A tummy tuck scar is a scar that will inevitably form at the site of an incision after a tummy tuck procedure. This scar usually runs horizontally across the lower abdomen from hip to hip below the belly button. Sometimes, a second tummy tuck scar may run down vertically from the belly button or form around the belly button itself.
Scar forming is a natural part of the healing process after an incision, and while every surgery, minor or major, will lead to scar formation, there are some steps you can take to minimize their appearance.
Minnesota Plastic Surgeon Dr. Karan Chopra regularly performs different types of tummy tuck procedures and is committed to helping you achieve the best results possible.
What Is a Tummy Tuck?
A tummy tuck, also referred to as Abdominoplasty, is a cosmetic surgical procedure carried out to remove excess fat and skin from the abdomen to improve the general appearance of the abdomen. This procedure might also involve tightening the muscles and connective tissue (fascia) in the abdomen to create a firmer and more toned look.
A tummy tuck could be the right intervention for patients with a history of obesity who have lost a considerable amount of weight and are looking to tighten a bit of sagging or loose skin in their abdomen. This procedure can also be performed on women who have had multiple pregnancies to tighten any loose abdominal muscles and sagging skin. A tummy tuck can also be carried out with or after other cosmetic body procedures, such as liposuction eliminating excess fat from under the skin without tightening the sagging skin left behind.
However, a tummy tuck procedure is not an ideal option for patients planning to get pregnant in the future. Getting a tummy tuck before pregnancy will adversely affect the aesthetic results of the procedure. A tummy tuck is also not recommended for people in the following categories:
- Patients with obesity and a significant amount of visceral fat or fat located around vital organs;
- Patients who plan to lose a substantial amount of weight;
- People with blood-clotting disorders or underlying medical conditions;
- People with a body mass index greater than 35-40 as a high BMI may lead to an increased risk of complications during wound healing;
- Patients who smoke.
What are the Important Things to Note before a Tummy Tuck?
The first thing to have in mind before a tummy tuck is your desired result, and Dr. Chopra will let you know the exact type of tummy tuck you need to achieve this result. While all tummy tucks are designed to create a slimmer abdominal figure, their results may vary based on body type, preferred area of concentration, and recovery time. The common tummy tuck options available include the full or standard tummy tuck and the mini tummy tuck.
1. Full or Standard Tummy Tuck
The full tummy tuck, which is the most common abdominoplasty procedure, focuses on reducing the excess fat and skin tissue on the abdominal wall. This procedure often involves repositioning the belly button, and recovery time will take a minimum of two weeks in normal conditions. A full tummy tuck is best for patients with only moderate excess fat or loose skin around the midsection. It is also perfect for previously pregnant women with loose skin above the belly button.
2. Mini Tummy Tuck
A mini tummy tuck involves the removal of excess fat or skin from the lower abdominal section below the navel. This procedure does not require a belly button repositioning and is perfect for patients with little to moderate excess fat or sagging skin below the navel. Total recovery after a mini tummy tuck will take a minimum of one week.
3. Circumferential Tummy Tuck
A circumferential tummy tuck, the most comprehensive type of tummy tuck, involves eliminating large amounts of fat and loose skin from the lower and upper abdomen, lower back, waist, and buttocks region. This procedure is commonly recommended for individuals who have lost much weight, especially after a weight loss surgery, and require further surgical assistance to eliminate loose skin. Patients with moderate excess fat and loose skin may not benefit from a circumferential tummy tuck, as this procedure is specially designed to assist formerly obese patients after a massive weight loss. Individuals who have undergone this procedure may require a minimum of four weeks before they can resume regular daily activities and a minimum of 10 weeks before resuming strenuous activities.
It is important to note that a tummy tuck is not an alternative to healthy weight loss as it is limited to removing a few pounds of fat or skin in only the abdominal region. You will still have to lose weight from other body parts after the procedure if you were not at your goal weight before the procedure. It is also important to note that a tummy tuck will not erase all of your stretch marks, and the only stretch marks that will be eliminated are those at the target area or excess skin that may be removed during the procedure.
You should maintain a healthy diet before a tummy tuck to facilitate faster recovery after the procedure.
What are the Possible Risks and Complications Associated with Tummy Tucks?
A tummy tuck is a major surgical procedure, and as with every other surgery, it comes with its risks and complications, including:
- Damage to surrounding tissue
- Deep vein thrombosis and cardiac complications
- Fluid accumulation
- Persistent pain, soreness, or bruising in the abdomen even after scar formation
- Poor wound healing
- Possibility of revision surgery due to continual looseness of skin or skin loss
- Reduced sensation or numbness in the abdomen
- Skin discoloration
- Unfavorable skin scarring or aesthetic result
How is a Tummy Tuck Carried Out?
You will be given general anesthesia to make you fall asleep and unable to feel pain during this procedure. Depending on your desired result and the type of tummy tuck to be carried out, your plastic surgeon will make a horizontal incision above the pubic area from hip to hip. A second incision to separate your belly button from its surrounding skin may be made to remove excess skin from the upper abdomen. The length and shape of the incisions will vary based on the amount of excess skin to be removed and the type of tummy tuck you decide to have.
