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patient model tummy tuckStanding in front of the mirror and feeling confident in the way you look is one of the most meaningful things you can achieve in life. If unshakable belly fat keeps you stuck at the same weight and with the same figure, no matter how much you exercise or restrict your calories, a tummy tuck could be the ideal procedure to help you achieve your physique goals.

Through this personalized procedure, you can attain a tighter, toner, and smoother stomach that looks and feels great. However, a tummy tuck is highly comprehensive and requires a significant amount of planning, preparation, and recovery.

If you’ve decided that a tummy tuck is the right plastic surgery procedure for you, explore our tummy tuck guide to learn more about everything you should know when moving forward with your treatment.


The Different Types of Tummy Tuck Surgeries

Many plastic surgeons—including Dr. Steve Vu at California Aesthetic Center—offer two different types of tummy tucks: full and mini. Learn more about what each type involves and which may be right for you based on your individual needs, goals, and expectations. 

What is a Full Tummy Tuck? 

A full tummy tuck, sometimes referred to as a traditional abdominoplasty, is a comprehensive procedure that removes excess skin and fat and tightens your entire abdomen (upper, middle, and lower) to deliver a more sculpted, toned, and tightened appearance. 

This procedure involves making an incision between your hip bones and—if needed—removing excess fat with liposuction. Then, your plastic surgeon repairs your weakened or separated abdominal muscles, removes any sagging or excess skin, and repositions your belly button. 

In some cases, plastic surgeons—like Dr. Vu—also offer an extended tummy tuck, which addresses sagging skin on your midsection, sides, hips, and lower back to deliver a more toned figure all-around. 

What is a Mini Tummy Tuck? 

A mini tummy tuck, also known as a partial abdominoplasty, addresses excess skin and fat below or above the navel. Unlike a full tummy tuck, a mini tummy tuck generally does not repair or tighten separated abdominal muscles, but this can be modified based on your individual treatment plan. 

At California Aesthetic Center, Dr. Vu offers both upper and lower mini tummy tucks, which involve either removing sagging skin and excess fat above or below the belly button. 

Which is Right for You: Full Tummy Tuck or Mini Tummy Tuck? 

If you have an extended lower belly, otherwise known as a slight “pooch,” a mini tummy tuck may be the right option for you. This procedure also has the benefits of a smaller incision and shorter recovery period. 

If you have stubborn excess fat on your entire abdomen, as well as separated or loose abdominal muscles, a full tummy tuck is likely the best option. This procedure will help you achieve a tighter, more contoured midsection. 

For more information on how to determine if a full tummy tuck or mini tummy tuck is right for you, read our helpful blog here

What to Do Before Your Tummy Tuck Surgery

After deciding that a tummy tuck is the right procedure for you, there are a few key steps to take before scheduling your surgery. 

Meet with Top-Rated Plastic Surgeons 

When searching for a doctor to perform your tummy tuck, you will likely find that there are countless plastic surgeons who offer this comprehensive procedure. Dr. Vu recommends meeting with several top-rated plastic surgeons in your area to learn more about the tummy tuck techniques they use, their certifications, and if you feel comfortable with them.

Choose the Right Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon For You

Finding a qualified plastic surgeon should be at the top of your list, which is why Dr. Vu recommends choosing one that is board-certified. 

Board-certified means that they have gone through the proper education, training, and testing to receive the highest certification from reputable organizations, such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery. 

With a board-certified plastic surgeon by your side, who understands your needs and goals, you can achieve the best possible results. 

Schedule a Personalized Consultation 

After choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon to perform your tummy tuck, it is time to schedule your initial consultation. During this appointment, you and your doctor will discuss your individual circumstances, health status, cosmetic goals, and any other questions you may have regarding the procedure. 

Ask Lots of Questions 

At your consultation—and anytime before or after your procedure—don’t be afraid to ask questions! Learning as much as you can is crucial to feeling confident and comfortable with your surgeon and tummy tuck procedure. 

Schedule Your Surgery Date 

Once you feel secure in your decision to have a tummy tuck with your chosen plastic surgeon, it is time to schedule your surgery date. 

At this time, you will likely feel a lot of excitement and maybe even a bit of nervousness, which is totally normal. But rest assured—a tummy tuck is a standard procedure that has helped hundreds of thousands around the world achieve their body goals

How to Prepare For Your Tummy Tuck Surgery 

Leading up to your tummy tuck surgery, Dr. Vu recommends taking a few key steps to prepare for your procedure. These steps and integrations will help prepare you for your surgery day and set you up for success, especially during your tummy tuck recovery period. 

