Tummy Tuck: A RealSelf Glossary

You started researching tummy tucks and suddenly you're wondering what the heck "swell hell" is. That sounds bad, right? You're also wondering how the "waterbed effect" applies to plastic surgery. Don't worry, those are natural questions to have. Understanding the language used to describe a tummy tuck will go a long way in determining if the procedure is right for you. We're here to help with this glossary of terms you need to know.


When stomach skin hangs down over your bikini line, often after massive weight loss or pregnancy.

tummy apron of skin

*Treatment results may vary


An article of clothing worn around your belly after surgery to minimize swelling and help your skin keep its new shape. Many doctors recommend wearing a binder for at least the first week after a tummy tuck. Also called a body binder, compression garmet (CG), faja, or girdle.

See also: How long does the average patient wear their girdle after a tummy tuck?
tummy tuck binder

*Treatment results may vary


An abbreviation for compression garment, also known as a binder.

Diastasis recti

When your belly sticks out, causing a pooch that may make you look pregnant. It’s caused by the separation of the left and right stomach muscles and is very common after a pregnancy.


After a tummy tuck, your surgeon may insert up to three small tubes attached to little plastic bulbs outside your body. They're there to keep fluid from building up inside the area that was just treated. You'll empty or "milk" them a few times a day and measure how much fluid you collected. Drains typically stay in at least three days and up to two weeks or more.

tummy tuck drains

*Treatment results may vary


The Dominican Republic is a popular destination for many plastic surgery procedures, including tummy tuck.


A compression garment with a waist cincher. Fajas come in different styles: a simple waist cincher, a body suit including a waist cincher and half leg/shorts, or a body suit including a waist cincher and three-quarter length legs.


Some people have skin that's loose from side-to-side, in addition to a vertical "apron" of loose skin. These folks might be candidates for a fleur-de-lys tummy tuck. The scar from this style TT looks like an upside down T.

fleur-de-lys tummy tuck

*Treatment results may vary


Another name for a binder.


Tummy tucks typically leave a scar that runs from one hip to the other, just below the pubic bone. Usually, the scar is low enough that it won't show in a bathing suit.


It's pretty common for people to get liposuction in addition to a tummy tuck. Lipo is a procedure that helps remove extra fat, and can help enhance TT results.

*Treatment results may vary

Dr. Richard Restifo explains how you can determine whether a liposuction or a tummy tuck is the best solution to achieve the result you have in mind.

Lymphatic massage

A massage performed to help reduce swelling after surgery.

Man package

When your pubic area is so swollen after surgery that it looks like you have a man package.  It typically takes up to four weeks for the swelling to reduce.

Marble trick

A marble is sometimes used to help shape your new belly button.

See Also: Can The Marble Trick Improve the Depth of a Belly Button?


Abbreviation for milliliters. This is the unit you use to measure the amount of fluid collecting in your drains. 

Muffin top

The fat that spills out over the top of your pants. It's one of the reasons lipo is commonly performed with a tummy tuck. Once the stomach skin is removed, many people will want the skin around the hips gone, too.

Muscle separation

Massive weight gain or pregnancy can cause the two vertical muscles running across your abdomen to separate and stretch. That results in a "pooch" in your stomach area. Also known as diastasis recti.

Muscle tightening

Tummy tucks can tighten the lining of your stomach muscles, in addition to removing extra skin and fat.

Pain pump

The pain pump sends medicine to your stomach muscles to take away the pain. The pump on the outside of your body is filled with several days worth of anesthetic that slowly drips into the sore areas. Sometimes, this helps reduce the need for other pain medications.

See Also: Are Pain Pumps for TT Recovery Worth the Extra Cost?


Post-operation. After surgery.


Pre-operation. Before surgery.

Recovery house

A facility where patients go after the procedure to recover in privacy for a few days. Typically these facilities, which are staffed with nurses and trained caretakers who offer 24-hour care, are for people who have traveled to a different state or country for their surgery.


One of the big concerns many people have before tummy tucks is whether the scar will be visible and where it will be. Most people want their surgeon to place the scar low enough so that you won't see it under a bathing suit.

*Treatment results may vary

Dr. Gilbert Lee explains how radiofrequency-controlled heat application will give this patient a scarless tummy tuck.


A seroma is a buildup of fluid in the area of the operation, and a hematoma is a buildup of blood. Both can be resolved by removing the fluids and blood with needles. But you have to watch out for them, especially a hematoma because it can lead to an infection.

Spitting stitches

Some of the stitches you'll get after a tummy tuck are meant to dissolve. Occasionally, one of these stitches could poke or "spit" through your skin. It might hurt a little, but it can be taken out safely.

Swell hell

Your stomach could be swollen after surgery; the amount of time is different for everyone. No one likes being swollen, especially after a procedure to make you flatter and fitter, so the swelling period post-operation is called "swell hell."

Travel buddy

Someone who will travel with you if you are having your treatment abroad. RealSelf community members often find surgery buddies with plans to travel to the same destination for treatment at the same time.


Abbreviation for tummy tuck.

Waterbed effect

This is related to seroma after your TT. An easy way to test if this is happening, from Dr. Christopher V. Pelletiere: "Push on the area while resting your hand on the other end of the swollen area. If you feel a wave, or what feels like a waterbed effect of fluid moving, then there is a fluid collection. This effect does not always occur, but if it does happen, it may mean there is trapped fluid that needs to be drained."

Water bed effect

*Treatment results may vary
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This guide has been reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Houtan Chaboki, a facial plastic surgeon in Washington, D.C. He is board-certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and American Board of Otolaryngology.

Disclaimer: This content is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare professional. Your reliance on any information or content provided in the guide is solely at your own risk. You should always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare professional for any questions you have about your own medical condition. RealSelf does not endorse or recommend any specific content, procedure, product, opinion, healthcare professional, or any other material or information in this guide or anywhere on this website.

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