What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A tummy tuck is done in a hospital or an outpatient surgical facility. During a tummy tuck, you'll be asleep and comfortable with the aid of general anesthesia — which renders you unconscious. In some cases, you might be given an analgesic and be moderately sedated (partially asleep).

During the procedure

Your plastic surgeon will make incisions to remove most of the skin and fat between your bellybutton and pubic hair in a horizontal oval or elliptical shape. The fascia, which overlies the abdominal muscles, will be tightened with permanent sutures.

Your plastic surgeon will then reposition the skin around your bellybutton. Your bellybutton will be brought out through a small incision and sutured in its normal position. The incision from hip to hip above the pubic hair will be stitched together and will leave a scar that falls along the natural crease within the bikini line.

During the procedure you might be given an antibiotic to prevent infection.

The procedure typically takes about three hours.

After the procedure

After a tummy tuck, your abdominal incision and your bellybutton will likely be covered with surgical dressing. Small tubes might be placed along the incision site to drain any excess blood or fluid.

Your bed will be positioned to keep your upper body slightly raised and your knees at an angle for the first few days after surgery. Members of your health care team will also help you walk as early as the first day after a tummy tuck to help prevent the formation of blood clots.

You'll likely feel moderate pain, which will initially be controlled by intravenous pain medication. It's normal to have swelling in the surgical area for about six weeks. In some cases, swelling might take up to three months to resolve. Drains might be left in place for a week or two after surgery. Your doctor or a member of your health care team will show you how to empty and care for your drains. You might need to continue taking an antibiotic and anticoagulant for 10 days after your tummy tuck.

You'll wear a supportive abdominal garment (abdominal binder) for about six weeks after your tummy tuck. This will help prevent fluid buildup and provide abdominal support while you heal. Your doctor will explain how to care for your scar.

For the first three months after a tummy tuck, you'll need to take care when moving and avoid positions that strain your incision line — such as quickly bending at the waist — to prevent the re-opening of the wound. In addition, you'll need to schedule follow-up visits with your doctor for the next year.

Jul. 25, 2013