After several pregnancies it is safe to assume the majority of women yearn for their pre-baby bodies. Changes in metabolism and fat storage are the natural effects of pregnancy, and afterwards it is often a battle to snap back. Unfortunately, diet and exercise are sometimes not enough. Stretchmarks, loose skin and excess fat may never go away without surgical intervention. What determines a mini tummy tuck versus a full tummy tuck? When is liposuction enough? Reno, NV, plastic surgeon Tiffany McCormack discusses the various indications that suggest one procedure over another.
Three Important Factors
“I look at 3 things,” says Dr. McCormack, “Skin laxity and stretch marks, fat distribution and amounts and muscle. If all 3 of those components have been damaged or changed…I will typically recommend a tummy tuck. If it is just fat I might recommend just liposuction instead.” She adds that it is not so much about body type or size or even the desire for limited surgery–it is the location of skin laxity and/or stretch marks that ultimately determine whether a full tummy tuck or a mini tummy tuck is performed. If there is excess skin above the belly button, a full tummy tuck is the only option. If the skin exists only below the belly button, a mini tummy tuck is all that is necessary.
Aside from loose skin, muscles are also a factor. During pregnancy the two large parallel bands of muscles that meet in the middle of the abdomen can separate causing a condition known as “diastasis recti.” This is responsible for the bulging belly many women complain about. Dr. McCormack dispels the notion that exercise can correct the situation.
“You can make muscles stronger and bigger, but you cannot pull them back together through exercise. That’s where I come in surgically.” – Tiffany McCormack, MD
Securing the muscles can be done in a mini tummy tuck or a full tummy tuck and acts like an internal girdle. She notes that many post-surgical patients report feeling “like they got their core back…flat and strong.”
What about incisions?
What about scars? In either case the scar will be from hip to hip albeit below the bikini line. In almost all cases, women consider it a fair trade off. Before surgery Dr. McCormack estimates the length of the scar for the patient and can often use a C Section scar. Aside from keeping the scar very low, she also uses layering techniques to minimize tension in the skin. Afterwards, Dr. McCormack keeps an eye on the scar for the first few months to ensure adequate healing.
Almost always, liposuction accompanies a tummy tuck. Dr. McCormack typically targets the upper hip or anterior flank. “You want to be sure the waist is coming in and you don’t have extra bulges. It’s all about the shape and contour.”
Prior to scheduling surgery Dr. McCormack is careful to manage expectations about recovery. She cautions moms that pre planning is extremely important because regular activity is discouraged for at least 2 weeks. Any activity that elevates blood pressure or heart rate is off limits for 3 weeks. “This is elective surgery. Do it when you have the time, resources, help and time off work.” Ideal candidates are women who are at a stable weight, not planning on any more children and with realistic expectations about the scar, recovery and the final result.
Happy Patients Mean Everything
Patient satisfaction is significant and tummy tucks are one of Dr. McCormack’s favorite procedures. Patients get immediate gratification at the first visit seeing their flat tummy. “Whether it is your goal to wear a bikini or just wear a nice blouse that folds softly, or button your pants and not have a muffin top hanging over…it’s very rewarding because that is almost a guaranteed result after your surgery.”