If you’re bothered by extra weight or prominent stretch marks, a lower abdominal bulge or “spare tire”, you may want to consider a tummy tuck. The tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is designed to remove the sagging skin and excess tissue that contributes to an unshapely appearance. This procedure is especially popular among men and women who have lost considerable weight but still haven’t achieved a flat result. Women often turn to this procedure after childbirth, as pregnancy can separate the abdominal muscles and stretch the skin. During an abdominoplasty, Dr. Donaldson creates a flatter, more youthful contour with repaired abdominal muscles, decreased fat and tightened skin. “Love handles” will diminish as a curved, hourglass shape takes effect.
Dr. Donaldson is highly regarded for his meticulous approach to abdominoplasty, and he has refined his skills over many years. Dr. Donaldson spends extra time hiding the incisions, creating an attractive umbilical shape, curving the flanks and combining liposuction techniques as necessary to realize the best possible outcome. Patients typically rave about their natural, slim shape and their ability to wear tight jeans, dresses and even bikinis once again! You may call our office now to schedule a consultation with board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Donaldson, or continue reading to learn more about this procedure.
What is a Tummy Tuck?
An abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, is a surgical procedure that flattens the abdominal contour. Typically, any separation of the rectus abdominus muscles (six-pack muscles) is repaired, the stubborn fat between the belly button and the pubic area is removed, the belly button is restored if necessary, stretch marks are improved and the skin is tightened. The procedure is tailored to match each individual patient’s anatomy and goals, but overall it results in a thinner, sleeker figure with enhanced curves at the sides.
A relatively low-risk operation, the tummy tuck allows individuals to contour their bodies in ways that diet and exercise often do not. If you are frustrated when you look in the mirror because your hard work does not seem to make your belly any better, then a tummy tuck may be the best solution.
- Read more about Tummy Tuck in our blog
Is a Tummy Tuck right for you?
Pregnancy is the number one reason cited for abdominoplasty because it changes the abdominal contour in predictable ways by thinning the connection between the abdominal muscles, adding baby weight in the form of fat that doesn’t go away, and causing permanent stretch marks. Tummy tuck provides the only way to correct all of these physical changes at the same time. If you have had one or more pregnancies and dislike your shape, then tummy tuck may be right for you.
Gradual weight gain and/or weight loss through diet, exercise or bariatric surgery can also cause a round shape and loose, hanging skin. If these are your circumstances, then abdominoplasty will also likely improve them.
During consultation, Dr. Donaldson will help decide whether you are a candidate for the procedure. Patients should be in good health and reasonably close (within 10-20 pounds) to their average normal weight. The closer you are to your ideal weight, the easier it will be for Dr. Donaldson to create the ideal results. Combining the abdominoplasty with liposuction at the same time may of further benefit, especially under the breasts and/or around the flanks. Dr. Donaldson will discuss this option with you when you visit.
What should I expect during my consultation?
This is your time to share information about yourself, and to gather as much feedback as possible. Your consultation includes personal time with Dr. Donaldson and his staff — questions are encouraged, and Dr. Donaldson will listen carefully to understand your goals and concerns in order to help.
After your initial conversation, Dr. Donaldson will examine your belly and take measurements and photographs in order to further study your needs. He will take note of your skin quality, your muscular tone, the amount of superficial versus deep fat, and whether you have previous scars or underlying hernias.
Dr. Donaldson will share before and after photos with you to give you a sense of his results, and to show you why his patients are so pleased after their surgery! He will try to match body types and appearances so you have a reasonable sense of what you could expect. Be sure to notice the feminine umbilical shapes and silhouettes and how hard it is to find the umbilical scars. Also notice how low the incisions are placed so that low-cut jeans and underwear will still hide them. Check out how nicely the flanks curve in before the hips curve out and imagine that is you!
Safety is the top priority, and Dr. Donaldson will go over your medical records to confirm that you are a good candidate for surgery. He may ask you for further information, and he may want to contact your primary care physician. You may be asked to follow-through with a referral to a specialist or have basic labwork completed.
In addition to learning about the nuances of this operation during your consultation, you may also explore other related procedures and discuss various combinations if you like. Popular adjuncts include breast augmentation and/or lifting, as well as liposuction or labiaplasty.
