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James D. McMahan, M.D., F.A.C.S.
4845 Knightsbridge Blvd, Suite 230, Columbus, Ohio 43214. Get Directions
(614) 459 0060, Toll Free: (888) 547-6796
James D. McMahan, M.D., F.A.C.S.
4845 Knightsbridge Blvd, Suite 230, Columbus, Ohio 43214. Get Directions
(614) 459 0060, Toll Free: (888) 547-6796 (614) 459 0060, Toll Free: (888) 547-6796
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Select Procedure To View Questions and Answers:
Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)
Frequently Asked Abdominoplasty Questions
1. What does a standard tummy tuck (Abdominoplasty) consist of?
2. What is a mini-tummy tuck?
3. How do I know if I need a standard tummy tuck or a mini-tummy tuck?
4. How do I know if my surgeon is qualified to perform an Abdominoplasty?
5. I had bariatric surgery (gastric stapling or gastric bypass) and have lost over 100 lbs so I have a tremendous amount of extra skin. Is there a special tummy tuck for me?
6. Are drains used with a tummy tuck, and if so, how long do they stay in?
7. Should I try to lose weight prior to having a tummy tuck?
8. Can other procedures be performed at the same time as a tummy tuck?
9. I've had several abdominal surgeries, can I still have a tummy tuck?
10. Do I have to quit smoking before having an Abdominoplasty?
11. I'm thinking about having more children, but I really want to have a tummy tuck, what should I do?
12. Is it possible to have your tubes tied at the same time as having a tummy tuck?
13. Is a catheter put in my bladder during a tummy tuck?
14. Other than the obvious improvement in appearance, are there any other benefits to a tummy tuck?
15. How much pain is there with a tummy tuck?
16. Is there much risk of infection with a tummy tuck?
17. How bad are the scars from a tummy tuck?
18. What is a "dog ear" and what can be done to prevent it?
19. Will my stretch marks be removed with a tummy tuck?
1. What does a standard tummy tuck (Abdominoplasty) consist of?

A standard tummy tuck involves removing an ellipse of skin from hip to hip and from the belly button down to the pubic area. It includes tightening the abdominal muscles in the midline from the rib cage down to the pubic area. An incision is also made around the belly button so that it stays in place and is brought out through a new incision once the skin has been moved around it and tightened. Return to the Top

2. What is a mini-tummy tuck?

With a mini-tummy tuck, less skin is removed from the lower abdomen than with a standard tummy tuck and no incision is made around the belly button. Liposuction is performed first which is not done with a standard tummy tuck and only the lower abdominal muscles are tightened. Return to the Top

3. How do I know if I need a standard tummy tuck or a mini-tummy tuck?

The decision between a standard tummy tuck and a mini-tummy tuck is made together with your qualified plastic surgeon. If you have a lot of extra skin along with stretch marks, you would be more of a candidate for a standard tummy tuck. Those with minimal extra skin, loose lower abdominal muscles and extra fat do better with a mini-tummy tuck. There are other variations as well and an experienced plastic surgeon should be able to discuss those options with you. Liposuction alone may also be an option for those with good skin tone and only extra fat. Return to the Top

4. How do I know if my surgeon is qualified to perform an Abdominoplasty?

There is no way to get a guarantee of results. You should, however, at least make sure that your surgeon has had adequate training. There are many physicians, some not even surgeons, masquerading as plastic surgeons with very little or no training at all in plastic surgery. Neither the internet nor the phone book care about the truth, honesty, training or credentials. They'll let almost anyone advertise as a plastic surgeon! Make sure your surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. It is the ONLY legitimate plastic surgery board. It is the only one that evaluates a surgeon's prerequisite training, plastic surgery training, practice performance and requires passage of rigorous written and oral examinations. One way to find out if your surgeon is truly board certified is to see if he or she is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Inc. (ASPS). All members of the ASPS are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Visit their website at www.plasticsurgery.org or call 1-888-4PLASTIC.

