Tummy Tuck
In-Depth Guide

We still remember our first tummy tuck surgery over 20 years ago. We've put together this expert guide to help provide you with the information needed to make your decision for surgery.

What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck (also commonly called an abdominoplasty) is a surgical procedure to correct a protruding or loose, sagging abdomen. The procedure removes excess skin and fat from the middle and lower abdomen and tightens the muscles of the abdominal wall. The goal is to create an abdominal profile that is younger, smoother and firmer.

A tummy tuck will remove the excess skin and fat, thus giving you a flatter abdominal contour.  For many women after childbirth, they are not able to get rid of the extra skin even if they lose weight by dieting and exercise.  That’s because the skin is permanently stretched out.  This is why abdominoplasty surgery makes many people happy — it does what is difficult or impossible to do on your own.

Furthermore, the surgery tightens the underlying muscles, helping give more support and a sculpted shape to your torso.

Is a tummy tuck right for me?

A tummy tuck may be just what you are looking for if you want to:

  • Remove excess fat, tissue and skin from the abdomen
  • Restore weakened or separated muscles
  • Improve or eliminate skin irritation beneath the abdominal fold

The goal of a tummy tuck is to remove unwanted, extra fat and skin from the abdomen.  It can also restore weakened or separated abdominal muscles (a condition called “diastasis recti”).

Tummy tucks are common for both men and women. In particular, women who have given birth to children very often have loose skin and fat.  They don’t like the way their stomach “hangs over” or “pooches out”.  It is difficult for them to wear a bathing suit.  They often find themselves having to “tuck in” their extra skin in their pants in an attempt to look flatter.  In many cases, they have to wear a pants size that is one to two sizes larger in order to accommodate their extra stomach tissue.

People who have gained weight suffer from excess abdominal fat, whereas people who have lost weight often suffer from excess abdominal skin. Aging, weight loss, or pregnancy will also weaken and separate the abdominal muscles.

Are there different options?

The technique that's best for you depends on the degree of correction necessary.

Full tummy tuck

A full tummy tuck is needed when there is excess skin or fat throughout the abdomen or when muscle tightening is required. This is most commonly the case in women who have had children.

Mini tummy tuck

When there is only moderate skin overhang without excess fat above the belly button, a mini-tuck (mini-abdominoplasty, partial tuck, partial abdominoplasty) can be performed.

Liposuction only

Liposuction can be considered instead of a tummy tuck when there is negligible skin excess.

How much is a tummy tuck?

The cost of abdominoplasty surgery varies on the amount of surgery that needs to be done.  If additional work is needed, as in the case of some gastric bypass patients, the costs will be a slightly higher.

Many patients opt for financing part or the entire amount of their surgeries.  There are many financing plans available to suit every budget.  Call our office at 951-699-9201 to find out more about how financing can help you get started on achieving your dreams.

Tummy tuck scars

At the Advanced Institute for Plastic Surgery, we take special pride in the quality and appearance of our tummy tuck results.  Although we perform many of these procedures, we never take a “factory” approach to our surgery.  Rather, each surgery is tailored to suit the desires and anatomical considerations of each individual patient.  You will see our artistic vision and skill in the way your surgery is designed and performed.

We aim for “low” scars that are as minimal as possible.

Superb results do not come by accident.  It is the result of carefully planning, execution and aftercare.

How is surgery performed?

A full tummy tuck usually takes 2 to 5 hours, depending on the extent of work required.

Most commonly, an incision is made from hipbone to hipbone, just above the pubic area. A second incision is made to free the navel from surrounding tissue. The skin and fat is then separated from the abdominal wall all the way up to your ribs to reveal the vertical “six pack” muscles in your abdomen (the “rectus abdominus” muscles). These muscles are tightened by pulling them close together and stitching them into their new position. This provides a firmer abdominal wall and narrows the waistline.

After tightening the abdominal muscles, the waist is then bent to allow the skin to stretch down. Any excess skin is removed. A new hole is cut for the belly button, which is then stitched in place. Before stitching the incision, a temporary tube is inserted to drain excess fluid from the surgical site. After the incisions are stitched, dressings and a compression garment are applied.

A mini-tuck may take an hour or two. With a mini-tuck, the incision is much shorter and the navel may not be moved. A drainage tube is rarely needed for a mini-tuck.

