Many people are aware that there is more than one tummy tuck option available, but they may not be sure which one is the most appropriate to meet their needs. A mini tummy tuck is slightly less invasive and less dramatic than a full tummy tuck. Because this technique involves treatment below the belly button and removes a smaller amount of skin, the resulting scar can also be smaller and placed very low. A smaller amount of lax skin and fat is removed from the lower abdomen with this method and muscle separation in this lower half can be repaired. These features have made mini tummy tuck a popular treatment offered more frequently in recent years. Mini tummy tucks are not the best option for everyone though. Your plastic surgeon will want to offer you the procedure which will help you reach your aesthetic goals, and for many people that is still a full abdominoplasty.
A full abdominoplasty is comparatively more invasive than a mini tuck. This surgery allows for removal of a larger area of excess skin and fat. The entire length of your abdominal muscles, from sternum (chest bone) to pubic area, can be drawn together tightly to repair diastasis recti or muscle separation. The skin below the belly button is completely removed during a full tummy tuck, and liposuction of the remaining abdominal tissue can be done as needed to further sculpt and contour. The incision for this procedure runs from hip to hip generally but can be placed carefully within the underwear/bikini line to keep it well-hidden most of the time. Full tummy tuck is generally most beneficial for people who have lost a significant amount of body weight, had multiple pregnancies, or experience genetic laxity of the abdomen. During surgery, a horizontal incision is made along the lower abdomen. When skin has been stretched downward, an incision is made where the new belly button will be. Muscle repair work is done, liposuction as planned will be performed, and when excess skin is removed, the incision is carefully sutured closed. Soft drains are often placed to remove the inflammatory fluid which can collect after surgery. If you have drains, they will likely be removed within 10 days when the volume collected in them is low enough. The time required in the operating room will be between 3-5 hours and at least 2 weeks off work is recommended. Reduced activity will be advised for a total of 6 weeks, beginning with 3 weeks of casual walking only, then an additional 3 weeks avoiding heavy lifting or abdominal workouts.
A mini tummy tuck will be best suited for people who have a small “pouch” of fat or protrusion in the lower belly, below the belly button, who have muscle separation in the lower abdomen only, and a small amount of excess skin to remove. This procedure wouldn’t be helpful for people with upper abdominal wrinkling, extensive skin laxity, or extensive muscle separation. Time required in the operating room will be reduced to roughly 2-3 hours.
The recovery time for a mini tummy tuck will be approximately 1-3 weeks. With less extensive skin tightening and muscle repair done, the level of discomfort and recovery time required will usually be lessened.
Either of these abdominoplasty techniques will carry risks inherent to cosmetic procedures. These can include bleeding, pain, blood clots, wound healing issues, and scarring. The mini tummy tuck is less invasive and with a slightly shorter surgery time, the risks are slightly reduced but still important to consider.
Healthy patients near their ideal weight have a low risk of complication for either surgery.
Ultimately, your in-person exam and consultation with your plastic surgeon are going to help you determine which approach will provide you with optimal results. Your surgeon will examine you and note muscle separation, skin elasticity, and fat distribution. Be sure to share your expectations and goals openly and honestly so that your surgeon can advise you. Depending on your expectations, either of these procedures can help you get back your confidence, feel great in your clothes and great in your skin again.
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