A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, procedure is a common surgical procedure for sculpturing the lower abdomen area.
The removal of loose skin, excessive tummy fat and stretch marks involves scarring. As with all surgeries. Here’s how to optimize your tummy tuck surgery recovery and some other relevant tips.
There are several different types of tummy tucks such as the traditional, mini, circumferential, endoscopic, and extended tummy tuck. The choice for a certain type depends on the reason to undergo this procedure.
Having had a tummy tuck offers confidence to many women but the scars can also be a disadvantage. This post is about answering questions about tummy tuck recovery and scars. How to prevent scars as much as possible. How to treat them. Where will they exactly be? What about the scarless tummy tuck, and more..
Reasons for a Tummy Tuck
Getting your youthful, tight belly back.. Many women who have been pregnant once or more, who had a c-section (cesarean section), or who have lost a lot of weight are left with loose skin in the lower belly area.
Not only wrinkled skin on the stomach but also old scars from e.g. other surgery such as a cesarean delivery can be removed. Also the removal of excessive fat or the tightening of abdominal muscles are reasons to undergo a tummy tuck procedure.
The common goal is to create a more tight abdominal area, a slimmer waist line and to improve overall body shape. These aesthetic improvements of the tummy can take away self-consciousness and boost self esteem and confidence. That’s why it’s important to most women to enhance their tummy tuck recovery process.
Various Types of Tummy Tuck Procedures
the traditional and scarless tummy tuck
The type of abdominoplasty procedure determines which incisions will be made and subsequently the amount of scarring.
If the purpose is to only some mild sculpting of the tummy a mini tummy tuck will suffice. When there are other objectives such as the removal of fat and loose skin and tightening muscles, a more invasive procedure such as the extended tummy tuck will be implemented.
Complete Tummy Tuck Scars
horizontal scar from hip to hip & a scar around the naval.
The complete tummy tuck is the most common abdominoplasty procedure. The first and largest Incision is a partly horizontal straight line across the abdominal area between the hips going up to the hip bones.
The location of the middle of the scar is just above the pubic bone. The second standard incision is a circular shaped cut around the naval. This belly button scar is called umbilicus. Commonly some other minor additional incisions are necessary.
Scarless Tummy Tuck
horizontal scar from hip to hip
The mini tummy tuck procedure is also referred to as the partial or scarless tummy tuck. The term scarless is deceptive because incisions have to be made so scars will develop. But with the use of special techniques size and visibility of scars are reduced.
Other names are low tummy tuck because there is no need to readjust the naval and the only incision will be made on the lowest part of the abdominal area.
The incision made, and thus the scar, depends on the amount of skin that has to be removed. Because this is a less invasive procedure this horizontal scar will be smaller than that of the traditional operation. Also will there be no naval scar.
Endoscopic Tummy Tuck Scars
several tiny scars only
This is the least invasive tummy tuck procedure with minimal scarring which is only suitable for women who don’t need to have loose skin removed. Thanks to the use of specialized instruments the surgeon is able to only make several small incisions in order to perform the desired goal.
Tummy Tuck Surgery Recovery
It is common for patients to have to deal with wound pain, bruising, and swelling during the tummy tuck surgery recovery process. Whenever someone experiences more severe complaints such as bleeding, infections and necrosis (black, dead tissue) action must be undertaken because these conditions slow down the healing process. It is always strongly recommended to do so in close dialog with the concerning surgeon or dermatologist.
Tummy Tuck Scar Treatment
Tummy tuck scars are an inevitable part of tummy tuck surgery. They are known to get worse before they improve. In contrary to many other surgical scars they will be roughly at their worst in about 3 months after the procedure.
Only after a year they will be reaching the final phase. Before that time they will appear raised and red or purple. Eventually they will become softer, flat and tone in. In most cases that is.
Besides scars also bruises and swellings will most like appear after the procedure. As with all surgical scars it is recommended to start treating them as soon as possible.
This will lead to an optimal final result. The first thing to accomplish is to make sure the wounds heal optimally. Infections and inflammation should be avoided because they tend to worsen scar appearance.
Things to consider in the wound healing phase are keeping the tape on as long as possible. The tape’s pressure keeps minimizes tension on the wound. Also asking your surgeon or dermatologist about medical honey dressings might be a good idea. These are scientifically proven to reduce hypertrophic scarring.
After a surgical procedure such as the tummy tuck commonly three types of scars will occur;
- 1.normal, non-problematic scars,
- 2.hypertrophic scars and
- 3.keloid scars.
Non-problematic scars require no treatment. But whether or not someone develops problematic scars is not something one knows up front. Many wounds, especially surgical wounds, turn into hypertrophic or keloid scars. That’s why prevention is recommended.
