Is Liposuction or a Tummy Tuck Better for a Flatter Stomach?
Liposuction, also known as lipectomy, is a minimally invasive cosmetic surgical procedure where excess fat is permanently suctioned out from targeted areas of the body, thereby reshaping and adding contour to that area. Liposuction reduces stubborn fat in areas of the body resistant to conventional weight loss methods like dietary modification and regular exercise.
A tummy tuck, also known as Abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure wherein excess skin is removed from the stomach area, which has a smoothing and tightening effect on your mid-section.
Both the surgeries are similar, yet apply different surgical techniques to get the desired tummy shape. Each has its own merits and demerits.
You should know about both and find out the difference between the two procedures, before deciding which procedure is best for you.
Am I a Good Candidate? Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck
Both liposuction and tummy tuck are beneficial in people with body contouring goals. But they have some important differences:
Liposuction is a highly individualised cosmetic procedure. It may be the procedure for you if:
- You are of normal weight range with firm skin but have excess fat deposited in certain areas of the body only.
- You have a realistic expectation regarding the result of the procedure.
- Despite sticking to a healthy diet plan and regularly exercising, you cannot get rid of stubborn fat from certain areas of your body.
- You are seeking to enhance your body contour.
A tummy tuck may be the procedure for you if:
- You are physically healthy and in a stable weight range.
- You are not currently pregnant.
- You are experiencing loose skin around your abdomen following significant weight loss.
- You want proper contouring to your sagging tummy after pregnancy.
- You have realistic goals from the procedure.
Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck – The Procedure
Liposuction can be done under local anesthesia, intravenous sedation, or general anesthesia; your surgeon will help make the best decision as to what method of anesthesia to use. There are different ways in which the fat cells can be removed; the fat removal method is chosen during your consultation, depending on your treatment goals and site from where fat is being removed.
It is the most popular method of fat extraction/ liposuction. Intumescent liposuction is done as follows:
- Small, inconspicuous incisions are made around the target site from where fat is to be removed. This helps in reducing post-operative scarring.
- First, diluted local anesthesia is infused to reduce discomfort, bleeding, and trauma.
- A thin cannula is then inserted through the incisions to loosen and dislodge excess fat cells from the site using a controlled back and forth motion.
- The dislodged fat is then suctioned out of the body using a syringe attached to the cannula.
- The incisions are then stitched after fat removal.
Other methods of fat removal through liposuction are:
Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL)
Also known as ultrasonic liposuction or a Vaser Lipo, is a recent addition in the field of body sculpting cosmetic surgery. In UAL, the cannula is first energized with ultrasound, making it ultrasonographically charged, and is inserted through multiple small incisions.
The cannula’s ultrasound vibrations destroy the fat cells’ walls, emulsify, or liquefy the fat, making it easier to suction out; using suction-assisted liposuction.
The procedure involved is similar to tumescent liposuction. The only difference being this procedure involves using a specialised cannula with a mechanized system, which vibrates back and forth rapidly to accelerate the breakdown of the fat cells, which can be easily removed. This allows for the procedure to be completed in less time, tissue trauma is minimal using this method, and the recovery is also quick.
The stepwise procedure involved in Tummy Tuck is enlisted below:
The procedure of Tummy Tuck is done under General anesthesia. After administration of the anesthetic:
- The amount of skin to be removed is marked before the operation.
- An incision is made that spans the entire length of the abdomen.
- After incising, the abdominal skin is lifted upwards; however, your umbilicus remains attached to the underlying abdominal skin and isn’t lifted. As a result of which a circular hole is created in the lifted flap of skin.
- Abdominal musculature is then clearly revealed with the attached umbilicus, the exposed muscle layer is tightened using a running suture, and your muscles are brought together into the midline.
- Excess skin is then pulled downward; the amount of it to be removed is marked. The original hole lifted along with the skin initially lies below this line and gets resected along with the excess skin, and the wound is closed.
Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck – Results
It is a method for permanent fat removal from the targeted side; however, significant weight gain or subsequent pregnancy after liposuction can result in fat cells from other parts of the body getting redistributed to these parts and diminish the results produced by liposuction.
A tummy tuck can restore the abdomen’s contour by removing excess fat and skin by bringing the rectus abdominis back together. The results following a tummy tuck procedure are usually permanent. But this can be hampered by significant fluctuations in weight and subsequent pregnancy.
Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck – Benefits
Both procedures have their benefits.
- Helps get rid of excess stubborn fat, not responding to conventional methods of weight reduction.
- The procedure can be done with few small incisions with minimal post-operative scarring; plus the downtime following surgery is less, meaning you can resume your normal activities within a few days of the procedure.
- Provides an enhanced contour to your body, and your clothes fit better.
- Improves your abdominal tone.
- Helps remove excess skin from the abdomen following significant weight loss after pregnancy or any other condition.
- Helps improve posture.
- Enhances your self-confidence with a chiselled look.
Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck – Recovery
Bandages and compression garments will be applied over your incisions sites and surrounding areas. Temporary surgical drains may also drain out excess local anesthetic or blood build-up under the skin. The dressings must remain in place for one week. You can still shower despite the dressings. Compression garments must be worn for up to six weeks following the surgery.
You will require someone to drive you home from John Flynn Private Hospital where your surgery will be performed. You might need to take leave from work for a few days, depending on the severity of the treatment you have.
Tenderness, bruising, and swelling commonly occur after the surgery. You will be prescribed pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics as needed to help you manage these common conditions. Infections after liposuction is a rare finding but can easily be managed with antibiotics.
You will be required to meet the surgeon for follow-ups to ensure the healing process is going on properly. Normal work can be resumed in about two weeks after the surgery, but this is individual-specific and extensiveness of the surgery; however, it can take several months to recover completely after the surgery and see full results in treated areas.
Drainage tubes will be placed under your skin to prevent fluid accumulation and allow the incisions to heal properly, which will be placed for about a week or two following surgery. It would be best if you avoid showering or making the area wet for the period.
You should stay in the hospital for 24 hours for monitoring purposes. Pain, swelling, and bruising are common after the procedure. Still, the majority of swelling should subside after about six weeks, and you will be prescribed with pain-medications to relieve pain and be given to wear pressure garments. It should be worn for about three weeks postoperatively. Antibiotics will also be given to prevent infection at the wound site.
You will be able to return to light activity within about two weeks after a tummy tuck. Still, you should always consult with your surgeon before resuming any strenuous physical activity. Complete recovery and the final result can be appreciated six months after the surgery.
Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck – Risks and Complications
Complications associated with liposuction include:
- Complications related to anesthesia: Development of rashes, loss of consciousness
- Infection at the incision site
- Bruising at the incision site
- Persistent swelling
- Poor wound healing
- Persistent numbness and change in skin sensation
- Damage to underlying structures such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and nearby organs
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Seroma formation
- Irregular pigmentation
- Irregular contour
- Heat injury from ultrasound charged cannulas in Vaser lipoplasty technique
- Fat embolism
A re-surgery may be required if the results obtained are asymmetric or in cases of complications.
Complications associated with a tummy tuck include:
- As the operation requires general anesthesia, complications related to anesthetics like dizziness and loss of consciousness may occur
- Bleeding from the incision site
- Infection at the incision site
- Persistent pain
- Seroma- Fluid accumulation
- Poor wound healing of the wound site
- Large visible scarring
- Skin loss more than anticipated
- Changes in skin sensation around the area of surgery
- Change in skin colour
- Recurrent looseness of skin
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Asymmetric skin removal results
- Possibility of a revision surgery
Which Procedure Is Best For Me, Tummy Tuck or Liposuction?
There is not an exact answer as to which one you should choose. As for which procedure is best for achieving a flat tummy, it depends on your goals and your situation.