The final part of your consultation is a meeting with Cheryl – our patient coordinator. She will discuss pricing and scheduling, as well as the logistics surrounding preparation, transportation, lodging and aftercare. Donaldson Plastic Surgery offers flexible financing, and Cheryl will be happy to explain the options in great detail. Visit our financing page if you’re interested in learning more about credit and payment.
What questions should I ask my surgeon?
You may have already searched online, spoken with friends and even had other consultations – but this is the time to get answers directly from Dr. Donaldson. First you will want to know whether you are a good candidate for abdominoplasty. Ask how your specific anatomy will influence the surgical technique. Find out whether your medical history, medications, or current health status will have an impact.
Clarify your pre-operative and post-operative instructions. Once you have spoken to the staff and read through the written guides, you may want to ask Dr. Donaldson more questions that relate to your body and your specific circumstances.
Find out whether Dr. Donaldson would recommend any other procedures to help achieve your aesthetic goals. While you are asleep during surgery, it may make sense to consider a combination of two or three procedures so that you have only one recovery period. Procedures that patients often combine with a tummy tuck include breast augmentation, liposuction, and labiaplasty.
Questions to ask during your consultation might include:
- How long is the recovery and what stages of progress can I expect?
- When will I be able to return to work?
- Are there financing options for this procedure?
- Is it likely that I will need further surgery?
- Are these results permanent?
- What happens if I gain or lose weight, or become pregnant?
- What are the most common risks or complications?
How should I prepare for my procedure?
In the months leading up to your abdominoplasty procedure, maintain a healthy lifestyle including exercise, a well-balanced diet, limited alcohol and no smoking. Smoking impairs the healing process and leads to wound issues, infection and poor scarring, so it’s vital that you quit at least a few weeks before your operation.
Discontinue medications that “thin the blood” or increase bleeding such as aspirin, ibuprofen and supplements such as vitamin E and fish oil. Dr. Donaldson’s staff will provide a list of contraindicated substances in advance, so you can wean off of them in time for surgery.
Prepare your home and office for recovery. Standing straight upright will be difficult for the first week, so it’s helpful to have personal items organized and within reach. Establish a comfortable environment for healing and recruit a friend or family member to help you. Your post-operative condition will make everyday tasks more difficult for the first few days, so setting up a proper plan in advance will make your recovery much easier.
Are there any risks?
Every operation has associated risks; however, Dr. Donaldson takes many steps to minimize and avoid them. Bleeding and infection are prevented with meticulous surgical and sterile techniques, as well as clear post-operative instructions and antibiotics. Fluid collections are minimized with placement of a small drain that is removed after approximately one week. Deep venous thrombosis (DVT or blood clots) are significantly decreased through sub-cutaneous heparin and sequential compression devices (SCD’s) before and during surgery, and early ambulation after surgery.
Cigarette smoking, and other forms of tobacco use, dramatically increase the risk of wound complications and wound separation. Nicotine decreases blood flow to the skin, and limits the body’s ability to heal. This can lead to skin loss, poor scarring and fat necrosis.
Other possible risks include but are not limited to:
- Anesthesia reactions
- Possibility of revision surgery
- Chronic pain
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Skin discoloration and/or prolonged swelling
Address any concerns you may have about complications during your consultation. Complications are always possible, so it’s best to prepare in advance by asking the Dr. Donaldson and his staff about your specific risks and how to prevent them.
About the procedure
There are generally two types of tummy tuck: full abdominoplasty and mini-abdominoplasty. The full version includes removal of extra skin and fat, as well as tightening of the upper and lower muscle layer and resetting the belly button. The mini-version is fat and skin removal of the low-belly only, with limited or no treatment of the muscle or naval. The choice depends on your specific anatomy and goals. Liposuction is often combined with abdominoplasty to contour the upper abdomen and flanks.
Regardless of the surgical technique, Dr. Donaldson will mark your abdomen in the pre-operative area of the surgical center. He will show you where to expect your scar – generally low enough to be concealed by low-cut jeans and bikini-bottoms! You will sign consent forms, and then receive an IV, as well as medications to reduce pain and nausea and prevent blood clots and infection.
Once you are asleep, Dr. Donaldson recommends allowing the board-certified anesthesiologist to perform a “TAP” block, where numbing medicine (Marcaine) is placed around the nerves that provide sensation to the abdominal wall and skin. This minimizes the amount of pain medicine that is necessary, which improves post-operative breathing, mobility and bowel function.
