What is the Difference Between a Full and Mini Tummy Tuck?

Tummy tuck surgery is a core part of both the mommy makeover and most post-bariatric surgery plans. This procedure corrects complex aesthetic and functional problems, making it the first choice for patients who want to restore sleek, lean abdominal contours after pregnancy or weight loss.

How Tummy Tuck Surgery Works

Carrying a significant amount of weight around the stomach places a great deal of stress on the skin; it can also damage the muscles that support the abdominal cavity. This is likely to happen when a person gains weight rapidly (e.g., during pregnancy or after starting a new medication that causes rapid weight gain). When the abdominal cavity grows too quickly, the skin and muscles don’t have adequate time to adjust to their new dimensions, which invariably causes the skin to stretch a great deal, leading to the formation of stretch marks and areas of thin, weakened skin. Sometimes, the bands of tissue between the abdominal muscles are also forced to stretch beyond their capacity, and this causes them to tear. Once this happens, the abdominal muscles no longer work in unison.

Patients who sustain damage to their abdomens are left with frustrating and sometimes painful issues that cannot be treated with diet or exercise. They usually notice the presence of a distinct “pot belly” that never goes away, no matter how much weight they lose. They often don’t realize that this tummy pouch is caused by muscle atrophy, not excess fat. When the abdominal muscles stop working together properly, they gradually weaken (no matter how much the affected individual works out) and the weight of the organs pushes the abdominal cavity forward. This causes the belly to protrude and, in extreme cases, it can lead to the formation of painful ventral hernias. Without strong muscles to compress the abdominal cavity, the weight of the organs can cause tissue to push through the abdominal wall, creating a medical emergency.

Loose skin can also have a detrimental (albeit less dangerous) effect on a person’s quality of life. Because all healthy adults have a thin layer of fat underneath their skin, rolls of excess skin can give the abdomen a flabby appearance. Not only does this limit what a person can wear, but these rolls of loose skin can also chafe and make exercising uncomfortable. For those who have struggled with obesity in the past, leaving the excess skin in place can, therefore, be the beginning of a dangerous cycle: without the ability to exercise freely, many post-bariatric patients eventually end up regaining some or all the weight they have lost. Confidence issues related to excess skin add to the risk of weight gain; when a patient doesn’t feel satisfied with his or her new body, he or she often loses the motivation to stay in shape.

During tummy tuck surgery, a thin incision is made along the patient’s bikini line, giving Dr. Silverton access to his or her abdominal wall. Sometimes, a second incision is made around the patient’s belly button to facilitate alterations to the upper abdomen. Once these incisions have been placed, Dr. Silverton uses sutures to close any tears in the patient’s muscle tissues. He then removes excess skin from the patient’s abdomen, smoothing out his or her belly and eliminating stretch marks. Most of the time liposuction is also incorporated into tummy tuck surgery. This gives a much nicer, smoother, flatter tummy.

Ultimately, these surgical processes restore both the appearance and the structural integrity of the abdomen, effectively reducing the patient’s risk of a hernia, chronic lower back pain, and urinary incontinence. Tummy tuck surgery also improves the patient’s confidence. Research has shown that formerly obese patients who have tummy tuck surgery are less likely to regain weight than patients who have no aesthetic plastic surgery.

Of course, no two bodies are completely alike, so not every patient requires all the interventions described above. Tall women with a broad frame, for example, can often accommodate a growing baby more easily than a petite woman with a narrow frame. The former might develop loose skin after pregnancy but retain full muscle functionality. Likewise, people who gain a moderate amount of weight (between 30 and 50 pounds) due to lifestyle factors usually only develop a small area of loose skin below their belly button. Heavily overweight individuals, on the other hand, typically develop excess skin both above and below the belly button, as well as abdominal muscle damage. Dr. Silverton, therefore, offers his patients two distinct options for abdominal correction: full abdominoplasty and mini tummy tuck surgery. This way, patients who only need minor alterations can avoid the extended recovery period that usually follows conventional tummy tuck surgery.

How Does a Mini Tummy Tuck Differ from a Full Tummy Tuck?

Most people assume that a mini tummy tuck involves the use of a shorter incision, but this isn’t always the case. Instead, the term mini tummy tuck denotes a type of modified tummy tuck procedure wherein

loose skin is removed from only the lower abdomen. Usually, one incision is made along the patient’s bikini line to permit the complete and even removal of loose skin.

