Health Cover Stories

Tighten Up

After body-altering events like pregnancy and weight loss, adults often end up with sagging abdominal skin and belly fat deposits that won’t go away. It’s a frustrating issue, but it can be addressed with the help of a knowledgeable physician, says Dr. Terry Myckatyn of West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University.

He and his colleague, Dr. Marissa Tenenbaum, understand that each patient needs a personalized solution to the problem. Doctors can customize abdominoplasty surgery (commonly known as a tummy tuck) to remove excess skin and fat, tighten lax abdominal muscles and restore a more pleasing appearance. In women who have been pregnant, the procedure also can help remove stretch marks.

Myckatyn says the different types of abdominoplasty range from a ‘mini’ procedure with a 6- to 8-inch incision to a lower body lift with an incision around the entire abdomen. “The patient’s body type and the amount of tissue that needs to be removed determine which surgery we do,” he says. “Doctors work closely with each patient to decide what is best. We meet a couple of times before surgery to answer questions, discuss expectations and explain what the procedure involves.”

Another important reason for pre-surgery consultation is to correct any misconceptions the patient may have. For example, some people mistakenly think of abdominoplasty as a weight loss solution, Myckatyn says. “Managing patients’ expectations before the procedure is very important to their satisfaction afterward,” he notes. “The purpose of this technique is to contour the body, not reduce weight.”

After surgery, the patient typically stays overnight in the hospital and goes home the next day. Medical staff gives instructions on how to take care of the site for proper healing. “Often, patients are up and walking the day of surgery,” Myckatyn says. “We advise them on gradual exercises they can do at home to feel better, get moving and take an active role in their recovery.”

Modern abdominoplasty procedures offer significant improvements compared to earlier ones. They are less invasive, can be done without installing drains in the skin, and require less pain management afterward. “We use progressive tension sutures that prevent fluid from building up, and improved scar therapy supports the surgical site and lets healing occur as the stitches dissolve,” Myckatyn explains. “This helps minimize scar tissue and improves appearance.”

He says his practice is committed to expert, compassionate care and follow-up to ensure that patients heal well and are happy with their results. He also advises men and women to be especially thorough when deciding on a surgeon. “If you go to a doctor who only offers one type of abdominoplasty, that can be a red flag,” he notes. “Look for a provider who is board certified in plastic surgery and offers a range of experience and surgical options, which is especially helpful if you need specialized surgery. We believe care and treatment should be personalized to each individual’s needs.”

West County Plastic Surgeons of Washington University provides modern, compassionate care for abdominoplasty patients. For more information, call 314.996.8800 or visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler

Pictured at top: Dr. Marissa Tenenbaum, Dr. Terry Myckatyn
Photo courtesy of Washington University Physicians