How to Know if You Are a Good Candidate for a Tummy Tuck Procedure?

A tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, dramatically improves the appearance of your belly and waist.  With one transformative surgery, it removes your excess belly fat and skin, tightens your stomach muscles and contours your waist, hips and back. But how do you know if you’re a good candidate for this procedure? To help you decide if you are a candidate, let’s first go over the issues that a tummy tuck addresses, the reasons our patients chose this surgery and their most common misconceptions.  We’ll also review the clinical and lifestyle related reasons that may prohibit you from being a good candidate for this procedure.

Do You Have These Issues?  

Although there are many different types of tummy tuck procedures, they all address these four main issues, in some form or fashion:

  • Loose or sagging skin of your upper and/or lower belly
  • Resistant pockets of fat of your belly, waist and lower back
  • Stretched out stomach muscles, aka recuts diastasis 
  • Visible stretch marks, primarily of your lower belly

Do you have one or more of these issues? Are you frustrated because your focus on diet and exercise isn’t making these issues better?  Do you want a defintive change, one that transforms the appearance of your belly, waist and lower back? If the answer is ”yes”, you are likely a candidate for a tummy tuck procedure. What type we recommend will depend on your clinical exam and your overall aesthetic goals.

Reasons We Perform a Tummy Tuck

In our practice, we perform tummy tucks for a variety of reasons. Here are the most common ones our patients present with:

  • Pregnancy related changes: Pregnancy stretches the belly skin and stomach muscles, causing a protruding belly appearance. Exercises like crunches are helpful but can’t repair your stomach muscles back into their pre-pregnancy position. Similarity, post-pregnancy weight loss is beneficial but often won’t completely solve loose skin. A tummy tuck repairs your stomach muscles, putting them back into an anatomically correct position.  It also removes loose belly skin, including pregnancy related stretch marks, especially below your belly button.  
  • A history of weight loss: With significant weight loss, usually greater than 50 lbs, there can be a lot of excess skin that can’t be tightened with exercise, diet or even internal and external skin tightening treatments. A standard or more involved tummy tuck (fluer de lis, extended and belt lipectomy) can remove a majority of the excess skin in circumferential fashion.  
  • Age related changes: Age and genetic related issues of the belly are often most noticeable along the lower belly and waist.  A tummy tuck is great at removing the excess skin and fat in this area, especially if the  torso is treated circumferentially, using 360 degree liposuction.

Top Tummy Tuck Misconceptions

There are a lot of misconceptions about what a tummy tuck can actually accomplish and who is a candidate. So lets clear up a few of them. 

  • It’s a weight loss surgery: A tummy tuck is not weight loss surgery. It is a surgery that removes excess belly skin and fat while also tightening stretched stomach muscles. But a tummy tuck is not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.  It is only additive and you still have to do the hard work before and after surgery. 
  • It’s only for moms: Tummy tucks are not just a great option for women who have been pregnant. Both men and women are candidates for this procedure, especially those who have lost a significant amount of weight or have age related changes. Removing loose belly skin that is resistant to diet and exercise is a great reason to have a tummy tuck.
  • It’s only for younger patients: Anyone who is unhappy with the appearance of their abdomen may be a candidate for a tummy tuck, regardless of age. We have patients, from their 20s to their 80s who undergo tummy tuck procedures.  You just have to be healthy enough for surgery.
  • It’s a one and done procedure: While the results of a tummy tuck are long-lasting, age related changes are unavoidable long-term after surgery. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure that the results last as long as possible.

Your Baseline Health Status Matters

Along with having the belly issues we discussed earlier, having good overall health status is equally as important when deciding if you are a candidate for a tummy tuck procedure. Remember, these are elective surgeries. It is important to maximize your health before considering a surgery that is not medically necessary. Here are some of the common reasons you may not be a good candidate for this procedure:

  • Diabetes, especially if uncontrolled. Our cutoff is a HgbA1C greater than 6.5
  • High blood pressure, especially with a baseline systolic blood pressure greater than 150
  • Short or long term obesity.  The defintive cutoff in our office is a BMI over 30
  • Having a condition that requires blood thinners, aka anticoagulation, like deep vein thrombosis, a history of stroke or atrial fibrillation
  • Having a condition that requires chronic steroids or immunomodulating medications that can effect wound healing like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Any medical issue that would preclude you from undergoing general anesthesia, including a history of heart or lung disease
  • Chronic anemia or low blood levels from blood or absorption based conditions
  • Recent history of smoking or vaping 

Your Support During Recovery Also Matters

Before considering a tummy tuck, you first have to make sure you have the necessary help for it’s recovery. These procedures involve a recovery that has a significant amount of downtime so going into this recovery alone is not a realistic option.  Good candidates for tummy tucks have full time assistance, day and night, during the first few weeks after surgery.  This is what we recommend for our patients during the first 3 weeks after surgery:

  • Week 1: You’ll need assistance with daily activities, especially with lifting, walking and going to the bathroom.  You won’t be able to drive and you should plan on taking this week off most work duties.  Family and friend support is key here.  Full time child care is necessary
  • Week 2: You will still need assistance with daily activities but you are more mobile.  Being off pain medications for an extended duration is required for you to drive.  That means you have to be pain free which is uncommon this early in recovery.  You can begin work duties but not physical ones. You still need help with child care.
  • Week 3: You are finally feeling more like yourself but you will still need help around the house with physical duties like cleaning, laundry and cooking.  Childcare is doable but driving may still be difficult. You are still not working out. 

You Are a Candidate, Now What?

The decision of whether a tummy tuck is right for you is complex but what makes you a good candidate for this procedure is fairly straight forward.  If you struggle with one of the four issues we previously discussed (loose skin, stretched muscles, too much belly fat and stretch marks) and you are healthy enough for elective surgery, you are likely a candidate.  The recovery from a tummy tuck is doable but not easy so you will need to have a legitimate recovery plan in place before proceeding. And remember, you will have to take time off work, up to 2 weeks in most cases.  With realistic expectations and proper preparation, a tummy tuck is an amazingly transformative surgery. Now, all you have left to do is schedule a consult with our office today and start planning!