Integrate a Good Diet and Regular Exercise 

Following a healthy, well-balanced diet and incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine is essential for preparing your body for a tummy tuck. 

This procedure is not meant to replace a good diet and exercise regimen. Instead, these work in conjunction to deliver the best possible, long-lasting results. This is why Dr. Vu recommends you do as much as you can to meet your goal weight before your tummy tuck surgery.

Furthermore, having excess fat and being overweight can increase your risk of complications and side effects during surgery. 

Schedule Your Time Off From Work 

In the months leading up to your tummy tuck surgery, ensure you schedule time off from work for your recovery. Dr. Vu advises that each of his tummy tuck patients take at least two weeks off from work to prioritize their healing journey. 

Eliminate All Alcohol and Tobacco 

Eliminating all alcohol and tobacco products in the week leading up to your tummy tuck procedure is recommended by all plastic surgeons, as these products can negatively impact your health. 

Additionally, Dr. Vu generally recommends that tummy tuck patients avoid alcohol and tobacco products in the two weeks following their procedure, as they can slow down your body’s healing capabilities, which may lengthen your recovery period and prolong your final results. 

Don’t Take Certain Supplements and Herbal Medications 

Certain supplements and herbal medications, such as blood thinners (e.g., Ibuprofen), weight loss medications, ginseng, valerian, vitamin E, and echinacea, can all increase the risk of bleeding and other complications during surgery. 

Leading up to your procedure. Dr. Vu will provide you with a complete list of supplements and herbal medications you should avoid before surgery. 

Build a Strong Support System 

A strong support system is a necessity for your tummy tuck recovery period. Having help around the house can make a world of difference after your surgery and reduce any stress you may experience. 

In preparation for your procedure, Dr. Vu recommends you arrange for someone to: 

  • Pick you up and drive you home from the surgery center. 
  • Assist you in laying down, sitting up, walking around, and putting on clothes. 
  • Help with cooking, cleaning, laundry, childcare, and any other activities that may cause you strain and potentially impact your abdominoplasty results. 

Stock Up on Supplies 

In the weeks leading up to your tummy tuck procedure, stock up on any supplies that you may need during your recovery period, as you will not be able to leave the house and go to the store. 

Here are some key supplies that Dr. Vu suggests his patients have on hand for their recovery: 

  • Comfortable, loose clothing 
  • Pillows
  • Toilet seat riser
  • Healthy, ready-to-eat food
  • Protein supplements 
  • Stool softeners
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Gauze pads 
  • Lanyard for surgical drains 
  • Compression garments 
  • Medical ointments 
  • Scar gel 

Additionally, you will be instructed to elevate your feet and your head throughout the first few weeks of your recovery. To ensure you are comfortable, you may want to consider investing in a recliner that offers support and structure along with your pillows. 

Maintain Communication with Your Doctor 

During your recovery, you will be expected to meet with your board-certified plastic surgeon for post-op check-ins. These are to ensure your body is healing properly and that you are on track for a smooth recovery. 

Additionally, Dr. Vu recommends you keep an open line of communication with your doctor in case you have any questions or concerns. 

What to Expect on the Day of Your Surgery 

Leading up to and on the day of your surgery, it is completely normal (and expected) to feel a wide range of emotions, including excitement, nervousness, and anxiety. To help you feel more comfortable about what is to come, here is what you can expect on the day of your tummy tuck. 

Tummy Tuck Pre-Op Preparation 

To prepare for your procedure, Dr. Vu suggests that tummy tuck patients shower with antibacterial soap before they go to the surgical center, as showering after the surgery will be difficult. After your shower, dress in loose, comfortable clothing that is easy to get on and off. It will also be advised that you do not eat or drink anything before your surgery. 

When you arrive at the surgical center, you will go through the standard admissions process with your plastic surgeon’s team. This will likely involve filling out some forms with details of your name, address, age, and other personal information. 

Once you are settled in your surgical room, a nurse will come in to carry out pre-surgical checks, such as taking your blood pressure and measuring your height and weight. Then, you will have a visit from your plastic surgeon, who should put your mind at ease and answer any questions you may have about the surgery. 

