Full Tummy Tuck, Mini or No Solution?

I'm 30 yrs old, 5'7 and weigh 136 pounds. I have stretch marks on my stomach from my pregnancy 11 years ago. My stomach is virtually flat & somewhat muscular. I know stretch marks cannot be removed, but I was wondering if a mini or full tummy tuck would reduce the appearance of my stretch marks by stretching my skin. I'm not interested in body contouring or the stretch marks on the side, but only stretch marks on the front of my stomach. Help! 

Doctor Answers 10

Stretch marks and tummy tuck

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A tummy tuck will get rid of stretch marks by directly removing them between your belly button and pubic area. Any stretch marks you have above the belly button will then be relocated to below the belly button when the upper tummy skin is brought down to the bottom to close the surgical incision. The result is a smooth upper tummy without stretch marks in that area.

If you have stretch marks in any area that is not surgically removed, then those stretch marks will remain.

Full or Mini tummy tuck?

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Madison, thanks for the question. It is a common one I get in my practice. Tummy tucks work on primarily 3 things, the muscle,fat and skin. Depending on how these 3 appear would help determine which procedure is appropriate for you. This would require an exam by a board certified plastic surgeon.

Recommendations for Improvement of Your abdomen Require an Exam

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Hi there-

Without a consultation and examination, it would be irresponsible to give you advice other than to say that your best bet is to find a surgeon Certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery and visit for a consultation.

Options for abdominal tightening

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It is difficult to tell without personally evaluating you, but people who have especially slack skin in their midsection need more than what liposuction alone can offer. Typical candidates for a full tummy tuck are women with drooping abdomens after pregnancy, women and men who've lost a great deal of weight, menopausal women, or older people with loose skin due to age. In the tummy tuck, the skin from the rib cage down to the pelvic area is tightened, and the navel is moved up and secured in a new position. A mini-tummy tuck is especially effective for people who look pretty good from the navel up. The main difference between the 2 procedures is that the mini-tummy tuck doesn't require moving or reconstructing the navel and the incision is shorter than the one made in a full tummy tuck. 

You might be a candidate for a non-invasive procedure called Thermage (no incision!) that can tighten skin and stimulate your body to make healthier collagen—the building block that provides structure to your skin. The procedure uses radiofrequency technology called ThermaCool that has been clinically proven to tighten and gently lift skin. Fast and easy, Thermage requires no downtime from normal activities. And unlike laser treatments, Thermage can be performed on patients of all skin types. Thermage can be used not only for sagging facial, neck, and eyelid skin; but also all over the body, including the abdomen. You can tighten and lift without surgery, injections, or downtime.   

Certain topical creams can often be helpful to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and improve the quality of the skin, as well.


Tummy tuck can be helpful in removing most stretch marks after pregnancy

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Dear Madison,

Plainly speaking:

If your stretchmarks go above your belly button, then a full TT would remove most of them.

If your stretchmarks are mostly below your belly button, then all you would require is a Mini TT.

Simply 'stretching' the skin will not make them disappear. Surgical excision (cutting them out) is the only way to remove stretch marks.  I hope this helps. Best wishes, Dr. H

Full or Mini Tummy Tuck

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Your situation is one that is commonly seen in that you have excess loose skin with stretch marks, but when you are standing the contour looks okay because you don't have any excess fat or skin overhanging the pubic area.  I find that most of these women need what you would call a "full" tummy tuck.  I prefer to describe the abdominoplasty by the length of the incision.  The more loose skin you have and the higher up on the abdomen that the loose skin is, the longer the incision needs to be.  If the stretch marks are in your lower abdomen, they may be removed with the skin excision.  Stretch marks higher up may look better because they are stretched, but they will still be present.

Why I hate the term " Tummy Tuck"

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Tummy Tuck, or abdominoplasy has come to mean a lot of things to different people. Performing a good abdominoplasty requires a great deal of skill and experience. There is a lot more to it than just removing skin. Exactly what needs to be done varies from person to person,

There are very few people indeed that are candidates for a "mini" abdominoplasty especially after pregnancy. Proper placement of incisions and proper repair of the supporting structures is key to a good and long lasting result. I personally use liposuction an all abdominoplasties to improve the flanks, aid in mobilization of the flap and facilitate closure of the incision.

Generally, the skin would be removed from your just above your pubis to the umbilicus. Those stretch marks will go with the resected skin of course. Typically there will be some skin with stretch marks that was above the umbilicus but that will be relocated low to the area of the incision. I have found some laser treatments effective in restoring pigment to these areas and making them less obvious.

Your comment on body contouring is interesting. I believe that the abdomen needs to be contoured as a unit or patients will be less than satisfied. That said everybody has different expectations and your surgeon should respect that. It is best to have frank discussion with your surgeon and outline your concerns and expectations. This definitely is not a one size fits all. 

Thomas R. Walek, MD
Providence Plastic Surgeon

Tummy tuck will

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not be able to remove stretch marks by making the skin tight.  A tummy tuck removes excess skin and fat.  If the areas with stretch marks are a part of the region that will be excised then you will be rid of them.  If they are in an area that will not be excised then they will remain after the surgery, but will have been moved to a new lower position.  Pics would help as would a physical exam.  Consult with your local board certified plastic surgeon to get an informed opinion.

Tummy tuck options

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WIthout photos or an examination, it is impossible to determine which procedure would work both for you. If your stomach is already flat, there would not be indications for an abdominoplasty, either full or mini. However, you note that your skin can be stretched which would indicate that you may be a candidate for a surgical procedure. See a board certified plastic surgeon in consultation to discuss your options.

Mini or full tummy tuck?

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Thank you for the question.

Without direct examination for pictures is difficult to give you good advice.

Based on your description of your physical examination and history of pregnancy it is probable that you will benefit from tummy tuck surgery.

In my opinion, the mini tummy talk is an  operation that  produces very limited results and is very rarely indicated. It involves a shorter incision but does not address the majority of the abdominal wall issues present for most patients who present consultation. For example, the area of skin excised is quite small. The abdominal wall musculature is addressed below the umbilicus leaving the upper number wall potentially lax. The appearance of the umbilicus is not necessarily addressed sufficiently.

For most patients who have had pregnancies and/or weight loss a full abdominoplasty is necessary to achieve the desired results. Of course, there are downsides (including a longer scar and probably a longer recovery time) but for most patients the benefits outweigh the downsides. It is not unusual to see patients who've had mini tummy tuck  surgery present for  revisionary surgery.
It is important  for patients seeking abdominal contouring surgery to work with a well experienced board-certified plastic surgeon to obtain advice (based on good ethics and judgment) to  improve  their chances of a successful outcome and minimize the need for further surgery.

I hope this helps.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.