You are one of a kind, and so is your body. Your curves and contours are unlike anyone else’s, and when it comes to cosmetic body sculpting, your ideal results will be equally individualized. If you have chosen to undergo a tummy tuck surgery, you should know that it does not need to be a one-size-fits-all procedure. There are different approaches to a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) that your surgeon can perform to make sure that your new body complements your unique shape. Before your surgery, you should ask your surgeon about which technique they plan to use and why. Here is the Banff Plastic Surgery team’s guide to tummy tuck techniques, so that you can talk to your plastic surgeon with confidence and clarity.
The Mini Tummy Tuck
The lower abdomen is a common place for women, in particular, to store extra fat or end up with skin distention. Genetic factors are often at play here, and even women who are in excellent physical shape can struggle to achieve a flat stomach if they are predisposed to carry lower belly fat. Pregnancy can also leave women with stretch marks, C-section scars or loose skin between the navel and pubic area. For those whose abdominal contouring concerns are limited to the lower belly region, a mini tummy tuck often makes the most sense. This procedure only addresses the abdomen below the belly button, which means it is a shorter procedure, can be accomplished with localized anesthesia, leaves a smaller scar and does not require a belly button incision.
Many tummy tuck clients wonder if a mini tummy tuck can be a simpler alternative to a full tummy tuck. Full tummy tucks can seem like a last resort; avoiding such an intensive surgery is a tempting possibility. However, full and mini tummy tucks are entirely separate approaches to body contouring that are best suited to different sets of clients. When it comes to body contouring, you do not want to settle for results that are less than perfect — if a mini tummy tuck cannot accomplish everything you need, it will be a better long-term choice to undergo a more intensive procedure like a standard, modified, or extended tuck.
The Modified Tummy Tuck
The mini tuck does not correct muscle laxity or rectus diastasis. The only difference between a modified and a standard tummy tuck is that there is no scar left around the belly button. Both procedures tighten the muscle wall but the modified tuck is only recommended when there is no skin laxity above the navel. The recovery from both a modified and full tummy tuck are much the same with 4-6 weeks of no heavy lifting.
The Standard Tummy Tuck
A standard or full tummy tuck is the most commonly recommended abdominoplasty because it can suit a wide range of needs. By using a hip-to-hip incision as well as an incision around the belly button, a full tummy tuck allows your surgeon to remove excess skin and fat on your entire abdominal area from breast to pelvis. A full tummy tuck also includes a tightening of the abdominal muscles, which are often stretched and distended due to obesity or pregnancy. The skin is tightened and the belly button is repositioned, flattening the stomach and eliminating unwanted bulges or sags. Most tummy tuck candidates will have a full tummy tuck because common causes of fat retention and skin stretching typically affect the entire abdominal region.
The best candidates for a standard tummy tuck are healthy and active, ideally close to their goal weight or body type but with stubborn fat or excess skin due to dramatic weight fluctuations. At Banff Plastic Surgery, our tummy tuck clients are most often women who are finished having children and are struggling with their post-pregnancy physique, or people who have recently lost a significant amount of weight and have loose folds of skin due to extended obesity. Their concerns include the upper and lower abdomen, but not the flanks or hips. If this profile sounds like you, then you are likely an excellent candidate for a standard tummy tuck — if you think your concerns may be broader, you may want to ask your surgeon about extended techniques instead.
The Extended Tummy Tuck
With dramatic weight loss, excess skin can occasionally stretch along the sides of the body as well as on the abdomen. In these cases, an extended tummy tuck will often deliver a better contour than a standard abdominoplasty. An extended tummy tuck is very similar to a full tummy tuck, but the hip-to-hip incision extends further to wrap slightly around the sides; the tail ends of the scar are visible from behind. While the scar from this procedure is more difficult to hide, it can be well worthwhile to achieve a more balanced figure. If you have folds of skin on your flanks (the area between your ribs and hips), a standard tummy tuck will not address these — you will be left with a flat stomach that may not curve seamlessly into your sides and hips.
One way to determine if you may be a better candidate for an extended tummy tuck is to find out where your excess skin ends — you will need an incision at least this width to remove everything proportionally. Sit up straight and allow your tummy to settle naturally. Follow along the fold or “apron” until it no longer folds over itself. If this point is on your hips or lower back, an extended tummy tuck will likely give you better results. However, while the term “extended” tummy tuck sounds like it will address any concerns that extend beyond a standard tummy tuck, it is only designed to reach further on a horizontal axis.
Circumferential body lift
Some patients may also want more excess skin removed from the sides or across the back. This is often called a circumferential body lift and is actually often best done in two stages. Patients who are good candidates for this have often lost over 100 pounds. In these patients, their skin behaves quite differently and tends to stretch back out easily. A two stage procedure can help to give these patients the best possible results.
Liposuction is almost always performed as part of any abdominoplasty to remove excess fat in the areas beyond the skin incisions. If you have significant excess fat around the hip roll areas or across the back then the standard tummy tuck can be extended by performing extra liposuction by having you turned over into the prone position during your procedure. Normally some liposuction is performed with the standard tummy tuck but more extensive liposuction might be indicated in some patients.
The Fleur-de-lis Tummy Tuck
The fleur-de-lis tummy tuck is an ideal option for those who have extensive excess side-to-side skin on their upper and lower abdomen. This technique is not very common because a standard tummy tuck is usually sufficient to account for the entire stomach area. However, in some instances of extreme weight loss, separate upper and lower folds of excess skin can develop. In these cases, a central vertical incision from the upper abdominal muscles to the pubic region is necessary to ensure that your surgery leaves a smooth, flat stomach. This vertical incision intersects with the standard hip-to-hip tummy tuck scar, leading to the cross-shaped scar that gives this technique its name.
At Banff Plastic Surgery, we are committed to giving every client the individualized care and attention they deserve. Your empowerment, confidence and satisfaction is what drives us to provide plastic and cosmetic surgeries, and we know the importance of making sure that the procedure you choose is exactly right for you. If you believe you are a candidate for an abdominoplasty, talk to a plastic surgeon about the kind of technique that will deliver your best results. To schedule a consultation in Banff with Dr. Elizabeth Hall-Findlay, contact us today at 403-762-2055.