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Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck: The Difference Explained

LIPOSUCTION VS TUMMY TUCK: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE AND WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

If you want to improve the look of your midsection with plastic surgery, you might need to decide between liposuction vs tummy tuck. Both liposuction and a tummy tuck generally focus on the abdominal area; but which one is right for you? Some patients may feel conflicted about whether they should have liposuction or a tummy tuck procedure because they aren’t really informed on the intricacies of these procedures. While this article cannot tell you for certain which procedure is best for you without proper consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon, we will help you in every way that we can to share the knowledge. When you’re done, you’ll fully understand:

  • What they are, and for whom these procedures are for
  • In what ways do they differentiate
  • How you can decide which procedure is best for you

Quick Definition: Liposuction

  • Liposuction is a fat removal procedure and it is done by the use of blunt cannulas. It is performed on people who cannot lose the fat in their bodies through diet or exercise. It is not a recommended procedure for obese patients.

Quick Definition: Tummy Tuck

  • The tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty, is also a fat removal surgery, including the removal of extra skin on the abdominal area and the muscle tightening of the abdominal wall. It is performed on massive weight loss patients, women who gave birth, or people who wish to have a firm and flat stomach. Liposuction may be required for a more defined result during a tummy tuck.
Liposuction Vs Tummy Tuck Comparison

Who is it good for?

  • An ideal candidate for liposuction is a fit, non-obese, non-smoker person who is in good health in general. Their weight should be kept stable for a certain amount of time. Also one needs to have an adequate fat percentage in your body. If the patient has toned skin and good skin elasticity, they can receive the best results.
  • An ideal candidate for a tummy tuck is a person who has reached their ideal weight and maintained it and is in good health in general. The ideal candidate should not be considering pregnancy after a tummy tuck, because pregnancy can reverse the results of a tummy tuck. They should also be a non-smoker.

Results

  • After undergoing liposuction surgery, one will have a flatter and more refined midsection when their body has recovered. The fat deposits in your body will have been removed permanently.
  • After a tummy tuck, the patient will be rid of their excess skin and their muscles will have been tightened. The results are permanent.

Permanence & Maintenance

  • Liposuction results are permanent. However, if you were to gain weight, the fat can come back. One study suggests that after some time, the fatty tissue can reform in the suctioned area. However, this does not necessarily mean that the fat will always return to its pre-surgery form; it may create contour irregularities in your body. To avoid that, it is recommended that you stay consistent in maintaining a healthy weight. Suppose your first results are not satisfactory for you, or you wanted more than the appropriate amount of fat removed. In that case, you are more than welcome to get a free consultation for another liposuction surgery after you have recovered from your first procedure.
  • Just like liposuction, one should maintain a healthy weight after the procedure. Skin laxity may occur again if one were to gain weight after a tummy tuck surgery. Depending on the type of sutures that have been used, the stitches between the abdominal muscles may stay there for life, or dissolve after a certain amount of time. If you were to gain weight or get pregnant after your tummy tuck, your skin can stretch and your muscles may separate again. Although you should not be considering pregnancy after a tummy tuck, if you were to get pregnant, there is an almost 50% to 60% chance your muscles will still be intact after your post-surgery pregnancy. Nevertheless, if you get pregnant after your tummy tuck procedure, you may need a second tummy tuck surgery.

Procedure

  • Liposuction is performed with a blunt cannula connected to a suction device. After the patient is put under general anesthesia, the surgeon injects a mixture of dilute liquid local anesthetic drugs and epinephrine into the patient’s fatty deposits with a cannula to shrink the veins to reduce bleeding and break up the fat cells before starting to remove the fat through small incisions. A liposuction procedure takes 1-3 hours on average.
  • Liposuction may sometimes be required before the tummy tuck procedure. During a tummy tuck surgery; excess skin, and fat tissues will be removed from your body, and the fascia (connective tissue) that lies over the abdominal muscles is tightened permanently. Before closing, the surgeon injects a local anesthetic under the fascia. And then, PRP (platelet-rich plasma) is applied between the muscle and skin tissue to aid the abdominal muscle tissue and the skin tissue to reattach. While the surgeon stitches the incision, they put drains on both ends of the horizontal incision to help with the seroma. A tummy tuck procedure takes 1-5 hours on average.

