It’s not easy to lose weight. It’s even harder to maintain weight. Unfortunately, even if you’re at an ideal weight, you can still have stubborn pockets of fat that affect your contours. Luckily, at Southwest Michigan Plastic and Hand Surgery in Portage, MI, we offer abdominoplasty, also known as a tummy tuck, to help our clients achieve their desired contours. Keep reading to find out what you can expect from the procedure.
What Can You Expect From a Tummy Tuck?
There are three primary things you can expect from a tummy tuck:
- The removal of excess skin
- The elimination of a protruding lower abdomen
- The tightening of loose skin and muscles
Additionally, a small amount of excess fat is excised during this procedure. However, since it is not a fat removal procedure, you should only expect minimal localized fat loss. If a significant amount of fat loss is required for you to achieve your ideal contours, you will need to combine this procedure with liposuction.
Your body changes after you deliver a baby. One of the most common visible changes to a new mother’s body is a more prominent abdomen. As the fetus grows in the womb, the abdominal skin is rapidly and significantly stretched. This takes an incredible toll on the proteins in the skin that keep it elastic, so your skin may not firm up after you give birth and lose your baby weight.
Regardless of your weight before, during or after pregnancy, there is a good chance your lower abdomen will protrude. This is sometimes called a pregnancy pouch. Note, pregnancy doesn’t just stretch your skin. The growing fetus also stretches the abdominal walls. Once the baby has been delivered, a bulge can occur in the soft tissues surrounding the abdominal muscles, leading to lower back pain and uncomfortable bloating.
Weight loss, like pregnancy, can leave you with excess skin. While pregnancy takes a toll on skin elasticity for under a year, excess weight can take a toll on skin elasticity for years. The effect excess fat has on your skin’s supportive structures is a lot like stretching a rubber band to its limit. If the weight loss is substantial enough, it may be impossible to tighten sagging skin.
If you lost a lot of weight but you’re young and otherwise healthy, it may take up to 18 months for your skin to tighten. Additionally, a successful weight loss journey may leave behind a stomach that protrudes noticeably. A number of factors have the potential to cause the storage of abdominal fat, including genetics, stress, diet, and lifestyle.
What To Expect Throughout the Process
As noted above, the results you can expect from abdominoplasty include the elimination of excess skin and fat. Additionally, the abdominal walls are supported and, sometimes, repaired. The bottom line is you can expect a significantly improved appearance after the procedure. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect in the earlier stages of the process:
An Initial Consultation
Before your procedure, we will review your health history and current health thoroughly. We will also ensure this procedure will help you achieve your goals by discussing your cosmetic and medical goals. At this point in the process, it is imperative we know about your:
- Previous procedures
- Routines and lifestyle choices
- Current pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements
We will also conduct a physical examination of the area, measuring the circumference of your waist and body fat distribution. Additionally, we will photograph your abdominal region. Finally, we will tailor a treatment plan to help you achieve all of your goals.
Depending on the extent of the goals you are trying to achieve, your procedure may take anywhere from two to four hours. It is an outpatient procedure, so you’ll be able to return home after your procedure is over. In fact, you don’t even need to go to a hospital for this procedure to be performed.
The first step in the procedure process is administering general anesthesia. Once your abdominal region is sanitized and you are asleep and numb, a horizontal incision will be made between your bikini line and navel. How large the incision will be depends on the amount of excess skin you have. This will be discussed in further detail during your initial consultation.
Once the incision is made, your abdominal skin will be lifted. This gives us access to the abdominal muscles beneath the skin. If necessary, these muscles will be repaired. To understand the medical importance of abdominoplasty, you should know your abdominal walls are made up of eight muscles. Two sets of four muscles are horizontally symmetrical. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds your abdominal muscles and keeps them connected to each other.
While the abdominal muscles are elastic, the fascia that holds them together is inelastic. For this reason, when your stomach region expands due to pregnancy or excess weight storage, your abdominal region loosens. The fascia cannot recover from this. In severe cases, a protruding belly results from this. Again, your fascia will not “bounce back.” Even if you maintain a lower weight through diet and exercise, only abdominoplasty can restore your fascia and abdominal muscles.
