Which Tummy Tuck Type Should I Get?

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Dr. Atul Kesarwani, Medical Director and Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

A tummy tuck can help smooth out the skin around your stomach and abdominal region as well as tighten muscles to give your stomach a flatter appearance. While any invasive surgery can involve risks, tummy tucks (or abdominoplasty) are regarded as safe and routine procedures.

There are two main tummy tuck types: full and mini (traditional mini and the floating abdominoplasty).

Full tummy tuck

If you have had two or more children and want to get back to your pre-baby body contour, chances are you’ll need a full tummy tuck. This is because childbirth tends to stretch out the entire belly and creates problems both above and below the navel. Or, if you have recently lost a lot of weight and find yourself with excess skin above and below the navel, a full tummy tuck may be right for you.

You’ll also need a full abdominoplasty if you have muscle separation, technically known as diastasis recti.

You can determine whether you have diastasis recti by lying flat on your back and extending your legs up into the air. Feel your upper abdomen. If there is a bulge in your abdomen (like you’re pregnant) or you can feel a separation between the right and left parts of your ab muscles down the middle, then the muscles have separated and a full tummy tuck is required.

The majority of patients get a full tummy tuck.

Full tummy tuck quick facts

  • For corrections both above and below the belly button
  • Liposuction can be performed at the same time
  • Usually 2 incisions, can be 3 in some cases. That means 2-3 scars.
  • Procedure can take 2-3 hours
  • Longer healing time
  • More popular

Full tummy tuck: the surgery

A full tummy tuck removes both excess skin and fat from above and below the belly button line. It is more surgically invasive than a mini tummy tuck, and will result in two incisions, one just above the pubic area and the other one around the belly button itself. In more extensive correction, a vertical incision may be made from the belly button down to the horizontal incision. Your belly button will be temporarily separated from the connecting tissue. This allows your skin to be made taut and your muscles underneath to be corrected. The overall length of the incision depends on how much loose skin you have.

Full tummy tuck: healing

The time you’ll need to take off from work is 2 weeks, and that is only the minimum recommended amount of time. It may be longer if you experience a more difficult recovery. As you are healing you should try to avoid strenuous exercise and emotionally taxing life events (such as romantic breakups) as they will only serve to increase the amount of time it takes for the swelling to go down and your body to fully heal.

Mini tummy tuck

If you are in relatively good shape and can’t seem to lose the last bit of fat or loose skin with proper diet and/or regular exercise, and it’s all situated below your belly button, chances are a mini tummy tuck is what you’ll need. The mini is best suited for people who don’t require extensive repair of the abdominal muscles.

You can still get muscle correction done with a mini tuck, as long as the separation exists below the belly button only.

Mini tummy tuck quick facts

  • For correction below the belly button
  • Liposuction can be performed at the same time
  • Less scarring
  • Only 1 incision and it’s often shorter than a full tummy tuck
  • Procedure takes 1-2 hours
  • Faster healing time

Mini tummy tuck: the surgery

This surgical procedure is designed to remove excess skin and fat from the lower abdomen below the belly button as well as to tighten the muscles of the lower abdominal wall. The incision length of the lower tummy tuck is shorter than a full. You’ll experience less scarring as a result of the smaller incision. In a mini tummy tuck, the belly button is not repositioned and nothing is treated above it.

Mini tummy tuck: healing

You’ll need to take 1-2 weeks off from work. However, it could be longer or shorter depending on your rate of healing. The faster recovery is due to the limited incision and work performed. There are other contributing factors that can determine the length of your recovery: age, health, prior physical condition and how well you take care of yourself after the surgery all play an important role in the healing process.

Mini tummy tuck variation:
The Floating umbilicus technique (FAB)

If you have loose skin and your belly button sits higher up on your stomach, the floating umbilicus technique may be appropriate for you.

FAB is not as commonly performed. At our practice, it is suitable for less than 5% of the patients we see. 

Floating umbilicus tummy tuck quick facts

  • For correction of loose skin in particular
  • Liposuction can be performed at the same time
  • Only one incision made that is shorter, without one made around the belly button
  • Less than a third of the skin and fat can be removed
  • Muscle tightening can only be done just above the belly button
  • The belly button is lowered a bit
  • Faster healing time

Floating umbilicus tummy tuck: the surgery

This surgical procedure is designed to remove excess skin and fat, as well as repair diastasis recti. The belly button is detached from the abdominal wall, but not from the skin. Once loose skin and fat have been removed and the muscles tightened, the belly button is reattached and then the incision closed.

Floating umbilicus tummy tuck: healing

You’ll need to take 1-2 weeks off from work. However, it could be longer or shorter depending on your rate of healing.

Which one should I opt for?

Think of your belly button as the dividing line between a mini and a full tummy tuck. If fat, excess skin and stretch marks reside below your belly button, then you are a candidate for a mini tummy tuck. A full tummy tuck deals with the areas located both above and below the belly button.