You don’t have to settle for a flat, shapeless abdomen after having a tummy tuck. While flat may be an improvement over bulging, it is a far cry from the youthful, shapely abdomen everyone desires.
We’ve all spotted that person on the beach whose abdomen is abnormally flat and doesn’t match their otherwise curvy body. Conventional tummy tuck surgery, while great for removing the extra skin and fat that pregnancy left behind, often resulted in an “operated on” appearance. Today, plastic surgeons have developed several new techniques in the operating room, enabling them to achieve results that aren’t just better, they are high definition.
“Average abdominoplasties are a thing of the past,” shares board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Camp. “Over the years I have refined my techniques to do different things with the levels underneath the skin. It’s a combination of standard operation with additional maneuvers and attention to detail: where the muscles end and where those transitions should be.”
What Is a Beautiful, Natural Abdomen?
The shape of an abdomen is determined by visible transition points. An attractive, athletic abdomen is not flat. Instead, it has visible muscles, curves and indentations. Everyone has abdominal muscles, hip bones, a waist, and a rib cage. In many cases, however, stretched out skin and a layer of fat below the skin hide the transition points. When this happens, it is difficult to distinguish where the hips end and the waist begins, or where the muscles of the abdomen begin and end. A stomach without transitions appears two dimensional instead of three dimensional.
An Attractive, Natural Abdomen:
- Is three dimensional, not flat
- Has visible muscle transition points
- Is curved between the hips and the waist
The Traditional Tummy Tuck
A decade ago, as a plastic surgery resident, Dr. Camp learned the traditional methods of creating a flatter stomach through abdominoplasty. At that point in time, says Camp, surgeons were typically operating under a less-is-more approach. This was partially due to the fear that more surgically aggressive approaches could possibly lead to healing problems down the road. While the results were an improvement for the patients, they were not achieving the results patients desired. This led Camp to search for safe techniques that would allow him to deliver natural-looking results.
Enhancing the Traditional Tummy Tuck
Dr. Camp achieves contour enhancement by strategically removing fat pockets and using what he refers to as Anatomy Defining Progressive Tension Sutures. While the additional time in the operating room is minimal, the results are long lasting and make a big difference.
“We’re taking what we already know about patients and these standard operations and making small little additions to them,” says Camp. “It doesn’t have to be a fancy laser, or a fancy tool to create a great benefit.”
Non-Uniform Removal of Fat
Instead of simply de-bulking an abdomen of excess fat, Camp takes time in the operating room to study where the patient’s natural transition points exist. He then removes fat strategically to highlight those areas and provide a three-dimensional contour.
Anatomy Defining Progressive Tension Sutures
During an abdominoplasty, plastic surgeons create an incision below the belly button and lift the flap of skin upwards in order to work on the weakened muscles below. Once the foundational work inside of the abdomen has been completed and the excess skin has been removed, the flap is pulled tight and the incision is closed with sutures.
The area where the skin was separated from the foundation is an area where fluid likes to collect after surgery. Collections of fluid can slow the healing process. For this reason, surgeons would traditionally place plastic drainage tubes between the tissues at the time of surgery allowing the fluid to drain out of the body in the weeks following surgery.
Today, surgeons have instead begun using progressive tension sutures, also sometimes referred to as quilting sutures. These sutures, which dissolve slowly over time, serve to anchor the separated layers of the abdomen, closing off open space and reducing fluid collections without the need for drains.
Dr. Camp has established an additional benefit when strategically placing progressive tension sutures. Not only are they capable of reducing fluid collections, they are a great way to enhance transition points in the abdomen. As the sutures are absorbed by the body over time, the scar tissue forms a permanent adherence at the point of the suture, bringing definition to the abdomen.
“We’re actually taking the skin and tucking it down to specific areas and encouraging it to heal right at those beginning and ending points of the transition zones,” says Camp. “It’s been a real big advance in what I consider to be a better result for my tummy tuck patients. I can tell you that my patients tell me that they see a difference, too.”