I would also recommend that you go one step further. To make sure that your surgeon specializes in aesthetic surgery and, therefore, is not only well trained, but is also very experienced, make sure that he or she is also a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). Surgeons that are members of ASAPS are all certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, members of ASPS, and have a practice that is dedicated to aesthetic surgery. You can visit their website at www.surgery.org.

Would you let a plumber do the electrical work on your house? Would you have a mechanic do your taxes? How about an orthopedic surgeon operate on your heart? Then why have an untrained physician, maybe not even a surgeon perform cosmetic surgery on you? If you wind up in someone's office that doesn't have the above credentials, don't walk but run out of that office. And forget the consultation fee. They don't deserve to be paid for trying to deceive you. Return to the Top

5. I had bariatric surgery (gastric stapling or gastric bypass) and have lost over 100 lbs so I have a tremendous amount of extra skin. Is there a special tummy tuck for me?

Patients who have lost a tremendous amount of weight, either through bariatric surgery or through diet and exercise, often have more extra skin than what a standard Abdominoplasty will correct. In addition to extra skin up and down, they also have extra skin circumferentially around their trunk that may persist after a standard Abdominoplasty. For them, an additional inverted "V" shaped wedge of skin taken from the rib cage down to the standard Abdominoplasty incision can be removed. The down side, of course, is that an additional scar is left in the midline running down from the rib cage to the pubic area. Those who have had bariatric surgery already have a scar in that area anyway, so it's just trading one scar for another. Return to the Top

6. Are drains used with a tummy tuck, and if so, how long do they stay in?

Yes, typically two drains are put in for a standard tummy tuck and one with a mini-tummy tuck. This is to prevent the unwanted collection of fluid and blood from building up under the skin after surgery. During a tummy tuck procedure, a large raw surface is created in the abdominal wall over the top of the muscle in order to remove excess skin. This will initially ooze blood and, eventually, serum (blood without blood cells). If this is allowed to accumulate, the risk of infection increases, it delays the healing process and the fluid can be very uncomfortable. The drains are removed when the drainage slows down. I usually take out one drain 3-4 days after surgery and the other 3-4 days after that. Some fluid will accumulate after the drains are removed but not normally enough to cause a problem. Return to the Top

7. Should I try to lose weight prior to having a tummy tuck?

If you are significantly over weight, absolutely. The more weight you lose prior to surgery, the more skin can be removed and the better result you get. You don't have to get down to your ideal weight, just reasonably close to it. Many times, those final 5-10 pounds are removed with the surgery. Return to the Top

8. Can other procedures be performed at the same time as a tummy tuck?

Depending on your health, it is certainly possible to do other procedures under the same anesthetic. It is not uncommon to do some liposuction, a breast lift or put in breast implants at the same time as a tummy tuck. There is usually a significant cost savings in doing more than one procedure at the same time. Return to the Top

9. I've had several abdominal surgeries, can I still have a tummy tuck?

Fortunately, most abdominal surgeries do not preclude having an Abdominoplasty. Some surgeries, such as the old gall bladder removal through an open incision, transect some of the blood supply to the abdominal skin. Since an Abdominoplasty also removes some blood supply, the combination can result in skin loss due to a lack of blood supply. A mini-Abdominoplasty, however, could still be performed. Return to the Top

10. Do I have to quit smoking before having an Abdominoplasty?

Absolutely. Nicotine causes constriction of blood vessels which can result in skin slough due to loss of blood supply when combined with a tummy tuck. Any procedure where the skin is undermined and pulled tight, such as a facelift, breast reduction, breast lift or tummy tuck, can result is skin loss if smokers don't quit prior to surgery. Even secondary smoke can be a problem. Smoking must be stopped for at least two weeks prior to surgery and at least one month after surgery. Return to the Top

