubic region, fat is removed, and damaged or separated muscle is repaired. The scar is somewhat longer than the mini tummy tuck, but this surgery allows for a tighter, flatter and curvier abdomen with a more sculpted look. The belly button is also repositioned to look more natural and centered. Any scarring can be minimized with additional plastic surgery once you are completely healed.

The mini tummy tuck: This procedure leaves a smaller scar and removes only the skin and fat in the lower abdomen beneath the navel. The mini tummy tuck is for women who have minimal amounts of loose skin and fat. It does not include shaping or sculpting.

Liposuction is sometimes used during tummy tucks to remove additional fat.

How Do I Prepare for Tummy Tuck Surgery?

You will be advised of all preparations by your surgeon, but these are some of the measures you will be directed to follow:

  • If you smoke, you will have to stop completely for at least a month prior to surgery so as not to compromise your healing process or cause postoperative problems.
  • Certain blood-thinning medications will have to be stopped about two weeks before your procedure. Your medications will be evaluated and you will be advised accordingly, so make sure your doctor is aware of everything you take, including supplements, vitamins, and minerals. He or she should also be aware of any alcohol you drink regularly or social drugs you use. This information will be kept strictly confidential but should be revealed for your protection.
  • Advise your doctor of any cold, illness, or infections you may be experiencing up to a week prior to surgery. This can greatly impact your recovery and be cause to postpone it. If you are given any prescriptions by your surgeon, fill them as directed.
  • Begin fasting at midnight the night before your abdominoplasty. Don’t drink any liquids including ice chips, water, or even suck on hard candy. If you are taking heart or blood pressure medications, take them the morning of, but with no more than a small sip of water.
  • On the day of your surgery, make sure you wear very loose fitting clothing, and that someone is available to take you home. If possible, arrange to have that person stay with you overnight.

After your tummy tuck, you will be monitored for about 2 hours, after which you will be allowed to go home if there are no problems.

What are the Risks and What Should I Look Out For?

Every surgery carries risks, but a tummy tuck is a very common cosmetic operation that is performed safely thousands of times a day across the United States. Complications occur to a very small percentage of people. There can be reactions to the anesthesia, which is why you are monitored afterward. There may also be infection, pain, bleeding, and swelling. Contact your surgeon if anything worrisome appears. The following is a list of precautions and possible problems:

  • Numbness: This is usually temporary, but can be permanent in rare cases.
  • Blood clots: You will be advised to take short walks to avoid this.
  • Displeasure with results: Despite best efforts on the part of your cosmetic surgeon, the look you were expecting may not be the one you get, especially if you expected an unrealistic outcome. Revisions can be done after complete healing.
  • Slow healing: Some women take longer to heal than others-sometimes due to a compromised immune system or for other reasons. Be careful to follow all instructions regarding diet, smoking cessation, second-hand smoke exposure, alcohol consumption, and exercise.
  • Belly button: Your navel may look odd at first because of swelling and relocation during surgery.
  • Nausea and appetite Loss: Anesthesia may leave you feeling queasy. A light diet of broth and crackers or toast until you feel better may help.
  • Dizziness or inattention: Do not drive for about two weeks after surgery until you are more alert. Your physician will advise you on when you can resume working-usually within 2-3 weeks.
  • Hygiene: Do not take baths for baths for 4-6 weeks. You can shower after 48 hours, but avoid direct spray on your incision. Special compression garments, along with drainage instructions will be prescribed, as there will be fluid seepage for a while. This is normal.
  • Constipation: Do not let yourself become constipated. Ask your doctor for a stool softener if you have trouble moving your bowels.

If you experience redness at the incision, suffer severe pain not controlled by medicine, or develop a fever higher than 101° call your doctor immediately.

When Will I See Results?

You will see some results almost immediately, but the full effect of your surgery will only show after complete swelling goes down and healing is completed. This can take several months. As long as you maintain your weight and exercise regularly, tummy tuck results are permanent.

Why Should I Choose Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists for My Tummy Tuck?

As mentioned earlier, Dr. Litrel and Dr. Haley are doubly accredited surgeons and possess the best skills and qualifications available to ensure an excellent outcome for your abdominoplasty and any other cosmetic procedure you may need. Furthermore, at our establishment, we are committed to putting both your physical and emotional needs regarding your self-image-first. We are not an assembly line facility. To us, you are an individual, and we treat you the same way we expect all the women in our lives to be treated. We make sure your procedure takes place in a safe, sterile, and relaxed environment. Our unhurried, precise attention to every detail enables us to avert as many complications and as much surgical scarring as possible.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) statistics, over 181,500 tummy tucks were performed in 2016 in the United States alone. Abdominoplasty was the third most popular cosmetic plastic surgery, rising by 434% in only the last 20 years, making it the one of the most sought after women’s surgical aesthetic procedures today.

Call to schedule a free consultation with one of our double board-certified physicians at 770.720.7733 or request an appointment online.

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