Belly Fat: What Can We Remove with a Tummy Tuck? 

types of belly fat

When it comes to losing weight, most people think that plastic surgery is an easy fix. But, plastic surgery isn’t for everyone. There’s an important factor to consider: the type of belly fat you have on your body. There are two types of belly fat – visceral and subcutaneous.

The primary type of fat you have will determine your candidacy for plastic surgery procedures. This article will explore each type of abdominal fat and the implications it has for plastic surgery.

Tummy tuck and liposuction both help to remove excess fat from the stomach. But certain types of belly fat cannot be safely removed. This is important for plastic surgery. Why? Because removing large amounts of ‘internal’ fat can be dangerous if attempted.

Types of Belly Fat

visceral vs subcutaneous fat

There are two types of belly fat: visceral and subcutaneous. Visceral belly fat is the type of fat that surrounds your organs and increases your risk for health problems. Subcutaneous belly fat is the type that sits under your skin and may give you a “pooch” belly.

You must understand the difference between these types of fat to know whether plastic surgery will be of benefit to you.

So, what is the difference?

Subcutaneous Belly Fat

Subcutaneous fat sits underneath your skin. This is the fat you can grab or pinch and is often what makes up a belly apron or love handles. If your stomach has more subcutaneous fat than visceral fat, you will find it is soft and squishy. 

Subcutaneous belly fat is not considered as dangerous to your health as visceral belly fat. In fact, some subcutaneous belly fat can actually be beneficial for you. This type of fat helps to insulate your organs and provides a cushion around them.

However, too much subcutaneous body fat can give you an unflattering appearance. This type of belly fat can be removed with certain plastic surgery procedures, such as a tummy tuck or liposuction. 

Visceral Belly Fat 

Visceral fat surrounds your organs and increases your risk for health problems. The type of fat is often referred to as “hidden” or “internal” belly fat. Usually, if you have a majority of visceral fat, this presents as a hard and protruding belly as well as a large waist.

Some visceral belly fat is necessary for cushioning and insulating your organs. But, too much of it can be dangerous for your health. This correlates with an increased risk for chronic health conditions (such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes).

Visceral belly fat is not something that can or should be removed with plastic surgery. In fact, trying to remove this type of fat with liposuction or a tummy tuck can be extremely dangerous.

Removing ‘Internal’ Visceral Fat with Tummy Tuck Surgery

It’s not possible to remove visceral belly fat with tummy tuck surgery. This is because a tummy tuck targets only the fat that is on or above the abdominal muscles.

tummy tuck for external fat
Illustration of how Tummy Tuck Surgery is performed. Corrections are made only above the abdominal muscle wall

If a surgeon attempts to target visceral fat, the abdominal organs are at risk. This also applies to liposuction. It’s not possible to target visceral belly fat with liposuction because the cannula (the surgical instrument used during liposuction) can only go so far without puncturing or damaging the organs. See below:

can liposuction remove visceral fat

So, if you’re considering surgery, be sure to ask your surgeon about the type of belly fat they are targeting. 

Can a Patient with a Majority of Visceral Belly Fat Still Get Plastic Surgery? 

“I still perform surgery on patients with large amounts of visceral fat, only if their main concern is loose skin. This skin can be removed but the procedure will not change the size of their belly and waist,” says Dr Doyle.

Patients with excess visceral fat often have difficulties with their healing after surgery. This complicates recovery and can be uncomfortable for the patient.

This is why it’s always recommended that you are as close as possible to your ideal weight for surgery. 

Dr Doyle

Visceral Fat and Tummy Tuck Results

Tummy tuck surgery is not a final solution for patients with excess visceral fat. The surgery only helps to improve the appearance of belly fat (and loose skin) that is above the abdominal muscles.

“I often tell patients that a tummy tuck will give them a ‘flatter’ stomach but not a ‘smaller’ stomach. This is because we can only remove skin and subcutaneous fat.” 

Dr Doyle, Specialist Plastic Surgeon

The following before and after images show tummy tuck results on a patient with a large majority of visceral fat. As you can see, the surgery reduced the amount of loose skin on her belly, but not the size of her waist. 

tummy tuck surgery before and after
Pictured 6 weeks after surgery. Post operative swelling is still present.

How to Reduce Visceral Fat

The best way to remove visceral fat is through a healthy diet and physical activity or bariatric surgery.

“I always tell my patients that the best way to reduce visceral belly fat is through a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise will help to shrink your waist and reduce your risk for chronic disease,” says Dr Doyle.

If you are considering surgery to remove belly fat, be sure to consult with a specialist plastic surgeon, and always get a second opinion.

How to Ensure the Best Results from Tummy Tuck or Liposuction

The best way to ensure good results from plastic surgery is to be as close to your ideal weight as possible. Tummy tuck and liposuction are not weight-loss solutions. Rather, they are body contouring procedures. 

If you’re considering either of these procedures, it’s recommended that you are within 5kg of your ideal body weight. You should also be able to maintain a steady weight. 

pre surgery weight loss diet plan

If your weight is unstable and fluctuates, you’ll likely compromise the results of your surgery. Maintaining your weight after surgery is as important as being close to your ideal weight before surgery.

FAQs Belly Fat and Plastic Surgery 

What does subcutaneous fat look like? 

Subcutaneous fat is the type of belly fat that lies beneath the skin. You can pinch this fat with your fingers. Usually, it looks like an ‘apron,’ ‘pooch,’ or love handles.

What does visceral fat look like? 

Visceral belly fat is the type of belly fat that surrounds the organs and abdominal cavity. You cannot pinch this fat with your fingers. Usually, it looks like a hard and protruding waist.

How can I tell which type of fat I have?

Most people have a mix of both types of fat. Usually, most people have up to 90% subcutaneous fat and 10% visceral fat. Yet, it can vary based on your weight and general health.

How to lose tummy fat?

The best way to lose belly fat is with diet and exercise. Cardiovascular and aerobic exercise can reduce both types of belly fat. If you need to lose a significant amount of weight, bariatric surgery may also be a good option.

What is the best surgery for stomach fat? 

The best surgery for belly fat is liposuction and/or tummy tuck surgery.

What is the difference between a tummy tuck and liposuction? 

Tummy tuck surgery removes excess skin and subcutaneous fat from the lower abdomen. Liposuction removes both subcutaneous fat only.

What plastic surgery makes your stomach flat?

Tummy tuck surgery is the best plastic surgery procedure for creating a flat stomach.

How much belly fat can be removed with a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck can remove up to 5kg of fat from the abdomen. However, this varies for each individual and is as a rough guide only.

Book A Consultation

If you are considering your surgical options to reduce belly fat, book a consultation with specialist plastic surgeon, Dr Mark Doyle on the Gold Coast.

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 BreastBodyFace 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.

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*DISCLAIMER: All information on Gold Coast Plastic Surgery website is general in nature and is not intended to be medical advice nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Results can vary significantly and depend on individual patient circumstances. All images on this website, unless specified as real patient images, are stock images used for illustrative purposes only. Surgery risks and complications will be covered in detail during a consultation with your surgeon. Book a consult for details regarding your cosmetic surgery procedure.