Ask anyone the key to trimming down and toning up, and you’re likely to get the same answer: eat well and exercise regularly. But sometimes your diet and your workout can only do so much in terms of transforming the body, particularly in areas like the stomach. Especially after significant changes in your figure—such as major weight gain or loss, or pregnancy—a healthy lifestyle alone is unlikely to fully tighten things up.
When our best efforts fail to yield the results we're looking for, we turn to the pros. One option, specifically for targeting excess skin and fat in the abdomen, is a tummy tuck. But with an extensive recovery process and significant scarring, the procedure is no simple solution. Luckily, there is a far less invasive alternative, especially for those specifically concerned with the area below the belly button. Enter: the mini tummy tuck.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about the standard tummy tuck’s little sister, the mini tummy tuck, according to surgeons Raj Mohan, MN, and Samuel Lin, MD.
Meet the Expert
- Raj Mohan, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in aesthetic and reconstructive surgeries of the face, breast, and body. He’s based in Dallas.
- Samuel Lin, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School.
What Is a Mini Tummy Tuck?
Similar to a regular tummy tuck, a mini tummy tuck (also called a mini abdominoplasty or partial abdominoplasty) is a surgery focused on flattening the abdomen by removing excess skin and fat from the area. However, unlike a standard tummy tuck, which addresses areas both above and below the belly button, a mini tummy tuck addresses only the area below the belly button according to Lin.
Some surgeons also tighten the lower abdomen muscles during a tummy tuck, though that’s not always the case—Mohan says it’s generally decided on a case-by-case basis.
The procedure, which is less invasive than a traditional tummy tuck, can be a good option for people who have sagging skin or a slight pooch below their belly button, says Lin. Emphasis on the word “slight”—someone with a large amount of excess skin would likely require a more extensive procedure than a mini tummy tuck, he says, as it focuses on a fairly narrow swath of skin.
Lin notes excess skin in the lower abdomen area is often a result of pregnancy or significant weight loss (or gain), so candidates should wait until after childbearing is complete and they feel their weight is fairly stable to have the procedure done.
Benefits of a Mini Tummy Tuck
While the results are certainly more limited than a full tummy tuck, there’s still much to gain from the procedure. Benefits of a mini tummy tuck include:
- Tightened and flattened lower abdomen: Excess skin is trimmed and laid flat during a mini tummy tuck, making the area flatter and tighter post-procedure.
- Permanent results: Barring pregnancy or significant changes in weight, mini tummy tucks give permanent results.
- Potential stretch mark removal: Since the lower abdominal skin is a common area for stretch marks, mini tummy tucks may remove stretch marks in this area depending on placement, says Lin.
- Easier, shorter recovery period (compared to a traditional tummy tuck): Because it’s less invasive than a standard tummy tuck, a mini tummy tuck offers an easier recovery with less discomfort and a smaller resulting scar, according to Mohan.
The opportunity to combine other treatments along with a mini tummy tuck is another appealing aspect of the procedure, says Mohan. Many choose to get liposuction, not only on the abdomen area but also along the thighs, buttocks, and back area.
In terms of recovery, patients often return home the day of the surgery and are able to walk within a day or so, Lin shares. They can return to work within three to four weeks and resume physical activity and remove compression bandages within six weeks.
How to Prepare for a Mini Tummy Tuck
It should go without saying, but it always bears repeating: The best way to prepare for any sort of elective surgery is by first consulting with a board-certified plastic surgeon. Don’t be afraid to meet a few surgeons, ask for second opinions, etc.
Mohan says you’ll need to get lab testing or medical clearance prior to the procedure, depending on circumstances. Plan to stop certain medications like blood thinners and, for those who smoke, stop smoking several weeks before the mini tummy tuck to ensure optimal healing.
What to Expect During a Mini Tummy Tuck
Typically performed under general anesthesia, a mini tummy tuck usually takes two to three hours. Expect to go home a few hours after the procedure finishes.
If you’re also having liposuction to remove excess fat, Mohan says the surgeon will perform lipo first. Once complete, the surgeon will make a short incision around the bikini line, just above the pubic area (similar to the placement of a C-section scar), Lin says. If needed, the doctor will tighten the abdominal muscles at this point (which, again, is decided on a case-by-case basis).
Then, Lin explains, excess skin is removed from the lower belly area and drains may be inserted to prevent fluid buildup. Some surgeons will also trim off some fat on the underside of the remaining skin to create a thinner fat layer. The incision is carefully closed with dissolvable stitches, surgical tape, or glue, and dressings are applied. Once you recover from the anesthesia, it’s time to head home.
While the surgery itself isn’t painful (thank you, anesthesia), expect some discomfort during recovery. If the abdominal muscles were tightened, expect more significant pain. Lin says patients can expect to resume some light activity within a few days of the procedure—Mohan says patients can even return to work and drive within a week. That being said, Lin suggests waiting three to four weeks post-op to resume work.
After one to two weeks, dressings will be removed, though expect to continue wearing compression garments for up to six weeks, Mohan says. This will help limit swelling and maintain the contour of the results, according to Lin. Both surgeons suggest limiting physical activity for six weeks post-procedure. The resulting scar is usually less than six inches long.
Potential Side Effects
As with any procedure (especially elective, cosmetic ones), there are risks involved. Potential side effects include scarring, bleeding, bruising, infection, and prolonged swelling, according to Lin. And, of course, there’s the potential for dissatisfaction with the results and possible revision surgery. All that being said, it is considered a generally safe procedure.
Prices vary widely based on the surgeon, geographic location, and other factors. Mohan says to expect to pay between $4,000 to $7,000 for a mini tummy tuck, while Lin approximates a range of $6,000 to $15,000. Remember that this price does not include related expenses like garments, prescription medications, and potential hospital or anesthesia fees.
The Final Takeaway
At the end of the day, cosmetic surgeries—be they tummy tucks, mini tummy tucks, or even rhinoplasties—are electives, not necessities. It's important to remember that these procedures are not without risk, and further complications down the line are always possible. So if you're not bothered by a little stomach pooch (and there's no reason why you should be), then that's that; no mini tummy tuck for you. But if excess skin and fat below the belly button have you feeling down, it's nice to know there's an option to consider.
What is a mini tummy tuck?
It is a tummy tuck with a smaller incision that removes less skin than a traditional tummy tuck. It focuses only on the area below the belly button.
What's the difference between a tummy tuck and a mini tummy tuck?
Similar to a regular tummy tuck, a mini tummy tuck is a surgery that focuses on flattening the abdomen and removing excess skin. A mini tummy tuck addresses only the area below the belly button whereas a regular tummy tuck addresses the areas above and below the belly button.
Who is a good candidate for a mini tummy tuck?
A good candidate for a mini tummy tuck has a moderate amount of loose skin in the area below the belly button. Additionally, they must be healthy enough to undergo elective surgery.