The Surgeon Minute

Avoiding the Telltale Tummy Tuck

Avoiding the Telltale Tummy Tuck

Today’s fashion spotlight is on the midriff. Crop tops and low rise jeans showcase abdominal curves on billboards, magazines and on the catwalk. Fashion aside, who doesn’t want a smoother, firmer stomach? Especially mother’s who once had a slim abdomen, before those pesky kids.

If the thought of baring your midsection makes you cringe, there is good news. It is now possible to achieve a shapely abdomen without looking operated on. Dr. Tracy Pfeifer sat down to discuss the evolution of the tummy tuck over the eighteen years she has been practicing as a board certified plastic surgeon in New York City.

The Tummy Tuck: Then & Now

The majority of Dr. Pfeifer’s patient population are either professional women or stay-at-home moms. These women trust her to deliver surgical results that look both natural and proportionate to their figures. Crafting these results in a way that allows the best results and reentry back into the life of a professional woman or mother is critical.

“When I first did tummy tucks, the patients would stay in the hospital overnight. Now, it’s an in-and-out operation,” shares Pfeifer. “The patients come in for surgery in the morning and they go home the same day, which facilitates their recovery. It’s a much more comfortable experience for the patient.”

Tummy Tuck Scar Placement Changes with Fashion Trends

Another obvious change in tummy tuck surgery technique coincides with changes in the fashion industry. “Twenty years ago women were wearing high-cut bathing suits. French-cut bathing suits, very high-cut up on the thigh,” Pfeifer shares. “To accommodate that bathing suit, we would design the procedure so that the scar would fall underneath that style of bathing suit. Today, if you did that same procedure with that scar pattern, it’s going to be very visible because everybody is wearing low-rise bathing suits and low-rise jeans.”  

When it comes time to decide where exactly the scar will be placed during surgery, Dr. Pfeifer will often use the patient’s favorite bikini or underwear style to help plan for the surgery. While the scar needs to be in the vicinity of the abdomen, the exact placement is determined with the patient. This allows the patient to confidently wear the clothes they love after surgery.

New Suturing Techniques Deliver Better Scars

When a wound heals, a scar remains. Even when the scar is placed in a location where underwear and swimsuits cover them, everyone still wants their scars to fade away. Plastic surgeons have devoted a lot of time, energy and research into understanding how scars form and determining ways to minimize bad scarring.

What is a good scar?

  1. Flat
  2. Narrow
  3. Fades with time

“We understand better now how to create good scars,” says Pfeifer. “We want to have a tension-free closure. There are special sutures that I use during the surgery, all of these things add to an enhanced result.”

Flat Stomach vs. Contoured Abdomen

Several decades ago, the goal of the tummy tuck was simply the removal of extra fat and skin. “If you look at somebody who had a tummy tuck, say twenty years ago, their abdomen will look flat. There was no normal contour around the belly button,” points out Pfeifer. “If you look at a natural belly button, let’s say a model in Victoria’s Secret, there are definitely some valleys and hills around the umbilicus.  It’s not just this flat monolithic area.” Contour is important elsewhere in the abdomen too. If the waistline is pulled too flat, it can even give the illusion that the waist has gotten wider after surgery.

In the operating room, Dr. Pfeifer works to restore a natural curvature both around the belly button and in the areas surrounding the abdomen. One of the tools that allows her to achieve optimal contour in the operating room is liposuction.

“You don’t want to look at a patient and say, ‘Yes, you have this one area and I’m going to fix that,’” emphasizes Pfeifer. “You want to look at the whole area in its totality, so that you can produce a result that again, looks natural and proportionate. Really look at the whole unit, the whole abdomen, including the sides and the flanks.  It’s all about creating proportion and harmony so that nothing is a telltale giveaway. It just looks like it’s you. It’s the best version of you.”

Small Changes to Technique Add Up to a Big Difference

If you’ve been considering a tummy tuck but had an image of results from the 90’s stuck in your mind, you can rest assured the procedure has come a long way. With a more comfortable recovery, a more naturally-contoured result, and a scar that heals well and is appropriately placed, you will be ready and willing to hit the beach as you once did.

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