Each week, Dr. Lara Devgan answers questions submitted by readers like you. If you want to ask Dr. Devgan a question about plastic surgery, aesthetic treatments, or skin care, you can do so here. To kick off the series, we posed a common question from the RealSelf community: What is a mini tummy tuck and who is a good candidate?

Here, Dr. Devgan breaks down the difference between a mini tummy tuck and traditional tummy tuck and how long you should wait after pregnancy before considering one.

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What is the difference between a mini tummy tuck and a traditional tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck is one of the most transformative operations in plastic surgery. It allows a plastic surgeon to restore the appearance of the torso after pregnancy and childbearing, weight fluctuations, or general aging.

The difference between a mini tummy tuck and a standard or traditional tummy tuck is two fold. First, it’s the length of the incision, and second, it’s the extent of the dissection.

A mini tummy tuck involves a smaller incision, and a less comprehensive dissection, so basically the extra skin and fat below the belly button is tightened and pulled, without changing the location of the belly button, and without making a hip to hip scar.

A full tummy tuck, or a traditional abdominoplasty, involves a longer incision that goes from hip to hip, and the surgical dissection goes all the way up to just underneath the breast area.

 

Candidates and expectations

I think one common misconception is that a mini tummy tuck is just as good as a regular tummy tuck, but with a smaller scar. In my opinion, a mini tummy tuck is a very limited operation. There are very few people who are good candidates for a mini tummy tuck. It’s not no one, but it’s definitely not everyone. I would say about 95% of patients are candidates for full tummy tucks and not mini tummy tucks.

The way we think about who makes a good candidate for a mini tummy tuck versus a full tummy tuck is based on how much extra tissue they have, and how weak the abdominal walls are. So if someone has a lot of weakness of the ab muscles, which usually happens after you have a baby, then a full tummy tuck would be required to repair the muscles of the abdominal wall.

Also if somebody has a lot of excess skin or a lot of pinchable fat between the belly button and the pubic hair line, then they’re also not a great candidate for a mini tummy tuck.

Only patients who have a minimal amount of extra tissue, and a pretty strong abdominal wall are candidates for a mini tummy tuck.

A full tummy tuck is going to give you a tighter abdominal wall, a smoother contour, and overall more comprehensive results.

 

Pregnancies and tummy tucks

If you’ve been pregnant it’s really important to be examined by your plastic surgeon to determine if your muscles need a repair or not. The repair of the muscles of the abdominal wall is sometimes referred to as a rectus diastasis repair.

Splitting ab muscles doesn’t happen to every single women who gets pregnant, but I would say it happens to most women who get pregnant. If you’ve had a baby, chances are you’re probably a candidate for a traditional abdominoplasty or tummy tuck, but you could be one of the lucky women out there who is a candidate for a mini tummy tuck. It really requires an in-person examination to make that determination.

I also recommend waiting until your body has normalized after childbirth before considering any kind of cosmetic procedure, but especially for a tummy tuck (traditional or mini).

There are many reasons for this, including the fact that after delivery there is a lot of swelling of the tissues. Your weight is in flux, and wound healing can be compromised. A general rule of thumb is to think about waiting at least six months after you have the baby before you consider any kind of surgical intervention. Also, you ideally would be within 10 to 15 pounds of your goal weight prior to having a tummy tuck or a mini tummy tuck, to get the best results.

If you’re breastfeeding, I’d advise waiting at least three months after you’re done, even if you are six months postpartum. This is because in some cases breastfeeding can contribute to a little extra weight. So if you’re breastfeeding for a year, you want to wait 18 months before considering a tummy tuck.

 

Recovery

Generally speaking, a mini tummy tuck has a shorter recovery time, a shorter scar, and is a less invasive procedure. On the other hand, you get less of a result. It’s basically less of everything.

With a traditional abdominoplasty, you can get a really amazing result, but it’s a much more robust procedure. You will need to take two weeks off of work or school, and plan on not exercising for six weeks.

I think of it the same way I think of many things in plastic surgery, like lasers for example. The low downtime lasers are going to give you less of a result than the high downtime lasers. If the goal is limiting your recovery, and limiting your downtime, and limiting your incision, then you’re going to have a limited aesthetic outcome.

If your goal is a major body transformation, then I think that a bigger operation is often required.