Should I Have a Full or Mini Tummy Tuck?
Do you have excess skin and fat in your abdominal area, stretch marks you would like to get rid of, or want to have a narrower waistline? If you are a good candidate, some form of tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, may be the way to go. Sometimes the full procedure is the best choice but, if your problems are focused only in the lower abdomen, a partial abdominoplasty (a.k.a. mini tummy tuck) may be your best solution.
Many men and women like the idea of a mini tummy tuck because it sounds like a less extensive surgery with fewer risks, smaller scars and shorter recovery times. While all of those things may be true, the mini tummy tuck is also targeted to fix a different problem and the results are less dramatic than full abdominoplasty.
If, for example, you have stretched out skin and muscle above your navel (such as after pregnancy), a mini tummy tuck will not help. On the other hand, if your tummy is sagging as a result of aging or moderate weight loss, you have C-section scars, or you want better contour for your lower abdominal area, the mini tummy tuck may be ideal. Talk to a board-certified plastic surgeon before deciding which procedure is the right choice for you.
What is the difference between a full tummy tuck and a mini tummy tuck?
Abdominoplasty, or “tummy tuck”, is a surgical procedure that sculpts the abdominal area by removing excess fat and skin and tightening the abdominal muscles. The loose excess skin is removed both above and below the belly button. Most doctors will suction out unwanted fat using tumescent liposuction. Then the abdominal muscles are tightened and the location of the belly button readjusted if necessary. The end result should be a flatter and tighter stomach.
A “mini” tummy tuck is also known as a “partial” or “modified” abdominoplasty. The mini tummy tuck procedure also tightens or removes the excess skin and fat below the belly button and tightens the muscles, but in the lower abdominal area. The incision is much smaller than that of a full abdominoplasty and usually the mini tummy tuck does not involve any repositioning of the belly button. Typically the skin is lifted from the top of the pubic hairline to the belly button, then stretched downward with removal of any excess, and sutured.
A full tummy tuck surgery can last from 1 to 5 hours under general anesthesia and recovery time may take 4 to 6 weeks. A mini tummy tuck procedure can usually be performed in 1 to 2 hours, under local or general anesthesia, and recovery may take 2 to 3 weeks.
Who is a good candidate for a mini tummy tuck?
The best candidates for mini tummy tuck are men and women who are in good health and within about 10% of their ideal body weight. Good candidates have firm abdominal muscles with the exception of excess fat and skin below the belly button. Patients who have sagging skin from moderate weight loss as well as older patients who have lost elasticity in their skin may benefit from a mini tummy tuck.
You should not consider mini tummy tuck surgery if:
- You are a woman who is considering further pregnancies. Pregnancy after tummy tuck can result in the repaired abdominal muscles separating again.
- You are very overweight. Don’t consider the mini tummy tuck until you reach your weight loss goal.
- You are diabetic.
- You are a smoker and/or have poor circulation.
- You have visible scars from past abdominal surgeries (e.g. stomach stapling, appendectomy, a hernia operation etc) and don’t want further scarring on your body.
Are there any risks or side effects from mini tummy tuck surgery?
As we know, there are potential risks and complications with any surgical procedure and the mini tummy tuck is no exception. Keep in mind that each patient is different (medical history, healing capacity, etc). Abdominoplasty surgery is very common and considered to be safe. However, you should always discuss everything with a qualified and experience cosmetic surgeon to minimize the risks and completely understand the surgery and its potential complications.
Possible risks and side effects during the mini tummy tuck include:
- Nausea or vomiting from the anesthesia.
- Considerable bruising – this can take 4 to 6 weeks to diminish.
- Swelling – this usually subsides within a few months.
- Scarring – this will fade over the course of a year, but a permanent scar will remain.
Possible mini tummy tuck complications and side effects include:
- Infection – which may require antibiotics and possibly further surgery
- Hematoma – bleeding under the skin which may require further surgery to stop the bleeding and drain the area
- Numbness – this may be temporary, lasting several months, but can be permanent
- Uneven contour
- Pigmentation changes
- Unusual scarring
- Poor healing (more likely if you are a smoker)
- Nerve damage
- Damage to internal organs – this may require surgery to repair, but can be fatal
- Unusually red or raised scars (keloids) – which can take a long time to heal
- Pulmonary embolism – a blood clot can form in the blood vessels and move to the lungs, which is life-threatening.
Caring for Your Mini Tummy Tuck Scars
- The partial, low, or mini, tummy tuck is sometimes called the “scarless” tummy tuck. Obviously, since an incision is made, it is definitely not scarless. However, depending upon how much loose skin and fat needs to be removed, the mini tummy tuck scar will be about half the size of the common 12-inch abdominoplasty scar. A horizontal incision is made very low above the pubic bone, but there is no navel incision.
