Tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure that removes redundant skin and soft tissue of the lower abdomen.  It may also tighten the core abdominal wall muscles, which commonly weaken in the midline following pregnancies or significant weight fluctuation.  The trade-off to improving abdominal contour is the resultant scarring.  Here are 5 FAQ about tummy tuck scars, which may be helpful to those considering body contouring procedures:

  • Where are tummy tuck scars?

Tummy tuck scars are created around the belly button and along the lower abdomen.  This transverse lower abdominal scar is designed to be hidden within swimwear and underclothing.  It is generally possible to remove most redundant skin and soft tissue between the belly button and lower abdominal incision.  The skin flap is then advanced downward during wound closure and the belly button is uncovered.

  • How long do tummy tuck scars last?

Tummy tuck scars will remain forever, but the appearance generally improves over time.  Scar maturation takes a full year post-operatively as collagen remodelling occurs.  Scars are initially quite pink and blanch on palpation, meaning they turn white under pressure and then immediately return to pink color when the pressure is released.  They should fade to skin tone as long as protected from the sun as maturation completes.

  • How can tummy tuck scars be optimized?

Scar massage may be helpful to desensitize and soften tummy tucks scars.  Scars are often firm to touch over the first 4-6 weeks and then gradually soften over time.  Protection from UV exposure is important to lower the risk of permanent pigmentation change.  If scars become elevated during early healing, silicone sheeting may be recommended. These are strips of silicone that are placed overlying the scars.  The mechanism is not completely understood, but silicone is believed to improve scar appearance by increasing temperature and moisture as maturation progresses.  It is recommended to wear the silicone sheeting full-time for a few months except when showering.  Specific recommendations will be made by Dr. Power if silicone sheeting is recommended based on assessment of early healing.  Applying paper tape may be a cost effective alternative to improve scar appearance.

  • How long are the scars?

A short scar extends in circular fashion around the belly button.  The lower abdomen scar varies in length based on the technique of tummy tuck.  For a standard tummy tuck, the transverse scar generally extends from hip to hip.  It is shorter for a mini tummy tuck, which may be an option for patients with less loose skin.  For patients with more extensive redundant skin and soft tissue — often following bariatric surgery — a circumferential tummy tuck may be performed, which carries the scar all the way around the body to achieve a more powerful tightening effect.

  • What are potential complications of tummy tuck scars?

In addition to risk of delayed wound healing, hypertrophic or thickened scarring may result following any surgical procedure including tummy tuck. Steroid injections or other treatments may be indicated for these cases.  If risk factors are identified for problematic scarring, this will be discussed in detail during tummy tuck consultation. Standing cone deformities (commonly referred to as “dog ears”) may result at the ends of the incisions.  These may be revised under local anesthetic in a minor office-based procedure if they persist following scar maturation.

Although scars remain following tummy tuck surgery, they are generally well-concealed in swimwear and improve in appearance over time.  Patient satisfaction rates are quite high following tummy tuck in healthy non-smokers of appropriate BMI.

Please contact us if considering tummy tuck surgery to schedule a consultation with female plastic surgeon, Dr. Stephanie Power.