Dr. Chopra will remove most of the excess skin and fat between the navel and pubic area, and the connective tissue overlying your abdominal muscles will be tightened with the use of permanent sutures. The upper abdominal skin will then be pulled down and closed with sutures. Depending on the type and location of the tummy tuck, the skin around your belly button may be repositioned by creating a new opening for the navel and pushing it through this opening. Your belly button will be secured firmly in place with the help of sutures.
After the procedure, the incisions on your abdomen will be covered with a surgical dressing, and small drainage tubes will be fixed to properly drain any excess blood or fluid from the surgical area.
Tips for a Quick Recovery after a Tummy Tuck
After a tummy tuck, it is extremely important to strictly adhere to your surgeon’s instructions on how to care for and clean the surgical area. Routine follow-up visits will also be necessary for the surgeon to observe the surgical area and make sure that the incisions heal properly. You will be prescribed medications such as anticoagulants, antibiotics, and painkillers to help relieve pain and inflammation in the early days of recovery. Walking or moving around as soon as possible after the surgery is also important to reduce the risk of blood clot formation. In some cases, the surgeon may also prescribe blood-thinning medication.
The drainage tubes will be in place until the surgeon decides that it’s okay to remove them, and you will have to wear a supportive abdominal binder for some time. This abdominal binder will help to provide support and prevent the buildup of fluid around the incision site. The supportive binder may also help to reduce inflammation around the incision site.
For about six weeks after the procedure, you should avoid strenuous activities, and any activity at all that causes you to bend, stretch, or apply pressure to the abdomen. It is recommended that you have a person to assist you with daily tasks for a while till the surgeon clears you to begin these tasks.
Dr. Chopra might recommend topical treatments such as scar creams, silicone gel sheets, antibiotic ointments, or cocoa butter to minimize the appearance of your tummy tuck scar while it is still healing. Scar massages may also be recommended about 2 to 3 weeks after the procedure to stimulate blood flow to the area and help break down tough scar tissue.
Dr. Chopra will teach you how to clean your incision site properly to reduce the risk of infection. It is important to report back to your doctor if you encounter any of these symptoms:
- Persistent pain that doesn’t go away even after medication;
- Yellowish or greenish discharge with an unpleasant odor from the surgical site;
- Excessive bleeding, bruising, or swelling along or around the incision site.
How to Reduce the Appearance of Your Tummy Tuck Scar?
A tummy tuck will leave a visible scar after healing, no matter how little the incision is. Although it is impossible to eliminate this scar, some available options and methods can help improve its color, size, texture, and general appearance.
1. Steroid Injections
Steroid injections may prove very useful in improving the appearance of raised or thick tummy tuck scars. Your surgeon may choose to use steroid injections at the time of the procedure as a preventative measure for scar formation or may decide to wait after scar formation before making use of it.
2. Laser Skin Resurfacing
Laser skin resurfacing involves using heat and light to stimulate the growth of new skin cells and healthy collagen. This treatment option may also prove effective in decreasing the tightness, irritation, and pain around the scar.
3. Scar Revision Surgery
Scar revision surgery involves minimally invasive procedures to reduce the appearance of a tummy tuck scar. This method is highly effective for abnormal tummy tuck scars, such as keloid scars. Dr. Chopra will observe your incision site and let you know when it is advisable to carry out this procedure. The usual wait time for scar revision surgery is about 12 to 18 months, as the scar should be completely healed at this point.
FAQs about Tummy Tuck Scars
How long are tummy tuck scars?
- The length of your tummy tuck scar will depend on the type of tummy tuck you decide to carry out. In general, tummy tucks leave about 2cm to 20cm long scar.
How many routine checkups do I need to attend after a tummy tuck?
- Your surgeon will let you know the number of routine checkups you need to do after your tummy tuck. The number of checkups will depend on the healing process of your tummy tuck scar. Under normal circumstances, about 3-4 visits to your surgeon will be required after the procedure.
How do I know if my tummy tuck scar is infected?
- An infected tummy tuck scar may have a greenish or yellowish discharge from the incision site. You may also experience intense pain, bruising, or swelling around that area.
How long should I wait before going for laser skin resurfacing?
- Most tummy tuck scars will need about 12 to 18 months of wait time to heal properly and become tension free before any revision surgery can be carried out.
Is it possible to completely remove my tummy tuck scar?
- It is impossible to eliminate your tummy tuck scar, but its appearance can certainly be improved on its own or with the help of revision surgery.
Further Reading about Body Procedures with Dr. Chopra
- Read Dr. Chopra’s Tummy Tuck Surgery Page
- Read Dr. Chopra’s Liposuction Page
- Read Dr. Chopra’s blog about Recovery after Abdominoplasty Surgery
- Read Dr. Chopra’s blog about How to Get a Flat Stomach or Flatter Abdomen
- Read Dr. Chopra’s blog about Benefits of Wearing a Compression Garment After a Tummy Tuck