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Tummy Tuck, Body

Tummy Tuck Variations: Which One to Choose

If you are considering a tummy tuck, you may be drawn to the idea of a mini tummy tuck. Patients who qualify for abdominoplasty frequently inquire about mini tummy tucks due to the shorter recovery time and the possibility of a smaller incision scar. However, not many patients can achieve their goals of improving torso firmness and contour with a mini tummy tuck operation. For most patients, a full tummy tuck — or, conversely, liposuction alone — are more effective ways to achieve the look they want.

Patients with an excess of skin and fat and stretched abdominal muscles may qualify for a full tummy tuck. In patients with a small pouch of excess skin located below the belly button , a modified tummy tuck or mini tummy tuck may be viable options. In this article, you'll learn about the most common forms of abdominoplasty operations so you can determine which choice may be right for you.

Two More Quick Questions

Which Type of Tummy Tuck is Most Effective?

Ultimately, the type of tummy tuck that is best for you depends on your individual anatomy and goals.

There are three components of the torso that must be addressed in a tummy tuck treatment plan:

  • Skin: loose or wrinkled skin can result from pregnancy, aging, or weight loss.
  • Fatty tissue: fat deposits can be caused by aging, childbearing, hormones, and genetics.
  • Abdominal muscles: many patients suffer from abdominal muscle separation (diastasis) or stretching (laxity) which cannot be corrected through exercise alone.

Four Common Types of 'Tummy Tuck' Procedures

1. The Full Tummy Tuck

A full tummy tuck is often referred to as just a "tummy tuck," or "lipoabdominoplasty" when it is combined with abdominal liposuction. This is the most frequently performed abdominal contouring procedure. For many patients, it represents the gold standard of body transformation.

If you have loose skin, stretched-out muscles, or excessive abdominal fat, a full tummy tuck may be the best option if you want a flat and firm abdomen.

A full tummy tuck procedure can shave two to four inches from a patient's waistline. An incision is made that 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 strenghtened and repaired.

Typically after recovery is complete, the resulting scar can be hidden by a bikini.

The No Drain Tummy Tuck

A common variation of this procedure is known as the "no drain tummy tuck." To eliminate the need for drainage tubes after surgery, a surgeon may utilize special internal sutures.

2. Mini Tummy Tuck and Limited Tummy Tuck

The Mini Tummy Tuck

Patients who best qualify for mini tummy tuck operations typically have good upper abdominal skin and muscle tone. Problem areas are limited to the lower abdomen and may include a small amount of loose skin and excessive fat centralized below the belly button.

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. Ultimately, a small percentage of tummy tuck candidates find that a mini tummy tuck is the right option to deliver their desired results.

The Limited Tummy Tuck

A limited tummy tuck, also known as a "mid" or "modified" tummy tuck, is similar to a mini tummy tuck but involves a slightly longer incision. Patients who typically qualify for this surgery most often have good tone on the upper abdomen, but suffer from a greater degree of loose skin on the lower abdomen.

Are You a Tummy Tuck Candidate?

3. More Extensive Abdominal Contouring

The Extended Tummy Tuck

The extended tummy tuck may also be referred to as a "fleur-de-lis abdominoplasty." This course of treatment may be recommended for patients with excessive skin throughout the entire abdomen and trunk, particularly if they have trouble spots in the upper abdomen, lower chest, and back.

During this operation, the surgeon will perform a horizontal incision along the bikini line in a manner that is very similar to a full tummy tuck. In addition, a full vertical mid-line incision will be utilized to perform a more complete removal of excess skin on the abdomen, lower chest, and back.

For patients with severe loose skin on the torso, the extended tummy tuck can produce more dramatic before-and-after results than a full tummy tuck.


Flankplasty surgery is typically appropriate for patients with larger amounts of excess skin throughout the abdomen and trunk, particularly along the lateral trunk and flank regions. This procedure is similar to a full tummy tuck in that it requires a single incision low on the torso. However, flankplasty surgery involves a significantly longer incision that extends three-quarters of the way around the lower torso.

If patients suffer from sagging flanks and abdomen, a flankplasty surgery can effectively target the stomach and hips.

Belt Lipectomy

A belt lipectomy is appropriate for patients with large amounts of excess skin throughout the abdomen, trunk, hips, and buttocks. A belt lipectomy is a common workhorse procedure for patients who have lost large amounts of weight or have significant generalized skin laxity.

This procedure is similar to a full tummy tuck but involves a longer incision, which extends around the entire lower trunk. The surgeon works to remove a "belt" of fat and loose skin from the entire circumference of the lower trunk.

You may qualify for this operation if you have excess loose skin on your abdomen, flanks, buttocks, and hips.

Extended Belt Lipectomy

The extended belt lipectomy combines a traditional belt lipectomy with the addition of a vertical mid-line incision. This allows surgeons to create even more dramatic improvements throughout a patient's lower trunk and abdomen, as well as target loose skin on the upper abdomen. This surgery is typically appropriate for patients who have completed a massive weight loss, and who may require an aggressive approach to treating loose skin on the majority of the torso.

4. The Reverse Tummy Tuck

Occasionally, patients will have a toned lower abdomen and residual excess skin on the upper abdomen. These patients may qualify for a reverse tummy tuck, which targets the upper abdomen.

A surgeon creates an incision on the bra line, to remove excess skin and fat from the upper torso. Commonly, reverse tummy tucks are performed in conjunction with a breast lift operation.

Which Type of Tummy Tuck is Right for You?

While many patients have a mini tuck in mind, we've found that a majority are actually better candidates for liposuction or a full tummy tuck. However, there are segments of patients who can achieve their goals with a mini or limited tummy tuck.

All prospective tummy tuck patients want minimal scarring and recovery time while maximizing the potential for improving the appearance of their torso. Carefully selecting the right procedure can ensure the best patient satisfaction after surgery. Choosing the type of tummy tuck that's right for your body and your goals requires consultation with an expert plastic surgeon.

To learn more about the best kind of tummy tuck procedure to meet your goals, contact the office of Dr. Larry Fan for a complimentary plastic surgery consultation.

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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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