Image of a tummy with a question mark symbolizing unknown scars from tummy tucks

Scars From Tummy Tucks: How To Know What Your Tummy Tuck Scars Will Look Like

Surgeries

A common concern of patients thinking about a tummy tuck is the significant scarring associated with the procedure. There are a number of techniques that plastic surgeons use for tummy tucks. Scars from tummy tucks will vary according to the technique used, personal healing tendencies, surgeon selection, and after-care.

Scars From Tummy Tucks: Where Will They Be?

There are 3 common variations to tummy tucks. Scars from each differ in term of their length and placement on the abdomen.

Traditional Tummy Tuck Scars

Traditional tummy tucks are the most common type of tummy tuck. These are meant for patients with moderate to large amounts of excess skin and fat on the abdomen. People with bulging lower tummy’s due to damaged muscle layers, such as is commonly seen after pregnancy, also usually need a traditional tummy tuck. This is because the surgeon has enough access and exposure to do a full muscle repair with these tummy tucks. Scars from traditional tummy tucks are placed:

  • across the waistline (from one hip bone to the other)
  • around the belly button (umbilicus)
Animation showing traditional tummy tucks scar placement
Traditional/Full tummy tuck scar placement

Here’s an animated video by O2Labz that shows the steps involved in a traditional tummy tuck and how the scars end up in these two locations:

Mini Tummy Tuck Scars

Scars from a mini tummy tuck are usually shorter in length than traditional tummy tuck scars. Also, the mini tummy tuck scar is only at the waistline (no scar around the bellybutton) because the procedure is focused only on the minimal extra skin and fat of the lower part of the abdominal wall. Mini tummy tucks are performed less frequently than traditional tummy tucks. Candidacy for a mini tummy tuck is usually restricted to:

  • fairly fit individuals with a minimal amount of loose skin and fat around the lower abdomen only
  • patients that do not need a full muscle repair
Animation showing mini tummy tuck scar placement

Check out this video animation by the Estecenter Plastic Surgery Center showing the steps involved and how scars from a mini tummy tuck end up where they do:

Vertical Tummy Tuck Scars

The vertical tummy tuck creates an “inverted-T” tummy tuck scar. This procedure is sometimes referred to as the “fleur-de-lis” tummy tuck because with these tummy tucks scars resemble an upside down version of this symbol. This technique is designed for individual’s with a large amount of loose and redundant abdominal skin on the upper portion of the abdominal wall. Candidates are often people who have experienced major weight loss. In order to remove the redundant tissues higher up on the abdomen, the surgeon incorporates a vertically-oriented tissue removal into a traditional-type tummy tuck. When stitched closed, this leaves an additional vertical scar not found with traditional or mini tummy tucks scars.

Animation showing vertical tummy tuck scar placement

YOUR PERSONAL HEALING TENDENCIES ALWAYS PLAY A ROLE IN FINAL SCAR QUALITY

Scars From Tummy Tucks: How Will They Look?

Scars are defined not only by how long they are and where they are placed, but also the quality with which they heal. For example, a traditional tummy tuck that heals with fine, subtle scars would be considered to have a better scarring outcome than thick, red and raised mini tummy tuck scars. So scars from tummy tucks are genuinely determined by both their quantity and quality. There are four main categories of scars from tummy tucks:

Type Of ScarWhat They Look LikeExample
normal/maturefine, flat and blend well “good scars”Normal breast implant scar that is fine and flat
hypertrophicraised, red and thicker type of scar
keloidconsidered the worst scars extensively raised, thick, discolored; grow far outside the area of the injury to the skinKeloid skin scar that is very raised thick red and raised
widespreadflat, pale, wide, and stretched scarsA wide flat stretched skin scar

Scars From Tummy Tucks: Patient Factors

Different people can heal very differently even from the same procedure done by the same surgeon. This is because scarring is a highly complex process with a long list of contributing factors including:

  • genetics
  • skin tone
  • existing medical conditions

There are many other variables that contribute to scarring making a prediction of any one person’s scars from tummy tucks a major challenge even for the most experienced surgeon.

