Many people have questions about liposuction and tummy tucks. They tend to be confused about the differences between these procedures and have questions about which is the best option for them. So let’s talk about these two, very different, procedures. We will review what each procedure really treats, and how to figure out which one is best for you.
What is Liposuction?
Liposuction is the removal of fat from anywhere on your body. During liposuction, a special tool called a cannula is inserted under the skin through tiny incisions and then connected to a suction pump. The suction helps to remove fat cells from under the skin in the area you are concerned about. This procedure is specific for removal of fat. It does not do anything to directly improve skin, although some skin tightening can occur naturally over several months after liposuction. The scars are small and, when done properly, are usually very well hidden. Small areas of liposuction can be performed using only local anesthesia, while larger areas will require general anesthesia. The amount of fat that can be removed in a single procedure will vary by state. We consider liposuction to be a body-shaping procedure, not a weight loss procedure and requires a different way of healing.
What is a Tummy Tuck or Abdominoplasty?
A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is procedure that addresses multiple aspects of the abdomen. It removes the excess skin of the abdomen and tightens the underlying abdominal muscles that have become separated from weight changes or pregnancies. Relocation of the belly button is also a part of a tummy tuck. The belly button is brought through a new opening in the abdominal skin. Often, liposuction is performed as part of a tummy tuck to help improve the results by helping to shape the sides. Because skin is removed during a tummy tuck, there is a resulting scar. This scar can be hip-to-hip, depending on the amount of skin removed, and is placed beneath the underwear or bikini line. A tummy tuck can take 2-3 hours and requires general anesthesia administered in a properly accredited operating facility.
How to Decide if a Tummy Tuck or Liposuction is Right for You?
Deciding which procedure is right for you will depend on your specific complaints. If you are someone with tight skin but complains of excess fat, then liposuction is probably the right procedure for you. Liposuction can be performed on those specific areas that you want smaller. It is a terrific procedure for people who are in good shape and near their ideal body weight, but who have “problem areas” where there is fat that is resistant to diet and exercise. For men, these “problem areas” are commonly the chest, abdomen and flanks. For women, it is commonly the abdomen and thighs. Liposuction can be done on any other area of the body.
However, if you have hanging skin of your belly with stretch marks, then you will require removal of the skin. Also, if you have separation of your abdominal muscles, called a diasthasis, then you will require muscle tightening. Abdominal muscle separation usually occurs after pregnancy or changes in weight. Removal of the skin and tightening of the muscles can only be accomplished with a tummy tuck. Liposuction will NOT help these problems.
In general, younger patients with good skin quality, will do well with liposuction. If your skin is loose, or has a lot of stretch marks, then liposuction may actually make the appearance worse, since removing the fat will make the skin even looser. This means that people who have had frequent or significant weight fluctuations, will usually require skin removal. If you have lost a lot of weight, then it is likely that your skin is hanging and the only way to make it better is to cut it off with a tummy tuck. If you are a mommy and have had multiple pregnancies, it is likely that your skin has been stretched and is now loose. Also, pregnancy causes abdominal muscle separation. For these reasons, a tummy tuck is usually the solution for the typical “mommy belly”. Additionally, if you are older, your skin has likely lost some of its elastic properties and collagen. In these situations, the skin will not tighten after liposuction, and the appearance can be made worse unless the skin is removed.
If you have extra fat, then liposuction may be for you. If you have extra skin or separated abdominal muscles, you will likely need a tummy tuck.
Let Your Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Decide for You!
So, liposuction is a very different procedure than a tummy tuck. Your Board Certified Plastic Surgeon will be able to examine you and help you understand which is the better option for you. The recovery for a tummy tuck is harder and longer than liposuction, but it may be the best option for you. I would strongly recommend that if you need a tummy tuck, do not choose liposuction since it will only make your problem worse and you will need a tummy tuck even more.