How long do mini tummy tuck scars take to heal?

I'm terrified of having to live the rest of my life with deep marks on my belly. Pregnancy did enough damage already. However, the scar should be below of the panty line, so at least I know it's not going to be THAT noticeable, but I'd like to know what my options are to reduce the appearance of a mini tummy tuck scar as much as possible. Are there any surgery techniques I should ask about?

alejandrah1

F, 38, Vermont

Tags:woman age 35-44 belly scar healing

You are correct, a typical full abdominoplasty is often performed after bearing children. It can be a powerful procedure that can flatten and remove excess skin and fat from both above and below the belly button and tighten the abdominal muscles. The trade off is a scar in the bikini line that extends hip to hip and a scar around the belly button. The scar usually heals well, but the quality of the scar mostly depends on two things - how careful the incision is put together and the quality of the skin. 

Post-operative scar management strategies can help scars to mature the best they can. These include the use of sunscreen, such as Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Dry-Touch Sunscreen, to keep the incisions from getting too pink, gentle massage of the incisions and operative area, to encourage blood flow and to keep the scars from getting too raised, and the use of a silicone based scar gel, such as ScarAway 100% Silicone Self Drying Scar Repair Gel, to help encourage optimal scar maturation. These strategies are continued for the full scar maturation period of 9 months to a year.

A detailed examination will help delineate the best surgical option. Consultation with a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery would be the next best step.

Mini abdominoplasty is indicated for patients who do not have a lot of excess skin but have laxity of the abdominal wall between their navel and pubic area. In some cases, a mini tummy tuck procedure requires a smaller incision across the lower abdomen than traditional abdominoplasty, however, the longer the incision, the more loose skin and excess fat that can be removed.

There is some flexibility with where the incision is made. It can be placed just above the pubic hairline or higher if the patient desires. The scar that results is comparable in location and size to a C-section scar.

Many patients who are contemplating tummy tuck surgery (or a mini tummy tuck, as you are) express concern about the scar that will result. While it’s true that any form of tummy tuck surgery will leave a horizontal scar below the panty line, understanding the scar formation process, the recovery time and your role in helping the scar to heal well will alleviate some of these fears.

Scars form when skin heals over a wound. The body manufactures collagen fibers to build up at the wound site to protect the affected area. Blood supply is also increased to the area to support the scar formation, which contributes to the red/purple shade of scars. The combination of collagen production and increased blood supply also causes the scar to thicken and become more prominent in appearance. This stage lasts approximately 3-6 months. Following this, some of the collagen will begin to break down and the scar will become thinner and lighter in appearance, eventually fading to a white color. This process of scar maturation takes one or more years to occur.

Your plastic surgeon will provide you with post-op guidelines that will help you care for the scar so it heals as well as possible. Some common instructions include:

  • Use a compression garment: Compression helps to reduce the likelihood of raised scars. The compressive force exerted by the garment forces collagen build-up to break down and be reabsorbed by the body. The scars ultimately become flatter and less noticeable.
  • Protect your scar from the sun: Sunburn can permanently redden a scar, leaving it more noticeable.
  • Massage your scar: Gentle massage can help prevent the buildup of scar tissue.
  • Use approved topical treatments to minimize scarring: Silicone sheets have been proven to help reduce the appearance of scars.

With proper postoperative care, it is very likely you’ll be left with a small, barely noticeable scar that will continue to fade over time.

All invasive plastic surgery requires incisions which result in scars. As you mentioned, the incisions for tummy tuck surgery are made below the panty line so the scar can be cleverly concealed. While a scar is inevitable, with proper care and attention it should heal well and with time become almost imperceptible.

A mini tummy tuck requires a horizontal incision that extends a few centimeters or more across the lower abdomen. This small incision is usually located just above the pubic hair line. If you had a C-section when you gave birth, the tummy tuck incision will be in a very similar position.

Proper postoperative scar management can significantly assist the healing of your scar. In the early days following surgery:

  • Follow your surgeon's instructions regarding care of your incision: Keep the incision clean and dry. If you suspect the incision is becoming infected or inflamed, contact your surgeon immediately. Infections can lead to poor healing and more pronounced scars.
  • Use approved topical scar treatments: Once your scar is healed and any scabbing has fallen off, you can begin applying scar reduction products. Silicone sheets, gel or cream are a clinically proven way to minimize scarring. Also, they are similar to the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, and encourage normal hydration of the scar tissue.
  • Massage and moisturize the scar: Products containing Vitamin E, shea butter or cocoa butter can be massaged into scars to discourage scar tissue buildup and promote fluid or lymphatic drainage. Check with your plastic surgeon to verify which products he or she recommends.
  • Avoid exposing the scar to the sun: Sun exposure and sunburn can permanently discolor a scar, leaving it with a red or purple appearance. Avoid exposing your incision to the sun, or if you do, first cover it in broad spectrum SPF sun protection.
  • Avoid irritating clothing: Anything that rubs against your scar or irritates it will likely make it more inflamed and hinder the healing process.

If you take good care of your scar, you should be left with a very faint silvery or white mark that will further fade over time. However, scarring also depends on the skill and experience of your plastic surgeon -- skin that is pulled and sutured too tightly will create more tension around the wound, leading to an increased risk of hypertrophic scars. This is why it’s best to find an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon to perform your surgery.

Ultimately, the majority of patients are very satisfied with their leaner, smoother, more contoured abdomen and report that the small scar or scars that result are worth it. I’ve seen in my own practice how mini tummy tucks make a dramatic improvement to a woman's physique and self-confidence.

Mini abdominoplasty surgery involves body contouring of the lower portion of the abdomen, below the navel line. It removes loose, crepey skin, flattens the stomach and can also repair the lower abdominal wall if the stomach muscles have split. It is ideal for women who’ve noticed skin laxity and excess fat following childbirth and can’t get rid of the loose skin through exercise or diet.

A scar is an inevitable part of mini tummy tuck surgery, but the good news is that the scar can be very easily concealed and will fade over time. The best plastic surgeons will consult with you about the scar placement and length so you’re fully aware of what to expect and are comfortable. It is critical to find an experienced surgeon to perform your mini tummy tuck as it’s their talent and technique that will determine the scar you’re left with.

One of the most influential factors in scar formation is the way the incision is sutured. Ideally, the incision should bear the least amount of tension possible once it’s been stitched closed.

Good surgeons understand skin tension lines and how blood is supplied to the margins of the wound. Incisions that are closed too tightly can result in raised hypertrophic scars and complications. This is why finding a reputable, board-certified surgeon to perform your procedure is so essential.


 

Your surgeon will also provide you with postoperative care instructions that will help you to care for your scar and minimize its appearance. Use of silicone gel sheets or topical silicone gels has been clinically proven to hydrate the outer layer of the skin, helping to reduce collagen production resulting in a flatter, smoother scar.

With proper care and attention, you should expect your scar to turn to a faint, white line and be fully healed after one year. The appearance will possible fade even more as time passes.