Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck 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 where excess skin and fat is removed from the stomach area, which has a smoothing and tightening effect on your abdomen.
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 anaesthesia, intravenous sedation, or general anaesthesia; your surgeon will help make the best decision as to what method of anaesthesia 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 and is the technique used by Dr Doyle. Dr Doyle uses a cannula that vibrates at the tip which helps break up the fat and minimises trauma to the tissues. This is known as Tickle Liposuction.
Tumescent liposuction is done as follows:
- Small, inconspicuous incisions are made around the target site from where fat is to be removed.
- First, diluted local anaesthesia is infused under the skin 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 cannula is connected to a suction device and the dislodged fat is then suctioned out of the body.
- 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 steps involved in a Tummy Tuck are as follows:
The procedure of Tummy Tuck is done under General Anaesthesia.
- The lower skin excision is marked out before the operation.
- An incision is made that extends from one hip to the other in a horizontal direction.
- After making the incision, the abdominal skin is lifted upwards towards the ribs; A circular incision is made around the umbilicus to allow it to retract deep to the skin flap. The skin flap is then elevated up to the ribs.
- Abdominal musculature is then clearly revealed with the attached umbilicus. The exposed muscle layer is tightened using a vertical 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 and removed. Drains and pain pump tubes are placed under the skin. The long horizontal scar is then sutured closed. A circular hole is made in the skin flap where the umbilicus was originally. The umbilicus is brought out through the hole and sutured to the skin.
- Dressings and an abdominal binder are then applied.
Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck – Results
It is a method for permanent fat removal from the targeted side; The results are excellent if you maintain your weight. There are always fat cells left behind after liposuction. If you gain weight these fat cells can increase in size.
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. The results can be affected 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.
- It does NOT remove skin
- Improves your abdominal tone.
- Helps remove excess skin from the abdomen following significant weight loss after pregnancy or any other condition.
- Helps improve posture.
Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck – Recovery
Bandages and compression garments will be applied over your incisions sites and surrounding areas. 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 size of the areas that you have had treated.
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 be managed with antibiotics.
You will be required to see Dr Doyle for follow-ups to ensure the healing process is going on properly. Normal work can be resumed in a few days depending on the areas treated and your occupation. It can take up to 12 months to see the final results in treated areas.
Drainage tubes will be placed under your skin to prevent fluid accumulation and allow the incisions to heal properly. These will remain until the drainage from them is low. The drains are normally removed 3-4 days following your surgery along with the pain pump.
You should stay in the hospital for 24 hours for monitoring purposes. Pain, swelling, and bruising are common after the procedure. The majority of swelling should subside after about six weeks, and you will be prescribed pain killers and will need to wear pressure garments for a minimum of 6 weeks. 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 Dr Doyle before resuming any strenuous physical activity. Complete recovery and the final result can be appreciated six to twelve months after the surgery.
Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck – Risks and Complications
Complications associated with liposuction include:
- Complications related to anaesthesia
- 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
Revisional surgery may be required if the results obtained are asymmetric or in cases of complications.
Complications associated with a tummy tuck include:
- Complications related to anaesthesia
- 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 particularly if you smoke
- 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 fat from your stomach you should probably choose liposuction. 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 bigger procedure with a longer recovery period but in the right circumstances will give a more dramatic result. In addition to removing excess fat from the abdominal area, excess skin is also removed which helps restore the abdominal contours. Suturing the rectus muscles together during the tummy tuck will help flatten the abdomen and increase core strength.
In a liposuction procedure, excess fat is suctioned from your body, but any excess skin will remain and in those patients with poor skin quality, liposuction can actually increase the amount of loose skin present. Significant weight gain after liposuction will allow any remaining fat cells in the treated areas to increase in size and lead to a sub-optimum result.
Can liposuction cause scars?
Any procedure involving a skin incision will result in a scar, and liposuction is no exception. The incisions for liposuction are well placed to hide the scars and the scars are normally less than 5mm in length. Excessive scarring is not routinely seen after liposuction due to thin cannulas used 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 normal activities in about six weeks. Complete recovery following the surgery will take anywhere from three to six months – about half a year.
How much weight can I lose with liposuction?
Liposuction is not an operation to reduce weight. It is an operation to improve contour problems for patients of normal weight. You will lose only up to three 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, and fat cells, once removed, don’t grow back. The remaining fat cells can increase in size with weight gain. It is of paramount importance that you exercise and maintain a healthy 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 of the surgery as your insurance cover will not cover it. If you have a deformity of fat from a previous injury you may be eligible for a medicare rebate.
Will an insurance cover for a tummy tuck?
A tummy tuck is a cosmetic surgical procedure, generally undertaken without any medical indications and hence insurance companies usually don’t routinely provide cover for the procedure. 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 your liposuction results.
Book a Consultation
If you would like to learn more about liposuction, tummy tuck surgery, or a combination procedure, book a detailed consultation with Specialist Plastic Surgeon, Dr Mark Doyle.
- 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?