Tummy Tuck Surgery 

After your pre-op checks are complete and you are ready for surgery, you will be put under general anesthesia by a board-certified anesthesiologist. 

Once you are fully asleep, your plastic surgeon will begin by making an incision between your hip bones. Then, they will remove excess skin and fat and, if your treatment plan calls for it, will also repair any damaged abdominal muscles. 

How Long Does a Tummy Tuck Take? 

On the day of your tummy tuck surgery, you should plan to be at the surgical center for approximately three and a half to four hours. The surgery itself generally takes around two to three hours, depending on the extent of your individual procedure. 

After Your Tummy Tuck Surgery

Following your tummy tuck surgery, you can expect to slowly wake up from anesthesia in your comfortable surgical suite. Typically, a tummy tuck is an outpatient procedure, meaning you will be discharged the same day of your surgery. Once you are fully awake, you will need to have someone drive you home and stay with you the first night. 

Tips for an Optimal Tummy Tuck Recovery

Prioritizing your abdominoplasty recovery is a key part of your overall treatment plan. You can expect your recovery to take at least two weeks and up to two months, depending on your body’s rate of healing.

To ensure you have a smooth recovery period, carefully follow your post-op instructions, as well as Dr. Vu’s top recovery tips below. These will help prevent any complications and encourage maximum healing potential.

Dos and Don’ts of Tummy Tuck Recovery

There are a few things you should do and don’t during your tummy tuck recovery. Dr. Vu recommends you do:

  • Prioritize resting to promote optimal healing.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.
  • Eat a balanced diet of lean protein, whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables. (Fiber is essential for preventing constipation, which could contribute to abdominal straining during elimination.)
  • Slowly incorporate movement by getting up every two to three hours. This helps to reduce the risk of blood clots or lung infection.
  • Take your pain medication as prescribed by your board-certified plastic surgeon.
  • Gently massage your abdomen to stimulate blood flow, which helps encourage healing.

On the other hand, there are also a number of activities you should refrain from doing during your tummy tuck recovery. Dr. Vu recommends you do not:

  • Engage your core (e.g., no pilates, sit-ups) until your doctor has cleared you for exercise.
  • Strain your abdomen, such as by bending over and picking up heavy things (e.g. children or pets).
  • Stand up straight in the days following your surgery, as this could put added tension on your incision and potentially tear your stitches.
  • Clean your house or do any laundry.
  • Attempt to fit into your “skinny” clothes, as this could put strain on your surgical site.
  • Go grocery shopping where you need to lift heavy bags or push a shopping cart.
  • Drink liquids that may cause bloating, such as carbonated soda or beer.

Managing Your Discomfort

It is normal to feel slight discomfort following your tummy tuck procedure. This includes side effects like swelling, soreness, numbness, and irritation at your surgical incision site. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication, and it is important that you take these exactly as prescribed to mitigate any pain or discomfort.

Showering After Your Tummy Tuck

For many tummy tuck patients, the most difficult part of recovery is showering, as this can be a highly demanding task. Dr. Vu shares some of his top tips below on how to properly shower after your tummy tuck.

  • Time it Right – Typically, the best time to shower is around thirty to forty minutes after you take your prescribed pain medication, as this is when you will feel the least discomfort.
  • Take a Sit-Down Shower — Invest in a shower chair or put a small bench in your tub so you can sit down and relax. This puts less strain on your abdomen and should be far more comfortable than standing.
  • Assistance is Key – Have someone help you wash your body and hair, as showering by yourself can be complicated after a tummy tuck.
  • Moisturize – Keeping your skin moisturized, especially around your incision site, can support your skin’s healing process. Plus, when applying lotion, the slight massaging can help stimulate blood flow and circulation, which further helps your body heal.
  • Rest Afterwards – Don’t underestimate how exhausting daily tasks can be. Ensure you rest after showering, and don’t push your body too hard after a tummy tuck.

Use Compression Garments

Compression garments are an absolute must after a tummy tuck and you will likely be given some by your plastic surgeon. These play an important role in reducing swelling and providing abdominal support throughout your recovery period.

Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be instructed to wear compression garments for two weeks to two months after your surgery.

Caring For Your Drains

Depending on how your doctor performs your tummy tuck, you may have small tubes, often referred to as drains, placed beneath your skin. These are used to help remove excess fluid that accumulates after surgery, which could cause seroma or infection.

