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Tummy Tuck

Mini Tummy Tuck vs. Full Tummy Tuck: Which is Best?

There's no doubt that childbirth and successful weight loss are worth celebrating! Yet there’s one trade-off that you may have to deal with after experiencing either or both — a protruding abdomen that does not respond well to diet and exercise.

The stubborn belly flab or fat pouch following pregnancy and/or massive weight loss is a direct result of the following:

  • the abdominal muscles remain separated after being overly stretched
  • lax, loose skin after your stomach has been stretched to the limit during pregnancy or weight gain

Patients who come in with the aforementioned issues at our San Francisco practice are often advised to have a tummy tuck. While this body contouring procedure can dramatically transform the appearance of your midsection, scarring and the possibility of an extended recovery period often prompt patients to ask if there’s a less invasive option. For most of these patients, they would prefer to have a mini-tummy tuck over a full tummy tuck.

If you’re curious about a mini-tummy tuck because you’d rather have less obvious scarring, save on tummy tuck costs, or would love to have a slightly shorter recovery period, this article will help you make a sound decision between a tummy tuck and a mini-tummy tuck.

Choosing Between a Mini-Tummy Tuck and a Tummy Tuck

To help get a clearer picture between these two tummy tuck variations, meet Mary.

As a 38-year old mom of two, Mary has solely focused on raising her kids. Like most women who transition to parenthood, she had put on weight. Fortunately, she managed to keep the unwanted pounds off with diet and exercise. It also helped that she’s naturally slender and athletic.

During her personal consultation with Dr. Fan, she admitted that she's generally okay with her body except for her tiny tummy pooch. She has done everything, from diet to exercise, but nothing has worked so far. Following a thorough physical assessment and careful evaluation of her goals, Dr. Fan recommended a mini-tummy tuck.

Mary was extremely pleased with the results. Her recovery was quick, and the less obvious scarring is an added bonus. She can finally wear her favorite pair of bikinis!

Like Mary, a mini-tummy tuck is your best bet over a tummy tuck if:

  • You have good upper belly skin and muscle tone.
  • Your problem areas are limited to the lower abdomen, say you have a small amount of loose skin and excessive fat (which can be addressed via liposuction) below the belly button
  • You are slender, fit, and close to or at your ideal body weight
  • You are in overall good health

In a nutshell, a mini tummy tuck is best suited for you if your excess skin is mainly found in the lower belly, and you have no stretch marks or loose skin above the belly button. You should have zero or limited laxity of the abdominal muscles as well.

Meanwhile, a full tummy tuck is more suitable if you have loose abdominal muscles and/or stretch marks that accompany large amounts of excess abdominal skin.

Pros and Cons of a Full Tummy Tuck

As the most frequently performed abdominal contouring surgery, a full tummy tuck is often referred to as just a "tummy tuck," or "lipoabdominoplasty" when performed with abdominal liposuction.

In a full tummy tuck, the incision typically spans between the hip bones, known as a "full bikini line incision." The surgeon works to remove all excessive fat and skin from the lower abdomen, and may also perform liposuction on the upper abdomen. Finally, the abdominal muscles are repaired.

Full Tummy Tuck Pros

  • It removes excess skin and repairs loose muscles both above and below your belly button.
  • It provides dramatic transformation of your body.

Full Tummy Tuck Cons

  • You will likely have hip-to-hip scarring (located in the bikini area).
  • You may have to take a longer time off from work and other responsibilities due to a longer recovery period.

Pros and Cons of a Mini Tummy Tuck

The mini tummy tuck operation is performed through a smaller four to eight-inch incision along the bikini line. A small amount of excess skin may be removed through the incision, and a surgeon may target small pockets of fat using liposuction. In some cases, the lower abdominal muscles may be tightened.

Mini Tummy Tuck Pros

  • Scarring is less obvious than a full tummy tuck.
  • Shorter and quicker recovery than a full tummy tuck.

Mini Tummy Tuck Cons

  • Does not address issues in the upper abdomen because it only removes excess skin and repairs loose muscles below the navel.
  • Less dramatic improvement compared to a full tummy tuck or a modified tummy tuck.

At our San Francisco practice, mini-tummy tuck patients are selected carefully because only a tiny percentage of women are good candidates for the procedure.

Full Tummy Tuck vs. Mini Tummy Tuck Costs

The average cost of a mini tummy tuck in San Francisco is between $6,000 - $12,000. A tummy tuck, on the other hand, ranges between $9,000-15,000.

No two tummy tuck cases are the same and pricing can vary significantly depending on a number of factors such as your existing issues, plastic surgeon of choice, geographical location, and surgical facility.

Need Help in Deciding What's Best For You?

While many patients would prefer a mini-tummy tuck because of the less obvious scarring and shorter recovery time, we've found that a majority are actually better candidates for liposuction or a full tummy tuck. However, there are several patients who can achieve their goals with a mini-tummy tuck and other tummy tuck variations such as the modified or limited tummy tuck (a cross between a full tummy tuck and a mini-tummy tuck).

Choosing the right tummy tuck for your goals and existing needs requires consultation with an expert plastic surgeon. When finding the right tummy tuck surgeon, make sure that he or she understands your specific goals, and will go at great lengths to answer your questions and inform you about alternative treatments.

Still unsure about your specific goals or the right tummy tuck variation for you? This online self-assessment can help pin down the right answers!

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About the Author

Dr. Larry Fan is a Harvard educated, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in San Francisco, CA. He is a Master Artist who is known for creating beautiful, stunning, and natural results. Dr. Fan has been named One of America's Top Plastic Surgeons for the past 10 years running and has received several national awards for his work in Plastic Surgery. He has successfully performed more than 10,000 cosmetic procedures of the face, breasts, and body over a 20 year period. Dr Fan has been an invited speaker at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons, and has been featured in national media outlets such as CNN, NBC, and ABC.

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