Tummy Tuck vs Liposuction

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Dr. Jude LaBarbera, MD Plastic Surgeon


Tummy Tuck vs Liposuction

Getting rid of stubborn abdominal fat takes a significant amount of effort and determination. This includes engaging in regular exercise and sticking to a healthy diet. Abdominal sagging typically occurs after pregnancy, aging, massive weight loss, or weakened abdominal muscles. Both tummy tuck and liposuction procedures may be used to enhance and improve the shape of the belly to make it smaller, tighter, and flatter. 

Criteria Tummy Tuck Liposuction
Procedure Overview  A tummy tuck surgery gets rid of excess abdominal fats and sagging skin. It is more invasive than liposuction since it tightens the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis) to give a flat, smooth, and firm midsection contour. The surgeon administers general anesthesia to numb the pain, then makes an incision above the pubic area. They then use this incision to strengthen weakened abdominal muscles and get rid of excess skin and fat. Tummy tuck surgery is more expensive than liposuction and is usually completed in a single session lasting about 2-3 hours.  Liposuction is a minimally invasive and highly effective cosmetic procedure that aims to remove pockets of stubborn fat from different parts of the body, including the abdomen. During liposuction surgery, a surgeon administers anesthetic injections to numb the pain and reduce the risks of infections. They will then inserts a thin tube between the skin and abdominal walls to detach fat cells before vacuuming them out. Liposuction surgery is less expensive compared to a tummy tuck but may need to be completed over a number of treatment sessions.
Who is a Candidate  You may be a good candidate for abdominoplasty plastic surgery if you:

  • Are a non-smoker 
  • Are in good physical and emotional health
  • Are worried about excess fat and sagging skin 
  • Wish to enhance the appearance of your abdomen after pregnancy or childbearing 
  • Have realistic expectations about the outcome of this treatment
You may be a good candidate for liposuction cosmetic surgery if you:

  • Are a non-smoker
  • Have excellent skin elasticity
  • Have general good health
  • Not have sagging skin around the abdomen
  • Are close to your ideal body weight
Procedure outcome  Since tummy tuck surgery is more invasive, it has a permanent outcome. You will be able to achieve a firmer belly with stable abdominal walls. The excess sagging skin removed will never return unless you become pregnant again, or experience fluctuations in weight gain and loss. Every patient who undergoes liposuction expects a flatter, even, and smooth tummy. The outcome is expected to be permanent but at times, this is not the case. According to research, fat deposits removed via liposuction may reappear after a few years. This especially happens when you gain weight. The fat deposits may not necessarily appear in the areas where liposuction was performed.
Possible complications  Possible tummy tuck complications include wound infections and:

 1. Fluid accumulation – fluid pockets may accumulate under the skin which then has to be drained.

2. Sensational changes – Getting rid of excess sagging skin may reposition your abdominal tissues. This in turn will affect the superficial sensory nerves around this region as well as in the upper thighs. This might also result in numbness. 

3. Tissue necrosis – This is a condition whereby fatty tissues in the abdominal area get damaged. Tissues that fail to heal or die must be removed.

The risk of complications with liposuction increase when the procedure is being performed on different parts of the body at once. Some examples of complications include:

1. Numbness – numbness may result from the anesthetic injection in the area being treated. If this numbness persists post-surgery, it can only mean that there is a complication. 

2. Contour irregularities – Removal of excess fat lying beneath the skin leaves the skin loose. This creates a jagged and wavy impression which can make the top layer of the skin appear uneven with contours.

3. Fluid accumulation – After surgery, there is a likelihood for temporary pockets of fluid to accumulate under the skin. These would need to be drained to prevent further complications.

Other Rare Complications of Liposuction Include:

1. Internal organ puncture – because your surgeon has to insert a cannula to drain the dislocated fat deposits, any deeper penetration than the usual would result in an organ puncture.

2. Infection – chances of infection at the treatment sites may be low but all the same possible when not handled carefully. 

3. Fat embolism – this occurs when a loose piece of fat gets trapped in a blood vessel and moves to the brain or lungs.

Recovery process Post-surgery, the treatment area is covered in a surgical dressing that is designed to help with healing. With the help of a belly binder, you should be able to walk within one day to prevent the formation of blood clots. Drugs will be administered such as antibiotics and painkillers to help numb the pain and reduce the chances of infection. Surgical drains may also be put in place for at least two weeks. During this time, you will be advised to avoid any strenuous activities and heavy lifting until the surgeon gives his/her approval. Recovery time takes about six weeks. Recovery depends on the number of areas operated on. Post-surgery, you will likely experience swelling and bleeding at the incisions and areas operated on. A compression garment would be recommended to assist reduce swelling and fasten the healing process. Patients are forbidden from engaging in any extensive cardio, and heavy weight lifting until they fully recover. Since this is an outpatient procedure, the healing process is faster and takes a shorter period of time.


A tummy tuck is considered to be a more complicated procedure compared to liposuction. Though they enhance the abdominal profile, they vary in how the procedure is performed, the risks involved, the recovery process, and the expected results. 

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