11. I'm thinking about having more children, but I really want to have a tummy tuck, what should I do?

It is strongly advised that you wait to have your tummy tuck until after you have had all of your children. An Abdominoplasty is not a small or an inexpensive procedure. It is very likely that much of what you gained from your surgery would be lost with a subsequent pregnancy. Return to the Top

12. Is it possible to have your tubes tied at the same time as having a tummy tuck?

Yes. Arrangements can be made to have a gynecologist available to tie your tubes at the start of your tummy tuck. That may even provide you with some cost savings if the tubal ligation was covered by your insurance. Return to the Top

13. Is a catheter put in my bladder during a tummy tuck?

In my 14 years of experience and performing a lot of tummy tucks, I've had a few patients wind up in an emergency room or an urgent care because they were unable to empty their bladder. This can happen for a variety of reasons such as muscle pain, anesthetic effect, or tension on the urethra from tightening the skin. I now routinely have a catheter inserted after anesthesia induction and recommend that you leave it in for two to three days until you are comfortable. It is very easy to take out yourself. The catheter eliminates this as a problem and can save you money and a lot of discomfort. Return to the Top

14. Other than the obvious improvement in appearance, are there any other benefits to a tummy tuck?

I have had several women who suffered from stress incontinence prior to their Abdominoplasty state that it went away after their surgery. This may be because of the same reasons that some patients initially have difficulty avoiding after a tummy tuck (see question 13). Return to the Top

15. How much pain is there with a tummy tuck?

Pain, of course, is subjective and everyone responds differently to surgery. This is one of the more painful procedures that plastic surgeons do and still allow patients to go home. It has been shown in clinical studies that if you reduce a patient's pain initially after surgery, they take much less pain medication in the long run. I spend several minutes at the start of the surgery and near the end, infiltrating the abdominal wall and the muscle with both long and short acting local anesthetics. This helps to numb up the area of surgery, so that when you wake up, rather than being in a lot of pain, most patients are pretty comfortable. This reduction in pain means that you need less anesthesia and fewer narcotics which are the primary cause of nausea after surgery. It also allows you to get out of the recovery room sooner and home into a comfortable position where you can start taking your medications as needed. I also like to give my patients a muscle relaxant which cuts down on the pain medication that they need and it helps to reduce anxiety. Return to the Top

16. Is there much risk of infection with a tummy tuck?

There is a risk of infection with any operation. Fortunately, the risk with a tummy tuck is less than one percent and, when one does occur, it is usually a relatively minor problem. The drains that are inserted during a tummy tuck help to cut down the risk of infection as do antibiotics which I prefer to put all of my patients on starting the day before surgery and continuing for one week after surgery. Return to the Top

17. How bad are the scars from a tummy tuck?

Although the scar from tummy tuck can be a relatively long scar, it is usually not a bad scar. I spend a lot of time meticulously placing many sutures under the skin to reduce spreading of the scar and to prevent marks from the stitches. All of the skin stitches that I put in are absorbable and are buried under the surface of the skin. I do not believe in using staples instead of stitches to speed up a surgery. The scar around the belly button is usually a fairly fine line. Some patients have a tendency to form thick, hard scars regardless of how careful the surgeon is. Return to the Top

18. What is a "dog ear" and what can be done to prevent it?

A "dog ear" is a fold or pleat of skin that can occur at the end of a scar when skin is removed. In general, when removing skin, it is done as an ellipse with a length to width ratio of about 4:1. If it is less than this, a "dog ear" may develop. It is prevented by proper design of the incisions. If I see a "dog ear" develop when I am closing the incisions, I simply sake out a little more skin. Return to the Top

19. Will my stretch marks be removed with a tummy tuck?

Most of the stretch marks between the belly button and the pubic area are removed with a standard tummy tuck. Those that start out above the belly button may be moved down below it and, therefore, may be less noticeable. Very few stretch marks are removed with a mini-tummy tuck. Return to the Top