Mini tummy tuck surgery is ideal for patients who fit the following criteria:

Patients interested in having a mommy makeover. The excess skin that results from pregnancy is usually located primarily on the lower abdomen. Mothers, particularly younger women who have good skin elasticity, do not always require a full abdominoplasty to get rid of the small belly protrusion that develops after childbirth.

Older patients who have no history of obesity. Sometimes, people who have never been significantly overweight or given birth notice that their stomach starts to look flabbier during middle age. This occurs due to the combined effects of fat centralization and collagen loss. As the body ages, fat leaves the extremities (like the hands, feet, and face) and collects around the abdomen. At the same time, levels of a compound called collagen, which is responsible for keeping our skin and connective tissues strong, decline. Over the years, the weight of a person’s abdominal fat can cause his or her skin to stretch, creating small rolls of loose skin and subcutaneous fat. A mini tummy tuck that incorporates liposuction can remove both excess skin and stubborn abdominal fat, giving the patient a leaner, younger-looking body shape.

Younger patients who have been moderately overweight in the past. Many people struggle with their weight at some point during their lives. Putting on as little as 30 pounds can create some loose skin on the lower abdomen, but it doesn’t usually harm the abdominal muscles. Mini tummy tuck surgery is a great way to get rid of this loose skin and sculpt a flat stomach.

The Benefits of a Mini Tuck

For good candidates, mini tummy tuck surgery offers several advantages. First and foremost, it requires a much shorter healing period than full tummy tuck surgery, and no post-operative surgical drains are needed. Patients who don’t have damaged abdominal muscles can recover from this procedure in as little as two weeks. Those with mild to moderate abdominal muscle damage will probably need about four weeks to heal. We do not recommend any bed rest. Over the following three weeks, the patient can engage in light activities without experiencing discomfort. Full abdominoplasty, by contrast, is generally followed by a 4 to 8 weeks recovery period.


What Happens During a Complete Abdominoplasty?

During full tummy tuck surgery, liposuction is usually done first. Incisions are made along the bikini line and around the navel. This is done to facilitate the removal of loose skin and stretch marks from both the lower belly and the region above the bellybutton. It also allows Dr. Silverton to raise the navel (if needed) and place sutures in the upper abdominal muscles.

These incisions don’t lead to much (if any) additionally visible scarring. The upper incision used in full tummy tuck surgery is placed carefully within the folds of the navel so that it won’t be visible after the patient has healed. Patients who need full tummy tuck surgery are advised to set aside any worries they may have about scarring and follow their plastic surgeon’s advice: if you have loose skin on your upper and lower abdomen, having only a mini tummy tuck may not produce sufficient improvement.

Full tummy tuck surgery is usually recommended for eligible candidates who fit the criteria below:

– Women who have had multiple pregnancies or who have given birth to large infants, twins, or triplets. Being pregnant several times or carrying more than one baby places a great deal of stress on the abdominal cavity. This can lead to extensive muscle damage and the formation of a loose skin on both the upper and lower abdomen.

– Post-bariatric patients. People who have struggled with obesity in the past exhibit some degree of abdominal muscle damage. Likewise, because many of the conditions that lead to obesity (like metabolic syndrome) cause extreme fat centralization, post-bariatric patients often present with a significant amount of loose abdominal skin. Full abdominoplasty can help these patients achieve sleek, slim contours that properly reflect their weight loss efforts.

To minimize the risk of complications and ensure a comfortable recovery period for all his patients, Dr. Silverton uses a modified form of a full abdominoplasty. Traditionally, plastic surgeons separates the skin and fat from the abdomen to gain access to the space. However, this surgical method impairs blood flow to the abdomen, greatly increasing the risk of complications during healing. Dr. Silverton is careful to elevate the skin only slightly when he performs tummy tuck surgery, thereby preserving blood flow to the upper abdominal area. He creates a small tunnel below the skin, just above the navel, that allows him to remove loose skin from the upper abdomen without compromising blood flow. Using this method shaves one to two weeks off the patient’s recovery time and preserves tissue health.

If you live near Stockton, California and you’re not happy with the way your belly looks, Dr. Silverton can help you explore your options. Whether you need liposuction, a mini tummy tuck, or a full tummy tuck, he can ensure that you achieve your goals safely and comfortably. To get in touch with Dr. Silverton, contact him online or call him at 209-952-2251.