How is the recovery process?

After surgery, you will wear a compression garment over gauze dressings. Your abdomen will be bruised, swollen, and uncomfortable for around a week, but the pain shouldn’t be severe. Any discomfort you do feel can be relieved by the medications. Most patients find the recovery easier than for a C-section.  For a few days after surgery, it is important to keep the waist bent. Some numbness of the skin is normal; it will disappear in a few weeks or months.

While you must avoid straining and lifting anything for several days, it is important that you start walking as soon as possible.

You will also be taught how to take care of the drainage tube and record the amount of fluid that comes out from it. The steps are very simple and easy to follow. Your surgeon will remove the tubes when the drainage slows to an acceptable level.

Most patients are back to work or school in 2 to 4 weeks depending on the extent of the surgery. Although it is important to walk, you should avoid strenuous activity, including heavy lifting, pushing, jogging, housework, sex, or any activity that may put excessive stretch on your abdomen.

Healing will continue for several weeks as swelling resolves and incision lines fade.

What are the common risks & complications?

Most patients recover very well from tummy tuck surgery. Complications are rare, but can occur.


As with any surgical procedure, excessive bleeding following the operation may cause some swelling and pain. Rarely, if excessive bleeding continues and collects underneath the skin (hematoma), another operation may be needed to control the bleeding and remove the accumulated blood.


A drainage tube is placed at the time of surgery to prevent the accumulation of fluid beneath the skin. Occasionally, the fluid may pool after the drains are removed and require aspiration of the fluid.


A small percentage of patients develop an infection, most of the time it will be around the drainage tube sites. This may occur at any time, but is most often seen within a week after surgery. Usually antibiotic medications will resolve the infection.


In almost all cases, the abdomen is asymmetric to begin with. Often, there is more extra tissue on one side versus the other.  Sometimes one hip is slightly higher than the other, thus slightly altering the body’s frame.  While our surgeon will attempt to correct for asymmetry, there are limits to what can be done based on you own underlying shape.

Delayed healing

Because of the amount of stretch the skin undergoes during a tummy tuck, sometimes there may be areas along the incision that have delayed healing. Usually this is in areas with the most tension (center of the scar)  or around the belly button. Delayed wound healing may require frequent dressing changes until the wound heals. Rarely will revision surgery be needed to repair wound healing problems.

Blood clots

Complications of blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) are rare, but can occur. At the Advanced Institute for Plastic Surgery, we help decrease the risk of blood clots forming by fitting all our patients with compression stockings as well as a pump device on the feet or legs during surgery. In addition, the most important thing that you can do to help minimize your risk, is by walking and moving around as soon as possible after surgery. You own body is the best defense against blood clots.  Allow it to do what it was meant to do — your leg muscles are designed to pump your blood around the body to prevent clots.

Rarely, blood clots that form in the legs may travel to the lungs causing respiratory problems (pulmonary embolism). The key to preventing deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism is using compression stockings, feet or leg pumps, and early ambulation. In some cases, we will recommend taking additional medication to decrease the risk of blood clots even further.

Frequently asked questions

Q: How much time is required for a tummy tuck?
A: The surgery usually requires between 2-5 hours depending on the extent of surgery. As with all surgeries, the amount of time needed varies from patient to patient.

Q: Does a tummy tuck help improve the fat on my hips (“muffin tops”)?
A: A tummy tuck improves the central lower abdomen (the “pouch”).  It will not improve hip fat.  However, many people choose to get liposuction of the hips at the same time as the abdominoplasty.  This usually gives the best, sculpted look.

Q: Is a tummy tuck an inpatient or outpatient procedure?
A: Outpatient.

Q: What is the recovery time?
A: Most patients are able to return to work or school in 2 to 4 weeks depending on what kind of work they are going back to.  People’s whose jobs do not involve lifting and extensive time on your feet will usually be able to go back to work earlier than those that do. 

Q: How long do the results last?
A: The results from a tummy tuck can be permanent. However, pregnancy and weight fluctuations may change your results.

How do I schedule an appointment?

Our board certified plastic surgeons would love to discuss whether a tummy tuck is the right thing for you. Just give us a call at 951-699-9201 or use the link below. Please write down your questions and things you want to talk about to make sure your doctor gets to them all!

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