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Your Tummy Tuck Timeline: Consultation, Operation, & Recovery

Tummy tuck surgery, also known as abdominoplasty, is a great solution for individuals who are looking to lose excess abdominal skin and tissue. After significant weight loss or pregnancy, the stretched muscles of the abdomen can become weakened and the previously tight skin can lose its tone and become loose, saggy or hanging. A tummy tuck procedure is often the best option for restoring weakened abdominal muscles back to their anatomic location and removing the extra skin and fat to give a more firm and toned abdomen.

If you are considering a tummy tuck, you will naturally want to know what to expect. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that no two tummy tuck recovery experiences will be the same.

This is why our DC Metro area, board-certified plastic surgeons encourage all patients to gather accurate information for themselves, so they can feel comfortable with the decision they make about their bodies and their goals.

This article discusses what a typical patient goes through during the tummy tuck journey.

What to Expect

The first thing to realize with tummy tuck surgery is that there are different types of tummy tucks. Which type of procedure is right for you depends on several factors including your anatomy and your goals. The two most common types of a tummy tuck include:

  • Full or Classic: During a traditional tummy tuck procedure, the areas addressed include excess abdominal skin and fat as well as the muscles. After removing the extra skin and tightening abdominal muscles, your surgeon will typically move the belly button to its anatomic location.
    The typical tummy tuck scar is from hip bone to hip bone above the pubic area. For patients who require even more skin removal, the scar may go all the way around the body like a belt, and this is called a body lift.
    For patients needing less skin removal, there may be a small vertical component to the tummy tuck scar, or your surgeon may discuss a mini tummy tuck as a viable option.
    Liposuction can be combined with an abdominoplasty to further sculpt the abdomen and waistline.
  • Mini: Patients who have a small amount of loose skin below the belly button only, often choose a mini-tummy tuck. This procedure typically uses a shorter incision just at or above the pubic region.
    Through the incision, your surgeon can tighten muscles and remove lower abdominal skin and fat. The belly button is not typically moved in this operation.
    This variation on the full abdominoplasty is ideal for people who have less excess skin in the tummy area that is confined to the lower abdomen.
    Liposuction can also be combined with this procedure.

It is important to realize that a tummy tuck is a surgical procedure requiring several weeks of recovery in most cases. Depending on your goals, your surgeon will discuss the factors of the operation that can contribute to less recovery.

For example, some patients choose to not have muscle tightening done as this does come with the requirement of no heavy lifting for six weeks after surgery.

Similarly, some patients are more interested in just being smaller in clothing and are not concerned with the look of extra skin. These patients may discover that abdomen liposuction meets their goals.

Your surgeon will thoroughly discuss your options and answer any questions you may have during your consultation and throughout the process.

Surgery Timeline

From the patient’s perspective, the typical tummy tuck procedure has five steps:

  1. Booking your consultation appointment. During this appointment, you will meet with one of our consultants and your surgeon to discuss your goals, be examined, and discuss the best procedure to meet your needs. All of your recovery and risk questions will be answered, and the consultant will discuss the cost of the procedure and dates available. All of our surgeons operate five days per week at our state-of-the-art surgical facility equipped with five accredited operating rooms.
  2. Book your surgery date and your pre-op appointment. In order to hold a surgery date, you will pay a 10% deposit and choose a pre-op appointment time. At your pre-op appointment, we do all the necessary paperwork beforehand so you have everything you need for the day or surgery. This includes signing consent forms and receiving all your prescriptions so you can have them filled and ready prior to surgery. Our staff will also discuss what supplies to have at home and go through helpful facts our past patients have shared with us for a smooth postop recovery. Finally, we take your before photos in our professional photo suite. These are used for comparison with your after pictures that are taken around 3 months postop.
  3. Day of surgery. On the day of your tummy tuck surgery, you meet with your nurses, anesthesia provider, and surgeon to go over your procedure and answer any final questions. The markings are performed and then you go to the operating room where we start your IV and very soon after, you drift off to sleep.
  4. Post-Op. When you wake up post-op, you will stay in our recovery area until you are ready to either be wheeled into our overnight area where you will stay with a nurse or wheeled to your waiting support person who will take you home.
  5. The recovery process. The day after surgery, your surgeon will see you again, unwrap your dressings, and evaluate your early result. Final tummy tuck results take months to see, but on day 1 we will make sure you have plenty of necessary medications and understand how to fit into your compression garments and begin taking care of the incisions. Typical follow-up appointments after day 1 include week 1, week 2 and week 6. Postop photos are typically taken around 3 months.

What to Expect: After Surgery

Immediately after a tummy tuck operation, your surgeon will apply dressings to your incisions and you will be fit for a compression garment to minimize swelling and provide support to your abdomen as you heal. Some form of compression is recommended for up to six weeks after tummy tuck.

Recovery Time

Your particular journey from surgery through complete recovery will vary based on your anatomy, what procedure your surgeon performs, and how many procedures you have done.

Swelling, bruising, and numbness are all normal and resolution is on an individual level. Stitches are removed about a week after surgery. Most patients take off work for 1-2 weeks and are getting back into most activities at that point.

Heavy lifting is not recommended for six weeks after any muscle tightening procedure.


Because there is a scar after abdominoplasty, you will want it to heal as thin and flat as possible. The scar care protocol at Austin-Weston consists of surgically taping the incision for 4-6 weeks followed by silicone scar cream for another 4-6 weeks. The ideal scar continues to fade for several years after surgery and can be difficult to ultimately notice.

It is important to keep your follow up appointments after surgery so any adjustments in scar care can be made as soon as possible. Occasionally scars need surgically revised, but usually, scars soften and thin when given adequate time.

‘Worth It’ Rating

Tummy tuck patients are typically among our happiest. While there is a significant recovery, most patients agree it is worth the recovery to achieve the results. From a restorative standpoint after childbirth, there is not a more dramatic procedure.

RealSelf ranks procedures using what they call Worth It Ratings to answer the question: what percentage of people felt having this procedure was worth it?

Worth It Ratings are a quick and easy way to understand the overall community opinion for a range of cosmetic surgery procedures. The rating is displayed as a percentage and shown next to a ‘thumbs up’ symbol. Worth It Ratings are a ratio of positive vs. negative reviews of a procedure (‘not sure’ ratings are not factored in). So, an 80% rating for a procedure means that 4 out of 5 people thought it was worth it.

Tummy Tuck RealSelf Worth It Rating = 96%

See what community members think is the best procedure – all the Worth It Ratings are listed here. You can also add your vote to add your input on a procedure Worth It Rating by writing a review.

A tummy tuck might be the answer to giving you the flat, beautiful abdomen you have been dreaming of.

If you live in the Northern Virginia or Washington DC area and are ready to reclaim your confidence, contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation at (703) 893-6168 or submit a form online to request an appointment.

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* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.