Smoking And Tummy Tuck Scars:

Tummy tuck scars can be made much worse with nicotine usage around the time of surgery because of the negative impact that cigarette smoking (or vaping) has on the blood flow to skin. The surgical steps involved with tummy tuck surgery have some built-in negative impacts on the amount of blood flow that the tummy skin has for the first few weeks after surgery. Usually, the impact on blood flow is not enough to cause healing issues. But if the negative effects of smoking to the circulation is then added in, a situation can be created in which there is not enough blood flow going to the tummy skin. This can create devastating complications such as skin necrosis (tissue death), opening of incisions, infection and fluid collections with tummy tucks. Scars will inevitably end up much worse if these major complications are encountered.

Surgeon Selection:

Tummy tucks are a major cosmetic surgery procedure. Always choose a reputable, board-certified surgeon who performs a large number of tummy tucks. Scars are never completely within the control of any surgeon because many factors including genetics and a complication-free healing process make major contributions to scar quality. But choosing an experienced surgeon that specializes in tummy tucks is a major step in the right direction to optimizing your tummy tuck scars or mini tummy tuck scars.

After-Care Affects Scars From Tummy Tucks:

A complication-free healing process is critical to the best possible outcomes from tummy tucks. Scars will inevitably be impacted negatively from any significant problem that delays healing. Surgeons have their own post-operative regimens that they discuss with their patients, but here are a few widely accepted pieces of advice:

  • follow post-operative instructions to a tee
  • wear supportive bras as per your surgeon’s instructions
  • don’t return to work or the gym early
  • use sunscreen on healed incisions (UV rays can penetrate certain fabrics)
  • consider use of silicone gel for scars or silicone strips especially if you may have a tendency for thick scarring

Tummy Tuck Scar Healing: How Long Does It Take?

Tummy tuck scar healing, like healing from other surgeries, evolves over a period of up to 2 years. Scars go through three phases of wound healing. Initially, scars from tummy tucks often appear to get angrier and more visible for up to several months. After that, the majority of tummy tuck scars will begin a rather lengthy period of maturation that can last a year or more. It usually takes at least 6 months to have a good idea as to which type of final tummy tuck scar any person will form.

Non Surgical Tummy Tuck:

Nearly all people undergoing a tummy tuck will have one of the three type of procedures discussed above. A very small segment of individuals may be good candidates for non surgical tummy tuck type procedures to tighten up loose skin and remove fat from around the tummy. Generally, only people that need the most minimal amounts of skin tightening and fat removal will be candidates. Non surgical tummy tucks are performed using using devices including:

Non Surgical Tummy Tuck: Skin Tightening

  • VelaSmooth and VelaShape
    • combine infrared light, mechanical suction, and radiofrequency to tighten loose and redundant abdominal skin
  • Thermage
    • radiofrequency skin tightening
Thermage machine used to tighten skin non surgically
Thermage device used to tighten skin in non surgical tummy tuck

Non Surgical Tummy Tuck: Fat Removal

  • UltraShape and Liposonix
    • use external ultrasound waves to break up and remove fatty deposits
  • CoolSculpting
    • cools tissues non-invasively to disrupt fatty deposits
Coolsculpting machine used to remove fat non surgically by freezing
CoolSculpting can be used to remove stubborn fatty deposits in a non surgical tummy tuck

Conclusion:

Scars from tummy tucks are relatively lengthy compared to many other cosmetic surgeries. This can be a cause for concern and hesitation for some people despite the wonders the procedure can do to rejuvenate the mid-sections. Keep in mind that incision length is only one factor when it comes to tummy tuck scars. The others are the quality and type of scars formed after patients undergo tummy tucks. Scars can’t be predicted with certainty. A large number of factors such as which technique is used, incision location, surgeon selection, and after-care all play roles in determining final scar quality.

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