Caring for your drains is simple, as you will just want to keep the area clean and dry to prevent any bacteria buildup. Clean the area regularly using a mild antibacterial soap and warm water, and avoid rubbing the area with an abrasive sponge or cloth.

Attending to Your Incisions

After your tummy tuck, you will have a large incision between your hip bones. There are a few things you may be asked to do when caring for your incision.

  • Leave your incision tape on until it falls off or your doctor gives you the green light to remove it.
  • Wash your incision site daily with warm water and pat it dry. (Avoid using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, which can slow healing.)
  • Cover your incision with gauze dressing for at least one week post-operation.
  • Change your bandage in accordance with your doctor’s instructions.
  • Limit movement to minimize the risk of tearing your incision and causing the wound to reopen.

Reducing the Risk of Infection with Antibiotics

Though your plastic surgeon will likely administer a dose of antibiotics intravenously during your surgery, they may also prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic for you to take following your tummy tuck procedure. It is important to adhere to your doctor’s instructions, as these antibiotics reduce the risk of infection.

What to Expect After Your Tummy Tuck

A tummy tuck is no small feat, and you may have a few hurdles to overcome during recovery. Here are some things you should expect to experience in the weeks and months after your tummy tuck.

Healing May Take Longer Than Estimated

Generally, it takes about six weeks to fully recover from a tummy tuck. However, your healing may take longer than estimated, which is why it is important to remember that everyone’s tummy tuck recovery timeline is unique. For tips on how to speed up your recovery, explore Dr. Vu’s blog here.

You May Have a Tummy Tuck Scar

Regardless of whether you have a mini or full tummy tuck, you will have a scar that runs horizontally along your pelvic area. The length will vary depending on the type of abdominoplasty—a mini tummy tuck will result in a small scar that is just a few centimeters, while a scar from a full tummy tuck extends over each hip bone.

Expect Some Swelling During Recovery

Swelling in the abdominal area is normal after a tummy tuck, and you may even experience some hardness around the belly button. To reduce swelling, your doctor will recommend wearing compression garments, lots of rest, drinking enough water, reducing your sodium intake, following a healthy diet, and maintaining your drain tubes.

You May Experience Some Discomfort

Discomfort due to swelling, abdominal tightness, bloating, bruising, irritation, itchiness, and redness is common after a tummy tuck. These side effects can be managed with prescribed and OTC pain medication.

However, having a fever and chills, foul-smelling incisions, drainage of pus, excessive redness and soreness, or a hot incision site is not normal and should be tended to as soon as you notice these symptoms.

Constipation is Normal

It is common for pain medication to cause constipation, which is why Dr. Vu recommends that each of his tummy tuck patients adopt a healthy diet with plenty of fiber, take stool softeners, and drink plenty of water. These steps can help keep things moving and reduce any potential strain on your abdominal area.

Gradually Incorporate Movement

Though moderate to strenuous exercise is off the table for around six to eight weeks after your tummy tuck, Dr. Vu recommends that you gradually incorporate movement into your daily routine, like walking around. This helps to encourage circulation, prevent blood clots, reduce constipation, and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Maintain a Steady Weight

After your tummy tuck, it is important to incorporate healthy habits that help you maintain a steady weight, as significant weight loss and weight gain could impact your results. Dr. Vu recommends sticking to a well-balanced diet, regularly exercising, managing your stress levels, and avoiding tobacco products.

Additionally, Dr. Vu generally recommends women wait to have a tummy tuck until they are done having children, as this could cause significant weight gain, which may affect their results. Read more about the benefits of having a tummy tuck after pregnancy here.

Trust the Tummy Tuck Process

A tummy tuck is an extensive surgery and, as such, it can take a while for you to see results. However, it is important that you trust the process! Make sure to follow all of your doctor’s instructions to a T and do not do anything that could compromise your results, such as exercising too much during your recovery.

With time, your body will heal, and your final results of a slimmer, toner, more contoured tummy will begin to show.

Moving Forward with Your Tummy Tuck

A tummy tuck is a highly-comprehensive procedure that requires a significant amount of time dedicated to planning, preparation, and recovery. With this extensive tummy tuck guide, we hope you have the tools, tips, and information required to confidently move forward with your procedure.

If you are interested in learning more about getting a tummy tuck in Orange County, explore our tummy tuck procedure page. Find out if you are the right candidate, the benefits of a tummy tuck, the procedure process, and more key information that helps you better understand this transformational procedure.

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