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What You Need to Know About Your Tummy Tuck Recovery

What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck, otherwise known as an abdominoplasty, is the surgical removal of excess skin and fat from the tummy/abdominal area. At the same time, any loosening in the muscle layers can be addressed, as the incisions allow clear visualization of the structures under the skin. 

The aim of a tummy tuck is to restore the pleasing silhouette of a well-shaped abdominal region, whilst minimizing visible scars. There are many variations to the tummy tuck including mini-abdominoplasty, full abdominoplasty, lipoabdominoplasty, extended abdominoplasty, and circumferential body procedures.


Tummy tucks are often performed after significant weight loss, such as with extreme diet and exercise and/or bariatric surgery, where excess skin is left behind after the fat has reduced. It is also common for post-partum women who have completed their families and would like to restore their abdominal contour of youth.

From a certain point of view, the tummy tuck procedure might look similar to ptosis correction surgery.

Are a tummy tuck and liposuction the same thing?

Both of these procedures are part of the spectrum of body contouring. Depending on the amount of skin, fat, and muscle laxity that needs to be removed or fixed, they can be used alone or in combination. If fat is the main component of the excess and the skin quality is good with minimal excess, liposuction of the fat alone may suffice, and time will allow for the skin to eventually retract. In cases where there is excess skin or stretch marks, removal of skin in a tummy tuck is necessary. And when the muscle fascia needs to be repaired, a tummy tuck surgical incision helps with visualizing this part of the anatomy clearly.

Available types of tummy tuck surgery in Singapore.

Tummy tuck surgeries can be classified according to the extent of skin excised.


A mini-abdominoplasty involves a limited incision over the pubic region to remove limited excess skin that is confined to the area under the umbilicus (belly button). The eventual scar resembles a C-section scar, and the umbilicus is not brought out through a new position on the abdominal skin.

Regular abdominoplasty.

In a regular abdominoplasty, the skin above and below the umbilicus can be tightened by removing a larger ellipse of skin. The eventual scar usually lies between the 2 prominences of your hip bones. The belly button is brought out through the pulled-down upper abdominal skin into its new position.  In cases where liposuction is done concurrently, the procedure is referred to as a lipoabdominoplasty. The combination of both allows for even more refinement of the abdominal outline and reduction of fat in areas that allow more definition.

Extended abdominoplasty.

In cases where the excess skin and fat reach towards the sides or even the back of the body, extended abdominoplasty or circumferential body procedures are required. This may involve a change of position on the operating table and a longer but well-hidden incision. The lower body can be ‘lifted’ at the same time. These latter procedures are usually reserved for patients who have undergone massive weight loss, where the overall deflation of fat from under the skin of the entire body leads to loosening both at the front and rear.

What can I expect from the procedure?

Before the procedure.

Pre-operatively, you will be assessed carefully at the plastic surgery clinic to find out which procedure you are a candidate for, as well as optimization of any other medical conditions you may have to maximize the success of the surgery and minimize complications. Right before the procedure, markings will be made, usually while you are in a standing position. You will then be given sedation or general anaesthesia.


During the procedure.

Intra-operatively, the surgeon will follow the pre-operative markings to excise a precise amount of skin. The skin is dissected for a variable distance off the muscular fascia of the abdomen so that it can be pulled down without tension. If the muscular fascia is weak, this is repaired. The umbilicus is then brought out through a new position in the skin that has been pulled down. If there is a large amount of potential space, drains may be, but not always, inserted. You will be monitored in the recovery area after the operation. Quite often, these procedures can be performed as day surgery, without a need for a hospital stay.

After the procedure.

Post-operatively, you will be provided a binder or pressure garment, which can aid in healing and reduction of swelling. Initially, the abdominal wall may feel tight, but will slowly stretch in the weeks after surgery. Pain is usually well controlled with oral painkillers. The abdominal incision takes 2 weeks to heal, after which you can commence the light exercise. Full exercise and activities including swimming can start 4-6 weeks after the procedure. Your surgeon will provide you with close follow-up and scar management to ensure optimal results. Lymphatic massage will be taught to you to help with the reduction in swelling. It can take up to 3-6 months for the final results of abdominoplasty to be seen.

Complications of tummy tuck surgery are uncommon, but can include early complications such as bleeding, infection, and wound breakdown. Later complications include hypertrophic or keloidal scarring, asymmetry and contour deformities. Whilst your surgeon will strive to give you the best possible results in a single setting, if any of the above occur, they are correctable.

Recovery after Tummy Tuck

In general, a tummy tuck can be performed as a day surgery procedure. In the days after, you may feel tight in the abdominal area especially on trying to stand up straight. You should not force this as over the next week this will return to normal. You may have drains to remove excess post-operative fluid, which are usually removed within the first week. Your provided binder or pressure garment will help with both of the above. You are advised to take oral painkillers regularly for the first 3-4 days to keep any discomfort at bay. You can shower and walk around, but should ideally rest as much as possible during the first week.

After the first week, you will feel a lot better. The swelling in the abdominal area will begin to subside and any bruises will dissipate. You should be able to stand up close to your pre-operative posture, and may even find an improvement in your core muscles especially if the widening of the rectus muscles was repaired. You can begin a lymphatic massage to help with the reduction of swelling. The pressure garment should be worn consistently for the first 2 weeks, day and night. During the second week, you can get back to almost all daily activities on your own.

At 2 weeks, about 70% of swelling should have subsided, and the surgical incision will be reviewed and exposed.. If it is healing well, you will be allowed to proceed to light exercise. This is gradually built up over the following month and you should reach full exercise at around 6-8 weeks after surgery. Scar prevention is started after the wounds are exposed.

At 2-3 months after surgery, the majority of swelling would have settled. The scar, initially red in colour, would also fade gradually into a thin line close to normal skin colour. Time to get back to the beach!

Are there any alternatives?

In recent years, there has been a rise in minimally invasive therapies such as threads, energy devices, and cryotherapy which have been purported to help with excess abdominal fat and skin. Some of these can have good effects, but these results are usually limited, require repeat procedures, and are not without complications. For a moderate amount of excess skin and fat and beyond, the surgical option is the most effective and efficient treatment.

How do I find out more?

To find out more, it is best to arrange a consult with a qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon, who will perform a thorough assessment and, in discussion with you, recommend the appropriate strategy. Tummy tuck cost in Singapore can range according to the type of procedure required, so do check with the surgeon about the options. 


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