Abdominal Wall Reconstruction vs. Tummy Tuck: What’s the Difference?
- 07 July 2016
- Dr. Nidal (Nick) Masri
When it comes to cosmetically contouring the abdominal area, people readily think of getting a tummy tuck, which is a popular choice for women who want to flatten their abs and get rid of excess sagging skin.
However, some patients unknowingly arrive with abdominal wall weakness or scarring that prevents them from using their abdominal muscles properly.
In such cases, your plastic surgeon would recommend you to undergo an abdominal wall reconstruction to be able to address not only the aesthetic aspect of your abdominal muscles but also restore their full functionality.
Unfortunately, many people confuse a tummy tuck with an abdominal wall reconstruction, making them wonder which is the better procedure for them. Learn the difference between the two and determine which one best suits your current needs.
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The tummy tuck—also known as abdominoplasty—is an abdominal cosmetic surgery that involves the removal of loose skin, tightening of abdominal muscles, and elimination of stubborn fat deposits to achieve a more contoured and better-looking figure. It is popular among both men and women, especially those who have undergone dramatic body changes due to massive weight loss or pregnancy.
Many people confuse a tummy tuck as a weight loss surgery, but people who want to undergo this should first, should get as close to their ideal weight as possible through diet and exercise. After all, this procedure concerns itself with the excess weight and droopy skin in the midsection that has not adequately responded to traditional weight loss treatments.
The tummy tuck comes in different types, namely complete, extended, circumferential, endoscopic, and mini tummy tuck. They often differ in the type and extent of incisions, but they all have the same purpose of tightening the abdominal muscles. The surgeon pulls the muscles in the abdomen closer together and stitches them into a position that will give them a more toned appearance. The skin is also stretched downwards, with excess skin trimmed away. Unwanted fat pockets are removed through liposuction before the skin is pulled taut. Even stretch marks below the navel are often removed.
After a tummy tuck, you can expect your tummy area to appear flatter and more toned than before. The results can last for many years, although future weight gain and pregnancies can cause your muscles and skin to stretch back out and become lax. Its appearance through the years all depends on how well you take care of yourself and watch your weight afterward.
Risks and complications include adverse reaction to anesthesia, blood clots, and infection. Some temporary side effects include swelling, pain, and bruising, which usually fade within two weeks of surgery. You might also experience slow healing, which could lead to more prominent scarring. A couple of things that may slow down the healing process include smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke and infection.
A tummy tuck surgery can be very costly, ranging from as low as $3,000 to as high as $55,000, depending on the area covered and the extent of the surgery. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, patients pay an average of $5,500 for an abdominoplasty. Since it is an elective cosmetic procedure, it cannot be covered by insurance.
Abdominal wall reconstruction
Unlike a tummy tuck, an abdominal wall reconstruction is more than just a cosmetic procedure. It aims to repair any abdominal defects and restore function and support to its skeletal structure.
While a traditional tummy tuck only addresses the skin, tissue, fat, and some muscles in the abdomen, an abdominal wall reconstruction focuses on repairing and strengthening weakened or damaged muscular structures within the abdominal wall. It improves the integrity of the abdominal wall, supports its muscles, and protects the organs beneath it.
This type of surgery is commonly performed for patients who underwent bariatric surgery. It is also recommended for various abdominal defects such as the presence of tumors, hernia, and trauma.
An abdominal wall reconstruction can be combined with liposuction, hence providing the same outcomes as a tummy tuck, such as the removal of excess skin and fat from the midsection. This can also help reduce strain on the abdominal wall, which could lead to problems like hernias.
The incision is made above the pubic area and goes across from hip to hip. During the surgery, the abdominal muscles are rearranged and reinforced to prevent reoccurring hernias and other problems. Mesh—either biologic or synthetic—may be inserted to reinforce and strengthen the abdominal muscles. The whole procedure may last anywhere from two to six hours.
Just like the tummy tuck, the abdominal wall reconstruction is highly invasive, which is why they are both done as inpatient procedures. A hospital stay may range from one to three nights following the surgery to allow for full recovery. You will need to wear a support or compression garment around your stomach for several weeks. You might be able to resume normal activity within two to four weeks, but it might take several more weeks before you can do regular exercises.
Risks and complications include adverse reaction to anesthesia, excessive bleeding, infection, fluid accumulation, nerve injury, and loss of sensation. Sensation generally returns to patients over a few weeks or months, or even up to a year. However, there are instances where there is permanent sensation loss due to nerve damage.
The average cost of an abdominal wall reconstruction in Miami is about $5,000, but this only covers the surgeon fees and still does not include other miscellaneous fees. But unlike the tummy tuck, the abdominal wall reconstruction is typically classified as a medically essential procedure, hence it is often covered by insurance. Still, it depends on the circumstances involved, such as the presence of hernias and their severity.
With the tummy tuck being a purely cosmetic procedure and the abdominal wall reconstruction being a medical necessity, it is easy to determine which one is best suited to your current needs. If you need more help figuring out which of these two procedures is right for you, schedule a Free Consultation with one of our board-certified surgeons here on Face + Body Cosmetic Surgery and we will do our best to help you.