What is the difference between a mini and a full tummy tuck?

We get asked this question a lot. The short answer is, the amount of tissue that is removed from your belly.

April 29, 2021

5 min read

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The Basics

As you know, a tummy tuck will get rid of the loose skin and fat you have on your belly, but there are different types and you might need a little help deciding which is right for you. Some people only have a small amount of extra tissue, and so a mini tummy tuck is an option for them. For most people, a full tummy tuck that removes more tissue will give them the results they’re looking for. Let’s look at each option more in depth, so you can make the right choice for yourself.

Mini Tummy Tuck

How is it done?

Here are the steps involved in getting a mini tummy tuck:

  • A low, curved incision is made above the pubic area. The incision is shorter than what is done for a full tummy tuck, since less tissue is going to be removed. 
  • The extra loose skin and fat are separated from the abdominal muscles, moving up from the incision and stopping below the belly button. 
  • That extra tissue is removed, then the skin and fat along the top edge of the incision is pulled down toward the bottom edge of the incision.
  • The incision is stitched shut in a layered closure.
Who is it for?

A mini tummy tuck is an option if you have experienced only minimal weight loss, or if you have a small amount of loose skin or fat below your belly button. Usually, people that get a mini tummy tuck have little or no overhanging tissue when they are bending or standing.1

What makes it different?

A mini tummy tuck is different than a full tummy tuck in a few ways. Since it only removes a small amount of tissue, it doesn’t require as long of an incision. However, there’s also no muscle repair that is done, so if you have diastasis recti (a separation of the muscles in your abdomen), a mini tuck won’t be able to fix that. Also, the tissue removed is all located below the belly button, so if there is any surrounding fat or loose skin around that, your belly button might still have a slightly droopy appearance. A mini tummy tuck can remove stretch marks that are located on the lowest part of the stomach, but it will not get rid of other stretch marks on your belly, especially those above the belly button.2

Full Tummy Tuck

How is it done?

In a full tummy tuck, a longer incision is necessary since so much more tissue is removed. 

  • The incision is low, above the pubic area, and curved, from hip to hip. 
  • The extra tissue to be removed is lifted upwards from the incision line, past the belly button, and up towards the ribs, so the muscle underneath is exposed. 
  • Your belly button will be cut out from the surrounding skin, and left attached to the underlying muscle. This makes your belly button look like an apple core. 
  • Then, your separated abdominal muscles are sutured together, similar to a corset. Typically, the separation goes all the way down the middle of the muscle, so the line of sutures will start at the point where your ribs come together in the center (called the xiphoid process) and goes all the way down to the pubic area. 
  • After that, all the extra tissue is removed, and the top edge of the incision line is brought down to the other edge. 
  • A new “peephole” is made for your belly button, exactly where the belly button naturally lies.  This is done by making a little triangular hole in the skin. Your belly button is stitched into the hole. It looks so natural because it’s your own belly button, just rejuvenated! 
  • The main incision line is sutured shut in a layered closure, which helps relieve tension on the incision line and promotes better healing. Typically, you will also have drains that will have to be removed during your recovery period.
Who is it for?

If you have gone through pregnancy, childbirth, or major weight loss, you will probably benefit from a full tummy tuck.  If you’ve been through these kinds of major changes to your body, your belly is usually left with extra skin and fat throughout your abdominal area, and you might see an overhanging of tissue when you’re standing. Also, if you have muscle separation in your abdominal muscles, a full tummy tuck with muscle repair will help you get the results you want.3

What makes it different?

A full tummy tuck removes much more tissue than a mini, from hip to hip and from the pubic area up to just above the belly button. If you have a C-section scar, your surgeon can usually incorporate that scar into your incision line where your new scar will be. Most women who have had children have separation of the “six-pack” muscles (diastasis recti) from the growing baby pushing out against our abdominal wall.  A full tummy tuck includes muscle repair, which brings your separated abdominal muscles back together. That muscle repair strengthens your abdominal wall, and makes your belly firmer and flatter. Also, since a new incision is made for your belly button, you don’t have to worry about it looking droopy like it might after a mini tummy tuck. When it comes to stretch marks, since a full tummy tuck removes more tissue, usually more stretch marks are removed, but they may not all be removed, especially the ones above the belly button.

Which One Is Right For Me?

Here is a quick checklist to give you a better idea about which tummy tuck will be the right choice for you:

Full Tummy TuckMini Tummy Tuck
Major weight lossSome weight loss
Pregnancy/childbirthMinimal loose skin/fat mostly below belly button
Extra tissue throughout abdomenNo/minimal muscle separation
Overhanging skin/fat
Muscle separation

Also, there’s a quick test you can do at home to see if a full tummy tuck will work best for you. If you lean forward and have loose, hanging skin and fat, or if you see that you have fat or extra skin above your belly button, you’ll get the best results from a full tummy tuck. 

Making your choice

While some people might benefit from a mini tummy tuck, those cases are exceptions to the rule. Usually, in order to achieve the results they want from surgery, people will need a full tummy tuck. A full tummy tuck may have a longer incision but so much more can be accomplished with this surgery.  There’s many women have gotten a mini tummy tuck somewhere and are unhappy with the results because they needed a full tummy tuck in the first place.    

Your plastic surgeon can evaluate your current anatomy, and give you a recommendation for which procedure will work best for you.  Look for a surgeon that makes a low incision. This will make it easier to hide the incision under clothes.

  1. Hoyos, Alfredo E., Mauricio E. Perez, and Luisana Castillo. “Dynamic definition mini-lipoabdominoplasty combining multilayer liposculpture, fat grafting, and muscular plication.” Aesthetic Surgery Journal 33, no. 4 (2013): 545-560.
  2. Friedman, Jeffrey D., Steven Gordon, Matthew Kaufman, and Zachary K. Menn. “Expanded role and usefulness of the mini-abdominoplasty.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 136, no. 4S (2015): 98-99.
  3. Gutowski, Karol A. “Evidence-Based Medicine: Abdominoplasty.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 141, no. 2 (2018): 286e-299e.

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