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Abdominoplasty, the medical term for what is commonly called a "tummy tuck," involves surgically removing excess skin and fat from the middle and lower part of the abdomen and sometimes tightening the abdominal muscles. The result is a flatter abdomen, and sometimes, a smaller waist, because the procedure corrects loose, sagging skin and excess fat. Any scars are usually located below the line of a swimsuit or underwear.
Patients considering a tummy tuck should have realistic expectations about the procedures and have an initial consultation with an experienced physician who explains the risks as well as benefits of the procedure. A person's type of skin, overall health, weight and age can affect the outcome.
Both men and women get tummy tucks. The procedure is especially useful for women whose skin has stretched after more than one pregnancy. For people whose fat deposits are just on the lower part of the abdomen, a partial abdominoplasty or mini-tummy tuck may be an option.
Skin has a limit to which it can stretch and still return to normal. When it stretches beyond that point, due to pregnancy or a large weight gain followed by weight loss, the result is much like a balloon that has been blown up and deflated. The skin becomes stretched and crinkly and does not respond to exercise or diet.
While most people have a tummy tuck for cosmetic reasons, others have the surgery to correct weakened abdominal muscles that are causing medical problems, such as back pain. Doctors consider this operation to be reconstructive when it is medically necessary and mainly improves function. In these cases, health insurance may pay for part or all of the surgery.
Abdominoplasty is sometimes done in combination with liposuction to remove pockets of excess fat from specific areas of the body using a suction pump.
A tummy tuck also can be combined with a hysterectomy or tubal ligation.
Abdominoplasty works best in people whose weight is fairly normal. A tummy tuck is not a weight-loss technique and is not suitable for obese people.