Tummy Tuck Frequently Asked Questions

One of the most popular procedures (with a RealSelf Worth It Rating in the upper 90s), tummy tuck surgery is a procedure to remove excess stretched or saggy skin and tighten muscles on the stomach.

Like many people considering a tummy tuck, you probably have a lot of questions. We drew on the expertise of RealSelf doctors to bring you answers to the most frequently asked questions.


In this overview:

What's a tummy tuck?
Is it right for me?
How much does it cost?
How do I choose a surgeon?
How should I prepare for this procedure?
What happens on the day of the procedure?
What’s the recovery time?
What results can I expect?
What are the possible side effects or risks?
What else do I need to know?


What’s a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, flattens the stomach by removing excess skin and fat through a surgical cut while tightening separated ab muscles. The surgery is most commonly performed after pregnancy or weight loss in women and after weight loss in men, also known as a male tummy tuck.

A traditional tummy tuck involves two levels of treatment: a deep repair for separated muscles from excess weight or pregnancy, and a superficial removal of extra skin and fat, mostly in the lower stomach. Results are usually dramatic.

The surgery removes a section of skin and fat from the belly button—or higher—down to the pubic region. Up to 30-50% of the stomach skin is removed, including some of the stretch marks. Pulling down the remaining skin to cover the entire belly, the stomach becomes much flatter and tighter, and the belly button is repositioned. Rarely, a new belly button may need to be surgically created by umbilicoplasty.

While a tummy tuck addresses the full abdomen, above and below the belly button, a mini tummy tuck uses a shorter incision to treat only the “pooch” area below the belly button for someone with little excess fat. Recovery time for a mini tummy tuck will be shorter since it removes less skin from the stomach. Contrasting a mini tummy tuck, a tummy tuck with a fleur de lis allows massive skin removal for extreme weight loss patients with the addition of a long vertical incision line.

Mini Tummy Tuck and Full Tummy Tuck—What’s the Difference?

Dr. Jon A. Perlman, a Beverly Hills, Calif., plastic surgeon, explains what makes a full tummy tuck different from a mini, and who is a candidate for each type.


A tummy tuck may be one part of a mommy makeover, a combination of treatments designed to restore the body after pregnancy. Mommy makeovers may include liposuction, tummy tuck, and breast lift or augmentation to restore one’s pre-pregnancy figure.

The most common tummy tuck incision is horizontal, placed just within or above the pubic area of the abdomen, usually low enough to be hidden by underwear or a bikini. Please note that your plastic surgeon may be able to keep the incision within your bathing suit lines, but it may not always be possible.

To get an idea of the results you can expect, here are three tummy tuck before and after photos from RealSelf doctors:

Photo courtesy of Dr. David L. Mobley
Photo courtesy of Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder
Photo courtesy of Dr. C. Bob Basu
Photo courtesy of Dr. William Bruno
Photo courtesy of Dr. David F. Pratt


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Is it right for me?

A tummy tuck repairs muscles and removes excess skin, revealing a stomach that is smoother and firmer. But it isn’t a replacement for exercise, a healthy diet, or a weight loss solution.

Tummy tuck surgery may be appropriate for you if:

  • You are physically healthy and at a stable weight
  • You have realistic expectations
  • You have loose or droopy skin around your stomach
  • You have excess stomach fat that hasn’t responded to diet or exercise

Good tummy tuck candidates are close to a maintainable weight for their body and lifestyle, preferably with a BMI of 30 or less. If you smoke, you’ll need to stop smoking for at least six weeks before and after surgery, as tobacco smoking and nicotine impair healing.

Depending on your body, health, and desired results, you may be a better candidate for other treatments. Other options include a panniculectomy and liposuction.

A panniculectomy, commonly known as fat apron removal, addresses only the removal of loose stomach skin that hangs down over your underwear and does not address muscle repair. In addition, liposuction is often performed with a tummy tuck to remove additional pockets of fat and further refine your silhouette. Meet with a board-certified plastic surgeon, who can help you determine which option is right for you.

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How much does it cost?

The average tummy tuck costs around $8,100 based on reviews from RealSelf community members, but the price can vary widely. Many factors affect cost, including the method used, the experience level of the surgeon, the geographic location where the procedure is performed, and any additional costs associated with surgical, operating room, anesthesia, or post-op appointments.

As with any cosmetic procedure, price should not be the primary factor in choosing your method or doctor.

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How do I choose a surgeon?

As with any elective procedure, the most important factor in choosing a doctor is experience. You want to look for a board-certified plastic surgeon who performs the procedure frequently and has proven safe results.

We also recommend multiple consultations before selecting a surgeon. Our list of 20 essential questions to ask at a consultation can help. During your meeting with the plastic surgeon, expect to be asked about your desired results. You will have your stomach examined, measured, and photographed.

Our tummy tuck Community Manager recommends this video from Dr. Michael Law, a plastic surgeon in Raleigh, N.C. "Dr. Law explains what you should be looking for, the questions to ask, and what the final outcome should look like. It’s important to invest time in the beginning to ensure a great outcome."

Watch "How Do I Choose the Right Tummy Tuck Surgeon?" from Dr. Michael Law.


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How should I prepare for this procedure?

Your recovery will include extensive downtime, and you should prepare to rest and take it easy. You should take two to three weeks off work and arrange for a ride home from surgery or an aftercare stay, per your surgeon. Assemble everything you may need during recovery before the day of your surgery.