If you’re looking to just lose the stubborn fats from your stomach, which will make your stomach smooth then you should probably choose liposuction. But, if you want to lose excess skin from the tummy area then a tummy tuck is your best option.
These two procedures can be considered complementary to one another. Combining liposuction with tummy tuck will give you the benefits of both surgeries removing both excess fats from under the skin around the abdomen and excess skin as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is liposuction different from tummy tucks?
Tummy tucks are a surgical procedure. In addition to removing excess fat from the abdomen area, excess skin is also removed during pregnancy and significant weight changes when the skin around gets stretched. A tummy tuck can restore the abdomen’s contour by removing excess fat and skin by bringing the rectus abdominis back together. The results following a tummy tuck procedure are permanent.
Whereas in liposuction, excess fats are suctioned out from your body, liposuction does not get rid of excess skin; you will require an additional procedure for that. It is a method for permanent fat removal from the targeted side; however, significant weight gain after liposuction can result in fat cells from other parts of the body getting redistributed and diminish the results produced by liposuction.
Can liposuction cause scars?
Any procedure involving cutting layers of skin results in wounds and hence scars visible for some time; liposuction is no exception. However, excessive scarring is not routinely seen after liposuction due to thin cannulas for the procedure.
How long is a tummy tuck recovery?
After a tummy tuck, you will be able to return to light activity within a fortnight and the majority of swelling should subside after about six weeks. Complete recovery following the surgery will take about half-a-year.
How much weight can I lose with liposuction?
Liposuction should not be taken as an operation to reduce weight. You will lose only about 1-4 kilograms following liposuction.
Does tummy tuck include love handles?
No, the tummy tuck procedure does not cover love handles but a variant of tummy tuck known as an extended tummy tuck covers love handles.
How long does liposuction last? Will the fat come back after the procedure?
Liposuction is a permanent fat removal method, fat cells, once removed, do not come back. However, they can get redistributed from other sites when you gain weight. So it is of paramount importance that you exercise and maintain a diet to complement the results of liposuction.
Will my insurance cover Liposuction?
As Liposuction is a cosmetic surgery procedure, done mostly without medical indications, you will have to bear all costs as your insurance cover will not cover it.
Will an insurance cover for a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck is a cosmetic surgical procedure, generally undertaken without any medical indications; insurance companies usually don’t cover for that. So you are expected to bear all costs of a tummy tuck on your own. If you choose to undergo Tummy Tuck surgery for medical indications, Medicare and your insurance may cover a portion of the cost. Find out the criteria in our blog, Will Medicare Cover my Abdominoplasty?
How can I flatten my stomach after liposuction?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising and dieting can complement liposuction results in weight reduction and give you a contoured aesthetic-looking stomach.
- The Best BMI and Ideal Weight for Abdominoplasty
- How to Know if Your Abdominal Muscles Were Torn During Pregnancy
- Will Medicare Cover my Abdominoplasty Tummy Tuck?
- Bra Line Back Lift Surgery for Excess Loose Skin (and Stubborn Back Fat)
- How to Lose Weight Before Surgery
- Combining Plastic Surgeries: When Can Multiple Procedures Be Combined?
- Risks of Liposuction – ASPS
- Liposuction – Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery
- Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck) – Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons
- What is the Difference Between a Tummy Tuck and Liposuction?
About Dr Mark Doyle FRACS (Plast) – Queensland Plastic Surgeon
Servicing patients in Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Cairns and New South Wales NSW – Northern Rivers, Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore and more.
Dr Mark Doyle is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon with over thirty years of experience performing Breast, Body, Face and Nose surgery. As a highly esteemed plastic surgeon, Dr Mark is driven by an intense passion for helping patients achieve a happier, more beautiful self through advanced cosmetic surgery procedures.
He maintains a strong commitment to achieving the best possible results for all his breast, body, face and nose patients, both men and women.