The Best Tummy Tuck Scar Products
Directly after the wound has healed treatment of the scar can be started. The most convincing evidence for an effective scar therapy is that for silicone dressings.
Also hydration and occlusion (which will be accomplished by using dressings) seem to help realize the best scar appearance one can get. Studies have shown this multiple times.
Medical paper tape, or surgical tape is recommended by many surgeons and is used directly after the surgery. The tape can be used ( in contrary to silicone patches) on wounds that are still open.
Surgical tape has shown to improve scar appearance by stimulating wound healing thus aiding to tummy tuck surgery recovery. More specifically, it helps reduce tension on the wound and wound bed which is known to play a role in the formation of excessive scar tissue.
Silicone Sheets for Tummy Tuck Scars
In my opinion one of the best, if not the best, silicone strips brand is ScarAway. Their silicone scar management sheets are self-adhesive and are manufactured with the patented Silon technology.
Differences between brands are not only the amount of active silicones present in the product but even more important the type of silicones. The best silicone is the so called dimethicone. Other brands do not make use of this type of silicone.
Tummy Tuck Scar Treatment Reviews
positive experiences with silicone strips on tummy tuck scars.
Here’s a review of someone asking if people have experience with silicone strips for tummy tuck scars:
“Just 10 days out from my tummy tuck and starting to research scar removal creams and silicone sheet strips. Anyone have any experience with any products? I’m looking at Biodermis and Scar FX the silcone strips since they seem to stay “on” for weeks. Sounds better than a cream which I have to apply a few times a day. Anyone have experience? They are so costly I wanted to see if anyone had any opinions as I can’t find any non-add on the web.”
“I didn’t use any, though I wish I had after my tummy tuck and subsequent revisions. I have heard that silicone sheets and Mederma are good.”
“I had surgery for a hernitaed disk in my neck. The incision was made at the front of my neck. I used the silicone strips and had great success with them and the scar is pretty much invisible. I tried bioderm and maderma and neither compare to the strips. Use as recommended and i think you will be happy with your results~Good Luck!”
and another review:
“I used silicone patches from Scaraway for my tummytuck scar and am unbelievably content. My sisters scar got red and bumpy but mine healed flat and pretty thin and is regular skin color now… They stick to your skin without the need for tape but they are not sticky like bandaids. Hard to explain.. I hardly noticed wearing them…hope that helps”
Based on my own experiences with surgery scar treatment I recommend the new ScarAway Flex silicone sheets.
Tummy Tuck Compression Garments
add pressure to avoid tension
Wearing an abdominal garment is a crucial part in the after tummy tuck surgery healing process. The tummy tuck garment is designed to apply the exactly needed amount of pressure to the surgical areas. This takes the tension off of the wound thus stimulating the wound healing process.
These garments, also referred to as abdominal binders, apply pressure to the swollen areas, improve draining of toxic fluids, and help the skin conform to its new contours.
The pressure applied by garments also stimulates blood circulation which is an important factor in scar healing. The faster the wound heals and the less complications such as infections and inflammation occur, the better the final scar appearance will be.
A popular and well-reviewed choice is the Faja Colombiana post-op compression garment (make sure to read the review by Family of 6 for proper sizing).
The compression garment also reduces swelling and bruises by keeping everything in place. This store offers an extensive amount of medical grade garments.
Does a Compression Garment after a Tummy Tuck Really Help?
some user experiences on forums
“My doctor really stressed wearing the compression garment to get the best results. He said some doctors don’t do it but it really helps with getting the good shape. I wore it even longer I think than was required – besides it felt better. (I was really sore for a week I think – but I’m a wimp when it comes to pain). So, that would be my most important advice – wear that compression belt constantly. I was very happy with my results. By the way, I didn’t get any of those lumps people have been talking about – I was wondering if that is only from smart lipo – or if it happens from lipo only. Good luck!” source: plasmetic.com
Manuka Honey for Effective Surgical Wound Treatment
A study published in the European Journal of Medical Research in 2003 discovered that manuka honey – when compared with conventional treatments for infected postoperative Caesarean sections and hysterectomy wounds – had an 85% success rate compared with 50% for routine treatments.
It might be useful to ask your surgeon or dermatologist about manuka honey wound dressings. These FDA approved medical devices have shown to speed wound healing, help prevent infections, effectively treat infections, and minimize scarring.
Medical Grade Honey Dressings
These all-natural wound dressings are close to a miracle cure. Medihoney has helped prevent amputations and is known to fight infections and speed wound healing. There are so many stories of people who literally tried anything to no avail, who then at some point heard about manuka honey (Medihoney), tried it and got cured of their skin condition.
If your tummy tuck incision doesn’t heal properly I strongly recommend looking into these dressings. Also available in a more affordable dressing paste (if you’re not convinced yet, just read the raving reviews).
