Tummy Tuck Surgery: A Step-by-Step Overview

Dr. Sacha Obaid, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Serving Dallas, Plano, Southlake, and Nearby Fort Worth, Texas


By Sacha Obaid

Tummy tuck surgery, also known as abdomioplasty, is a hugely popular procedure with over 100,000 surgeries performed annually in recent years. It is also involves some very complicated surgical techniques that have evolved over the past century into the safe, effective procedure that is performed today.

So what is actually involved in the surgery? If you or someone you know is planning to have a tummy tuck, it is a good idea to be familiar with the basic steps of the operation to be better prepared for the initial consultation. We discuss every stage of tummy tuck surgery below.

Planning the Surgery

As with any medical procedure, a key step in getting the results you want is to plan it carefully, consulting closely with your surgeon to clearly communicate your goals. Make sure you have an accurate idea about what to expect in terms of results and how to prepare for surgery and for post-op recovery.


Tummy tuck procedures are invasive surgeries. This means you will be placed under either general anesthesia or intravenous sedation during the procedure. In both cases, you will be completely asleep for the surgery and will experience no pain while the procedure is being performed.

Making the Incisions

Once you are fully anesthetized, your surgeon will begin making incisions according to your agreed-upon pre-op plan. While the shape, extent, and location of the incisions will vary somewhat for each patient, the typical full tummy tuck will involve a horizontal cut across the lower part of the abdomen, just above the pubic region. This incision is usually curved to follow the contours of the bikini line. If tissue is also being removed from the upper part of the abdomen, a circular incision will be made around the belly button as well.

Trimming and Repositioning

The incisions made allow for the removal of excess skin and fat, which is trimmed to fit the newly flattened abdominal contour. Additionally, a new opening for the belly button is made so that the umbilicus can be repositioned in an anatomically and cosmetically appropriate manner.

Suturing and Repairing

Many years of research have shown that the most important factor in post-op recovery and the stability of results is proper suturing. To that end, the tissues cut in the initial stages of the surgery are carefully repaired and reconstructed to restore the integrity of the abdominal interior. Additional suturing of the muscles and connective tissues, meanwhile, helps improve the strength and resilience of the abdomen.

Closing and Recovery

Once the interior of the abdomen has been repaired, the final closure of the incisions is performed. Usually, drains are inserted to help reduce post-op swelling. These drains, along with any external sutures, will be removed after about a week of healing. Your plastic surgeon will probably recommend that you wear a compression garment for four to six weeks to help reinforce the sutures both inside and outside the abdomen. Over a period of months, the scars from surgery will gradually fade to minimal, well-concealed marks along the bikini line and the edge of the navel, and your stomach will look and feel better than ever!