How the Muscles Are Improved
Permanent sutures are used to reverse muscle separation resulting from pulled fascia. We stitch these sutures vertically along the muscle edges, buried deep within the tissue never to be seen or felt.
You’ll enjoy tighter, stronger abdominal muscles, but you will basically forget the sutures are still inside your abdomen. Horizontal sutures may also be stitched into your muscles if there is extreme muscle laxity. These so-called corset sutures help you look sleeker and stronger.
After we have repaired your abdominal muscles, we will put your abdominal skin back in place. Then, we will trim any excess skin that is causing an abdominal pouch or extends too far.
We will make a second incision around the navel if you have excess upper abdominal skin. Once all of your excess skin is removed, the healthy, taut skin is sutured closed. We are also more than happy to adjust the position of your navel if that will help you achieve your cosmetic goals.
The Recovery Process
Everyone heals in a unique manner, so we can’t tell you exactly what you should expect during your recovery process. However, you will definitely need someone to drive you home after your procedure.
You should not drive within 24 hours of your procedure because general anesthesia can cause drowsiness and slow reflexes. Additionally, it is strongly advisable to have someone stay with you for the first 24 hours post-op so you can focus all of your attention on resting.
You may benefit from taking prescription analgesics during the first couple of days following your procedure. Make sure you take these as needed and directed. For example, take your medication with 8 ounces of fluid if the instructions advise you to.
Whether you want to take prescription analgesics or not, you must take a full course of antibiotics as directed. If you have any questions about the medications you have been prescribed, please let us know. We are happy to answer all of your questions.
During the first 24 hours post-op, you should move as little as possible. Ideally, your diet will consist of foods that require minimal preparation. Yogurt, unsalted nuts and fresh produce are great options because they are high in micronutrients and energy. If you don’t like the idea of grazing instead of eating a meal, prepare meals before your procedure that keep well in the refrigerator or freezer. Alternatively, have a loved one cooked for you while you rest.
Furthermore, it is very important to stay hydrated throughout your recovery process. Make an effort to drink at least half a gallon of water and tea throughout the day. If you are taking prescription analgesics, you may need to increase your fluid consumption. If you want to drink juice, have someone make you homemade juice. Juice available for purchase at the store is highly processed. Sugar can slow your recovery process.
Walking is a very important part of your recovery process. As soon as your body is feeling up to it, start walking at a slow pace. The idea isn’t to get your heart rate extremely elevated.
The goal is to get your blood flowing so more essential micronutrients are delivered to the abdominal region, speeding up your healing process significantly.
Going Back to Work
Depending on the nature of your occupation, you may need to take between one and two weeks off from work. We will advise you on how much time you should expect to take off from work during your initial consultation based on the scope of the procedure and the type of work you do.
Taking Small Steps
Most people return to driving within a few days of their procedure. However, it is important to understand you may not drive within 24 hours of taking certain prescription analgesics. If you’re not taking prescription analgesics, but you don’t feel up to driving, don’t force your body to do something uncomfortable. The key to a successful, rapid recovery is listening to your body and not pushing it too hard.
We cannot overstate how important rest is to your recovery process. Ease into your old workout routine very slowly after your procedure. Remember, you are encouraged to walk slowly as soon as you are feeling up to it. You may resume anaerobic exercise approximately six weeks after your procedure and aerobic exercise roughly eight weeks post-op.
Tobacco consumption should be avoided during the six weeks leading up to your procedure because nicotine can affect the procedure. Furthermore, nicotine will slow the recovery process. It is advisable to not consume any tobacco products during the first six weeks following your procedure.
It may take a couple of weeks for you to start seeing the improvements made by this procedure. However, your abdominal muscles will feel tighter as soon as the procedure is over. Maintaining proper posture will be easier for you and you will no longer experience back pain caused by weak abdominal muscles.
Schedule Your Initial Consultation Today
Stubborn pockets of fat are incredibly frustrating. You eat right, work out daily and stay hydrated, but you can’t achieve your ideal contours. A tummy tuck can help you strengthen your abdominal muscles and remove excess fat and skin so you can feel as confident and happy as you deserve to feel. Contact us today at Southwest Michigan Plastic and Hand Surgery in Portage, MI to schedule your initial consultation and learn more.