Protect your Tummy Tuck Scar
against overstretching, and sunshine
It is important to avoid sunshine as much as possible on immature scars. Up to about 1,5 years after the procedure suncream with at least SPF 15 should be applied. Also underneath thin clothing such as cotton t-shirts.
Also make sure not to overstretch the scar tissue as long as the scar is fresh (immature). Stress on the scar by vigorously exercising or sudden movements can result in wider, more prominent scarring.
Tummy Tuck Scar Massage
Scar massage can enhance the healing process and scar appearance but should always be started only if the wound has been healed and when it is allowed to remove the compression garment. It can help diminish swellings and bruises as well. Always consult your surgeon or dermatologist for instructions and permission to start with massage. The massage can make the tissue more supple and dissolve adhesions and bumps.
“Massage helps break down the dense bands of collagen that attach to underlying tissue, a common reaction to cesarean sections, appendectomies or hand wounds,”
source: Robert Bernard, M.D., a plastic surgeon based in White Plains, New York, and president-elect of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Lymphatic massage is especially useful for tummy tuck patients. It reduces swelling and bruises, decreases the chance on developing problematic scar tissue and stimulates the immune system. It works by boosting blood circulation and moving pooled fluids.
It needs to go very slowly when you are first recovering from surgery. Very gentle massage in circular movements can later on be expanded to more frequent massage. Start out with about 30 seconds a few times a day. Although it is not intrinsically necessary I preferred to use oil or cream to massage my scars.
This because it felt better since my scars were rather sensitive. (this seems to depend on the person and location on the body) Also hydration is a major scar improving factor which is why using a moisturizing oil or cream might be helpful.
Tummy Tuck Scars and Smoking
Smokers are at increased risk for complications. This is why patients are motivated to quit smoking. In some cases, when patients are unwilling or unable to quit, the surgery will not be performed.
Also after the procedure it is strongly recommended to quit smoking because it involves a significant higher risk on developing more prominent (problematic) scars. The longer someone is able to stay away from cigarettes the better this is for the final scar appearance.
Stitches, Staples, or Skin Adhesive
which are best, cosmetically?
It depends on the surgeon which type of wound closure they utilize. Some surgeons say they prefer sutures (stitches) over staples because these provide a more rewarding aesthetic result. Staples seem to have the benefit of fast wound closure. Another option is skin closure by ’tissue adhesives’.
This study shows surgical wounds closed with sutures compared to those with adhesives resulted in the same scar appearance. Significant difference was the time it took the surgeon to close the wounds. The adhesives allowed for a much faster closure.
This study report shows: “It is unclear whether tissue adhesives are more or less effective for closing surgical incisions than stitches or adhesive tape.”
Tummy Tuck Without Drains Less Scarring?
Progressive tension sutures have shown to reduce the risk on local complications after the tummy tuck procedure. Common complications are skin flap necrosis, seroma and hematoma formation, and hypertrophic scarring. Apart from the very low complication rate there is also no need for suction drains. More on: progressive tension sutures. (.pdf file)
The tummy tuck procedure where no drains are used is referred to as progressive tension sutures. The sutures are placed inside, which distribute the tension instead of placing it all at the edge. This is said to result in less scarring. Opinions by experts differ though. Here are the visions of two plastic surgeons: RealSelf
Tummy Tuck and ‘Dog Ears’
Dog ears are excess skin or bulging tissue on one or both sides of the scar left after the tummy tuck procedure. Some cosmetic surgeons estimate that about 20% of the patients develops dog ears to a certain extent. In some cases they will flatten or disappear after a while. In other cases a small ‘touch up’ correction can solve this cosmetic problem. A minor, 10 minute, operation under local anesthetic will help you get rid of the dog ears.
Taking Care of Your Tummy Tuck Wound
don’t let your wound dry out in the air
Wound care studies demonstrated that wound healing was twice as fast in those wounds covered with a film dressing. One particular study showed that wounds that were kept moist healed in approximately 12 to 15 days while the same wound when exposed to the air healed in about 25 to 30 days.
“Moisture prevents the formation of a hard scab, which acts as a barrier to the development of new tissue,”
source: dermatologist Bruce Katz, M.D., associate clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Visit the page below to learn about the best way to take care of your tummy tuck wound because decent wound care is the first step in reducing prominent, and possible problematic, scar tissue.
A commonly asked question:
Do Tummy Tuck Scars Show wearing Two Piece Swimwear?
This depends on the type of operation someone has undergone. The scarless, mini, low or partial tummy tuck only requires an (often strategical placed) incision below the waistline on the part where the bikini or underwear will cover it from view.The largest of the traditional procedure is also lower then where a two piece bikini would show. Tummy tuck scars are usually positioned below the waistline where bathing suits cover the scar.
Questions or want to share experiences on Tummy Tuck Recovery? Share your tips below..