Next, Dr. Donaldson places Marcaine directly into the skin before making an incision. This reduces trauma to the nerves and the body’s stress response to surgery. After the incision is made, the muscle separation (diastasis) is identified and repaired if necessary, the extra skin and fat is removed, liposuction is performed, the belly button is reset, the small drain is placed and the incision is closed. Three layers of strong, durable suture is used for a secure closure. The sutures are all hidden beneath the skin and are dissolvable so they do not need to be removed.
A thin layer of surgical-grade glue (Dermabond or Octylseal) is placed over the incision as a final protective measure. A supportive abdominal binder is wrapped around the trunk to secure the tissues, improve posture and reduce the risk of fluid collection.
Other procedures may be considered at the time of your tummy tuck. For a complete mommy makeover, breast augmentation and/or lifting is often added. Liposuction of other areas such as the neck, arms, thighs or hips and labiaplasty are popular combinations as well. Review all of your aesthetic goals with Dr. Donaldson so he can help you decide what combination of procedures may be best. It is possible to have multiple procedures at once, and many women choose this option for the convenience of having a single operation and recovery. There is also generally a financial savings due to the efficiency of combined surgery.
What will recovery be like?
Recovery after tummy tuck surgery usually requires at least a week to ten days away from work and other normal activities, and four to six weeks before resuming exercise. The first several days are the most difficult, and patients tend to relax while reading and watching television. It is important to stand up and take short walks throughout the day – even right after surgery – but otherwise rest is required. Your belly will seem tight, so staying in a “bent-over” position while walking provides relief. Your head and feet should be elevated on pillows when you are lying down. It is very helpful to have a friend or family member available for assistance during this period.
After a week goes by, most patients are standing fairly straight, the small drain is removed, and the discomfort has largely subsided. Many normal activities may resume, including less physical types of work. Dr. Donaldson recommends several homeopathic supplements to continue the healing process.
Patient Instructions for Postoperative Care
The Donaldson Plastic Surgery team has created several easy-to-follow video tutorials for your tummy tuck postoperative care:
View more video tutorials:
- How To Strip a Post-Surgical Drain After Abdominoplasty
- How To Place an Abdominal Binder After Tummy Tuck Surgery
- How To Apply Scar Gel or Cream
- How To Apply Arnica Gel to Bruises and Swelling
What about scars?
There will always be a scar after surgery, but it will be low – at the top of the pubic line – and it will fade with time. The length is different for every patient, but is generally from hip to hip on the front of the abdomen. If the belly was larger before surgery such that the skin folds extended onto the flanks, then the scar may wrap around to the flanks too (extended abdominoplasty).
If you have a well-healed c-section scar, Dr. Donaldson may choose to simply extend it on either side. If the c-section scar is wide, or forms a “step-off” deformity, then he will likely remove or revise it at the time of the tummy tuck to ensure the best possible results.
Approximately two weeks after surgery, the surgical glue begins to peel away, and it is time to begin medical-grade scar treatment. Dr. Donaldson and his staff will teach you how to massage scar gel or cream along the healing area twice daily, and they will help monitor your progress. The final appearance of the scar is often not established for several months to a year.
Why choose Dr. Donaldson?
Dr. Donaldson is meticulous about all aspects of the abdominoplasty procedure, and he is widely regarded for his beautiful, natural results. He spends extra time making the incisions as thin and as low as possible so they may concealed easily. He believes the belly button should seem completely normal, with a pleasant vertical indentation and no obvious external scar – he actually hides the scar on the inner walls of the naval whenever possible. Dr. Donaldson prefers to curve the flanks and accentuate an hourglass appearance, instead of flattening the sides.
Voted one of America’s Most Compassionate Doctors, Dr. Donaldson’s kind and genuine nature is apparent to everyone who visits his office. Patients go out of their way to describe their satisfaction with Dr. Donaldson’s bedside manner, as well as his surgical skills. Watch our patients’ video testimonials to hear patient stories in their own words!
Dr. Donaldson was named one of America’s Top Plastic Surgeons in 2013 and one of the Columbus Forty Under 40 in 2014. He is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery as well as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and he is a Diplomat of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Schedule a consultation
If you are interested in having a tummy tuck, start by calling our office in Columbus, Ohio. A friendly staff member will be happy to answer your preliminary questions and set up a consultation.
Call 614-442-7610 or contact us through our form at the upper left of this page. Schedule your consultation today and start your journey to a flatter, trimmer tummy!