A few things you may want to have on hand: compression garments, pain medications, a stool softener, and healthy, simple foods. If possible, have someone stay with you for the first two days to help with your personal, medical, and household needs.

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What happens on the day of the procedure?

Your abdominoplasty may be performed in a hospital, an independent surgical facility, or an office-based surgical suite. Once you’re prepared for surgery, your doctor and the medical team will follow the surgical plan you agreed on. Often a general anesthesia is used so you will be asleep during the procedure. Surgery typically takes between two to four hours depending on your size.

Dallas plastic surgeon Dr. Vishnu Rumalla, explains what to bring with you on surgery day and gives helpful hints for packing your bag. Being prepared will help you with a smooth surgery day.


When surgery is complete, you will be taken to a recovery area where you will continue to be closely monitored. Gauze or other dressings may be applied to your abdomen and covered with tape or an elastic bandage under a surgical binder.

In many cases, small drain tubes will be placed through a small incision to help avoid a buildup of fluids. However, many surgeons now use methods, like internal quilting or progressive tension sutures, to reduce the risk of excess fluid collection without the placement of drains.

Your doctor may offer the use of a pain pump to drip numbing medicine into the internal surgical area or injections of special long-acting numbing medicine. You may be able to go home after a few hours unless you and your plastic surgeon have determined that you will stay in the facility overnight.

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What’s the recovery time?

It is important to realize that the amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals. Depending on the extent of your abdominoplasty and your general physical condition, you may be able to return to non-strenuous work within two to three weeks of surgery. In many instances, you can resume most of your normal activities, including some mild exercise, after several weeks.

Much of your swelling will be gone within several weeks, but it may be several months before all swelling subsides, and you see the final result of your tummy tuck.

“Healing from a tummy tuck does involve some level of discomfort for the first week or two, and restricting activities is an important component of a smooth recovery,” says Dr. Perlman. “Early ambulation is key to restoring calf circulation and avoidance of blood clots.”

Dr. Perlman adds that it is essential that you do not smoke for at least a month before and after a tummy tuck and to avoid lifting and twisting activities that may stretch the stomach. Typically, one is able to drive after about two weeks and resume exercises involving their abdomen about six to eight weeks after they are no longer wearing their compression garment. He says that incisions can be “healed and strong” after two weeks and become less visible and flat over nine months to a year.

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What results can I expect?

Your tummy tuck will leave you with a flatter, tighter stomach and may remove some stretch marks. However, you shouldn’t expect much weight loss as a direct result.

“How much weight is lost after a tummy tuck depends on the size of the ‘pannus,’ or the extra skin and fat that is removed. This can be 10 pounds or more for a massive weight loss patient, but for an average patient who is having a tummy tuck to ‘fix’ what pregnancies [have] caused, it is usually not enough to make much of a difference in weight immediately after surgery,” said Dr. W. Tracy Hankins, a Las Vegas plastic surgeon in a tummy tuck Q&A.

Unless you have a significant weight change or become pregnant, your stomach should remain firmer and flatter for many years. If, after a period of years, you again become dissatisfied with the appearance of your stomach due to gravity or the aging process, you might choose to undergo a second procedure to restore a more youthful body contour.

Read reviews from people like you who have had a tummy tuck.

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What are the possible side effects or risks?

A tummy tuck is a surgery, and surgery has inherent risks that should be discussed in advance with your doctor. Some potential complications may include bleeding, infection, and reactions to anesthesia.

Tissue loss along portions of the horizontal incision is possible when the tummy tuck is extensive. This complication, which delays healing and prolongs recovery, is more common in people who smoke or have medical conditions like diabetes. Revisionary surgery is sometimes helpful in certain instances where incisions may have healed poorly.

Occasionally after surgery, fluid may accumulate under the skin forming a seroma. Removing a seroma is painless, but may require several visits to the plastic surgeon's office.

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What else do I need to know?

Should I wait until I’m done having children to have a tummy tuck?

Probably but not absolutely. To maintain results, many doctors recommend women wait to have a tummy tuck until after they are done having kids. A pregnancy may reverse some of the improvements from a tummy tuck and may require follow-up surgery to refine the look.

“You can safely have another baby after a tummy tuck, though there is certainly the possibility that you will re-stretch your skin and abdominal muscles and fascia, at least to some degree,” said Dr. Robert M. Grenley, a Seattle plastic surgeon in a Q&A about pregnancy and tummy tucks. “If that risk does not deter you from having your tummy tuck now, I would recommend not becoming pregnant until at least six months after your tummy tuck procedure.”

Will I be required to wear a compression garment?

Some doctors don’t believe wearing a binder is necessary, but others may recommend wearing one for up to six weeks. Doctors who choose to use binders place their patients in one right after surgery. You will then wear it 24 hours a day for the first week, changing to less compression and fewer hours over the next few weeks. Follow your surgeon’s recommendation.

How soon can I have sex after a tummy tuck?

Any sexual activity should be avoided for a minimum of two weeks, and your plastic surgeon may advise you to wait longer.

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This guide has been reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jon A. Perlman. Jon A. Perlman, M.D., FACS is a diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. He is an expert in cosmetic and plastic surgery of the face, breasts, and body who has practiced in Beverly Hills, Calif., for over two decades. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery at the UCLA Geffen Medical Center and performed 40 surgeries for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover.”

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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