- Mini tummy tuck recovery can take some time. The scars will probably appear raised and very red and may get worse during the first few months after surgery. You can expect significant softening and flattening of your tummy tuck scars after about one year.
- Avoid infection. Make sure you follow the doctor’s instructions so that the wounds heal properly. Infections will only worsen the scarring. The surgeon will have applied a dressing or bandaging over the wound. You will also be wearing a snug compression garment or “binder” to apply pressure and help control any stretching of the wound. These should also help prevent the formation of hypertrophic, or “keloid”, tummy tuck scars.
- Refrain from lifting, driving, and strenuous activities for the first several weeks. This is very important. Overstretching and vigorous activity will widen the scar and make it more prominent. You will want your wounds to heal properly to prevent further problems.
- Avoid the sun. Once the wounds have completely healed, you should always apply sunscreen or sunblock to the scars, even if you are only wearing thin clothing that the sun could penetrate. Doctors suggest sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more, and sunblocks containing zinc and titanium are recommended. Scars sunburn easily. Once a scar becomes sunburned, it may darken or become discolored and may never fade to match the color of the surrounding skin. You can expect to shield your scars from the sun for up to a year and a half after surgery.
- Stop smoking. Smoking will increase your risk of complications. Smoking before surgery will minimize the blood flow to your heart. If you smoke, you will have a higher risk of infection. Smoking also delays healing and can cause skin death which will leave you with ugly scars. This could cause you to need tummy tuck scar revision surgery later. It is possible that your surgeon may refuse to perform your mini tummy tuck if you refuse to stop smoking.
- Stay well-hydrated, eat protein, and avoid alcohol. If you take in enough fluids you will help your body heal properly. But avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages. They dehydrate the body and skin and will slow the wound-healing process. Protein is one of the building blocks of healing skin, so eat a balanced diet and include adequate protein (meat, fish, dairy products or soy products).
- Massage the scars. Once your wounds have completely healed and you no longer need the compression garment, gentle massages will help reduce swelling and bruises by helping circulate blood and by moving the fluid around in the tissues. It will stimulate your immune system, break down the collagen making it softer, and help prevent the formation of problem scars.
- Keep the skin moist. Some research studies show that wound healing is twice as fast if not allowed to dry out. Your doctor can advise you about products you can use to moisturize the skin to minimize the tummy tuck scars and speed up your healing.
With proper care and attention, your scars should soften and fade over time to become far less noticeable. Tummy tuck scars are permanent but you should be able to hide them under your clothing.
Mini Tummy Tuck Recovery
Your mini tummy tuck recovery depends a lot on you and how much care you take in your healing process. If you know what to expect and choose a skilled surgeon to perform your mini tummy tuck, you will enjoy your dramatically enhanced appearance for many years.
Recovery times will vary depending on the extent of the mini tummy tuck. Stitches are typically removed within a week after surgery. The compression garment you wear will support your abdomen and help the healing process. Avoid strenuous activities for six weeks. Straining and stretching the wound during your healing process will increase the swelling and slow down your recovery.
What does a mini tummy tuck cost?
Don’t expect that the name “mini” tummy tuck will naturally have a lower cost! The mini tummy tuck can actually require more skill than a full tummy tuck, so you will find that both surgeries are similarly priced.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons indicates that the average nationwide surgeon’s fee for a mini tummy tuck is $5,130. There are usually three components – the surgeon’s fee, the facility fee and the anesthesia fee. Because the extent of the surgery varies by patient along with the surgeon’s qualifications and location, you may expect the total price to range between $4,000 and $15,000. This is about the same as a full tummy tuck.
Usually mini tummy tucks are performed in an office surgical facility under general anesthesia, although some patients may require a short stay in the hospital. This adds to your cost. There are also other variables. Your health and the extent of tissue that needs to be removed will impact your mini tummy tuck cost. If you only need a small amount of fat suctioned and removal of a small amount of skin, your mini tummy tuck will be relatively inexpensive. However, expect to pay more if you need a large amount of liposuction, muscle repair, or significant work around your belly button. You can also expect some additional expenses during your follow-up care, such as the cost of compression garments and prescription medications.
You should let your doctor decide which procedure is best for you. There is no way to know the complete details of the mini tummy tuck cost until you have had a complete consultation and examination with the board certified plastic surgeon you have selected. A high price is no guarantee of good results but keep in mind that cheaper is not always better either. Be suspicious if the price you are quoted is extremely low. Try to find out why. If the lowest price is your only consideration, you may end up with terrible results which will cost you more to fix in the long run. Ask for credentials, mini tummy tuck before and after photos, and anything else you may need to make an intelligent decision to help you enjoy your new look for years to come!