Tummy tuck is an effective surgical technique to flatten abdominal contour by tightening the abdominal wall muscles and removing excess skin and soft tissue of the lower abdomen. As with all cosmetic surgeries, the trade-off is the resultant scars. Where are tummy tuck scars placed? Patients frequently ask regarding ways to minimize the appearance of tummy tuck scars, which will also be discussed.
Location of tummy tuck scars
Scars following tummy tuck surgery are placed transversely along the lower abdomen (from hip to hip) and around the belly button. This lower abdominal scar is generally concealed by swimwear and undergarments. As the skin and soft tissues are elevated during a standard tummy tuck, the belly button stays attached to the abdominal wall on its stalk. This preserves the blood supply of the belly button. After redundant skin and soft tissue is removed, the belly button is then brought out through the abdominal skin flap through a small incision. In a mini tummy tuck, the transverse scar on the lower abdomen is generally shorter since there is less redundant skin and soft tissue to remove. There is also no additional scar around the belly button in a mini tummy tuck.
Ways to improve the appearance of tummy tuck scars:
Although patients are often drawn to expensive scar management products, most scars will improve with the passage of time. Scars mature over one year post-operatively. Initially they will appear pink and blanch with pressure. Scars mature and generally fade to skin color over one year. Additional recommendations will be made based on healing and any risk factors identified for more prominent scarring.
For patients prone to thicker scars, silicone sheeting is an option. These strips of silicone are placed directly overlying scars. They must be worn 24 hours a day except when showering for 3-4 months to be effective. The mechanism is believed to be related to increased scar temperature and hydration. Silicone gel is not recommended for use on the body given the need for frequent reapplication, which is less cost effective than silicone sheeting. Dr. Power will discuss silicone sheeting if recommended for tummy tuck scars based on early healing or if any risk factors are identified. Most patients do not require this treatment for tummy tuck scars.
Paper tape is recommended for most patients for tummy tuck scars over the first few months post-operatively. It should applied directly overlying the lower abdomen and belly button scars. Applying paper tape full-time except when showering may promote scar remodeling during early healing. It likely works through a similar mechanism as silicone sheeting and is a less expensive product.
Tummy tuck scars may become thicker over the first 4-6 weeks post-operatively during immature wound healing. Scar massage is encouraged beginning approximately 3 weeks following tummy tuck surgery. Dr. Power will demonstrate appropriate massage technique during follow up. It is recommended several times per day to promote scar remodeling. Scar massage may flatten and soften immature tummy tuck scars. It also helps to desensitize the scars. Scar massage may be effective until scars are mature by one year post-operatively, but may generally be discontinued once scars are soft and not sensitive.
It is important to avoid UV exposure on immature tummy tuck scars. This may lower the risk of permanent pigmentation changes of the scars. If an immature scar is exposed to the sun, hypo- or hyperpigmentation may result, creating a scar that is lighter or darker than background skin pigmentation.
If interested in discussing abdominal contouring, please contact us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Power. She will give personalized recommendations based on clinical presentation and aesthetic goals. Management of tummy tuck scars will be discussed in detail following surgery to help you achieve the best possible result.