Tummy tuck patients at my Chicago plastic surgery center often come in with preconceived notions that they have developed from reading about the procedure online or hearing about it from friends. At my practice, I use a unique approach that reduces the risk of those common concerns. Through my advanced technique and years of experience, tummy tucks at my Chicago practice can be transformative surgeries with dramatic results.
Typically, a traditional full tummy tuck requires a horizontal incision very low on the abdomen, along with an incision around the navel. This navel incision is used to release the skin from the abdomen in that region, allowing the surgeon to effectively re-drape it and create a smooth contour. However, in many cases, I have found that I can achieve excellent results by performing a mini tummy tuck with a floating umbilicus. This technique involves detaching the belly button from underneath, repairing the muscles, then reattaching it to the muscle wall. This means that the only incision will be hidden by underwear or a bathing suit. This eliminates the risk of dissatisfaction with the appearance of the navel after a tummy tuck.
In most cases where a full abdominoplasty is needed, I have developed a method of tucking the scar inside on an “inny” belly button, which gives a very natural appearance, such that a high percentage of my patients are comfortable exposing their mid abdomen in a bathing suit or other wear. This is a technique I have used for years and was published in our major journal (Lee MJ, Mustoe TA. A Simplified Version to Achieve Aesthetic Results for the Umbilicus in Abdominoplasty. Plastic and Reconstr Surg. 109:2136-2140, 2002), and was also at the time written up in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times as an innovative idea.
Local Anesthesia with Sedation
Unlike most surgeons, I typically perform abdominoplasty using only local anesthesia with deep sedation. The idea of general anesthesia can be unnerving to some patients and may even deter them from surgery altogether. My approach allows patients to breathe spontaneously and and not be paralyzed, yet completely unaware of the procedure thanks to the effective intravenous sedation. With the use of local anesthesia plus sedation the risk of blood clots is essentially eliminated. There is a reduced overall risk and much less chance of nausea and vomiting. In addition, the local anesthetic takes hours to wear off, resulting in less and more manageable postoperative pain.
I have developed several techniques for being gentler during surgery which have resulted in a significant reduction in postoperative pain. Many of my patients require no narcotics postoperatively, and routinely not more than 2 days. I do use drains, but they can usually be removed in 3-4 days, and patients routinely return to work and relatively normal activities within a week. I allow patients to drive in 2 days if off narcotics and lift their children at that time.
Looking into the background of your surgeon is a necessary preliminary step before scheduling a tummy tuck procedure. Your surgeon should be board-certified, preferably with years of experience performing abdominoplasty. It’s also important to evaluate a surgeon’s patient photo gallery and credentials to make sure they align with your expectations. I have more than 25 years of experience as a plastic surgeon. In that time, I’ve performed more than 1,000 tummy tucks. I’ve also conducted a number of clinical studies on abdominoplasty and seen them published in industry journals. In fact, in 1999, I published a study on abdominoplasty performed under conscious sedation in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Having said that, I still make sure to give each patient my utmost attention and treat them with the same consideration and individualized care.
I often combine tummy tuck with liposuction to achieve optimal results. This technique can further improve the contour of the abdomen, flanks, and waist. Combining surgeries can be complicated, so this is another reason to choose an experienced surgeon.