close up of woman's stomach with a finger touching her stomach

Loose and sagging skin around the abdomen and stomach often results from pregnancy or extreme weight loss. An abdominoplasty – better known as a tummy tuck – can remove excess skin and tighten underlying abdominal muscles. As a result, your stomach will look smoother and flatter.

In some cases, patients may not need a full tummy tuck. Those with fat deposits primarily below the navel can opt for a mini-abdominoplasty, also called a mini tummy tuck. This procedure leaves a smaller scar and comes with a shorter recovery period.

Below, we will offer a brief overview of the primary difference between the two procedures. 

Full Tummy Tuck Vs. Mini Tummy Tuck: Key Differences 

Both a tummy tuck and a mini tummy tuck entail the same basic steps. Your surgeon makes a horizontal incision — usually just above the pubic region. They then remove excess skin and fat and then may tighten the underlying muscle before closing the incision.

However, there are several substantial differences between the two procedures.

Length Of The Incision

With a regular tummy tuck, your surgeon will make an incision running from hip to hip. An additional incision around the belly button allows the skin to be repositioned while keeping the belly button in its original location. The muscles get tightened from the bottom of the breast bone to the top of the pubic bone.

During a mini tummy tuck, the incision is much shorter. The precise length varies from patient-to-patient, but is generally between four to eight inches long. As a result, the scar from a mini tummy tuck will be much less noticeable and easier to hide.  However, much less tightening can be achieved with a mini tummy tuck, and therefore is the correct procedure only for certain patients.

Size Of Treatment Area

A mini-tummy tuck focuses primarily on the lower abdomen, alternating nothing above the belly button. A regular tummy tuck treats the entire abdominal region.

The Length Of The Recovery Period

A regular tummy tuck comes with a lengthier and more intense recovery period. Patients often need two to three weeks of reduced activity and full recovery can take up to two months. During a portion of this time, many patients will be required to have surgical drains to collect excess fluid the body expels during healing.

A mini tummy tuck still requires a recovery period, but it is generally much shorter. Most patients only require a week of reduced activity and full recovery may take as little as four weeks.

Which Procedure Is Right For Me?

The best way to assess the right treatment route for you is to book a consultation with a plastic surgeon. They will examine the abdominal tissue and make recommendations from there, and will also discuss your personal goals and expectations.

In general, a mini-tummy tuck is for people whose upper abdomen is still relatively firm and has minimal stretch marks.

A full tummy tuck is more often used for individuals who have more skin and abdominal wall laxity. This can be caused from pregnancy or weight loss. These patients may have loose skin and weaker muscles in the upper abdomen.

Is A Mini Tummy Tuck Less Risky?

A mini tummy tuck comes with the same risks as a full tummy tuck, which include:

  • Bleeding
  • Tissue death (fat/skin necrosis)
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Infection
  • Numbness in treatment area
  • Poor wound healing
  • Skin discoloration and prolonged swelling

A mini tummy tuck may come with a slightly lower risk of complications related to anesthesia, as the procedure as a whole is shorter. It is unclear if other complications are more likely to occur with a full tummy tuck. Overall, the risk for both procedures is very low.

With a mini tummy tuck, the potential for patient dissatisfaction may be higher as results will be less dramatic. Some patients may opt for follow-up treatments after a mini tummy tuck.

This is why it is important to discuss your expectations in detail during your initial consultation to ensure a mini tummy tuck can reasonably meet your goals.

The Bottom Line

Loose, sagging skin near the abdomen commonly occurs after extreme weight loss or pregnancy. In most cases, this cannot be treated without cosmetic surgery. Both a full and mini tummy tuck can surgically remove excess skin and leave your stomach looking flatter and firmer. This can increase your self-esteem and self-image.

While a mini tummy tuck comes with less scarring and a milder recovery period, it is not always adequate if you have loose, sagging skin throughout the entire abdomen. A consultation with a qualified plastic surgeon can help you determine the best treatment route for you.

Ready to get started? Leif Rogers is an Ivy League-educated, board-certified plastic surgeon and a standing member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you’re considering a tummy tuck, get in touch with his team to schedule a consultation.

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