Anesthesia

  • Local or general anesthesia is used for liposuction surgery. Although local anesthesia may be considered for smaller area liposuctions, general anesthesia is usually preferred since it is hard to stand still while getting a procedure performed on you. And, it may affect your mental health to witness the surgery being performed.
  • General anesthesia is applied to the patient during a tummy tuck. A tummy tuck is way more invasive than liposuction, and it requires absolute stillness to successfully perform. After stitching the connective tissue that lies over the abdominal muscles together, the surgeon injects a local anesthetic under the fascia around the abdomen to reduce the pain.

Invasiveness

  • Liposuction is a minimally-invasive procedure. The surgeon performs the surgery with 2 or 3 small incisions – big enough to insert the cannula and move it around without damaging the skin – and that is it.
  • Compared to liposuction, a tummy tuck is a lot more invasive. The incision goes along the bikini line on your lower abdomen and on that horizontal incision, another incision is made from the middle of it. The surgeon cuts around the umbilicus (belly button). After that, your muscle and skin tissues are separated. After stitching up, the surgeon makes another incision on the top of the umbilicus and stitches it in its new place.

Complications & Risks

  • Although liposuction complications occur rarely, they still have the potential to happen. These complications are: contour irregularities, bleeding, infection, swelling and fainting, internal puncture, asymmetry, blood clots, seroma, and allergic reactions. Most of these complications can be prevented and/or dealt with easily.
  • The most common complication of a tummy tuck is seroma. But this issue is quickly dealt with drains. Other possible complications are: bleeding, infection, change in skin sensation, scar on the skin, asymmetry, blood clots, allergic reactions, pulmonary complications, skin contour irregularities, skin loss and/or skin necrosis, and chronic pain. As a long-term effect, after a tummy tuck, if the patient were to develop breast cancer in the future, unfortunately, the abdominal skin will not be able to be used for breast reconstruction.

Pain Level

  • Liposuction is a minimally-invasive procedure. It has its own pain level, but not as much as a tummy tuck. It can bring mild discomfort, but it can be managed with medications, such as painkillers, prescribed by your doctor.
  • A tummy tuck is more invasive than liposuction. Therefore, it can cause more pain and discomfort. However, it can be managed with painkillers prescribed by your doctor.

Scars

Scars after liposuction are relatively small and hard to detect. They can be obvious if hyperpigmentation occurs around your scars, which is very rare. You can ask your surgeon for specific creams and medications to maximize your scars’ healing.

  • Tummy tuck incisions are made on bikini lines. Your underwear can hide your scars pretty well. You can also ask your surgeon for scar remedies to maximize their healing. They will not disappear completely, but they may heal to their maximum capacity. After recovering completely, although not absolutely necessary, some patients prefer to get tattoos on their scars.

Recovery Time

Total recovery time for liposuction changes from person to person. Your health, age, skin tone, etc. may affect the length of your recovery. Your overall recovery from liposuction is 3 months on average.

  • It takes 3 to 6 months to fully recover from a tummy tuck surgery.

Recovery Process

  • After a liposuction procedure, you must wear your compression garment all the time (except for showering) for a month and avoid strenuous activities. After a week, if your work does not require physical labor, you can go back to your job. After 4 to 6 weeks, you can return to your normal physical activities, without heavy lifting and/or vigorous exercise. You should be following an anti-inflammatory diet and drinking water to fasten your recovery and get the best result possible.
  • A day after your tummy tuck surgery, you may be in some discomfort. Your doctor may prescribe you medications for pain and inflammation. You may experience swelling, and for that, your surgeon may provide a drain or a compression garment to reduce swelling and collect excess fluid. For your tummy tuck recovery, you should be following the strict instructions given to you by your surgeon and must be wearing your compression garment all the time (except for showering) for 4 to 6 weeks. After a week, you can start on your light walks. You should be following an anti-inflammatory diet and drinking water for your recovery stage. After six weeks, it is safe to begin exercising and return to your normal physical activities while avoiding strenuous activities. Since your abdominal skin is tightened, you will not be able to stretch your abdomen for a while, but do not fret; you will regain your flexibility back in a few months.

Cost

  • Since liposuction is a less invasive procedure, on average it costs less compared to a tummy tuck.
  • A tummy tuck is a more invasive, and complicated procedure compared to liposuction, so it’s more expensive than liposuction, almost double or triple the price in some cases.

Advantage of Liposuction over Tummy Tuck

Liposuction is a safe fat removal surgery due to its minimal invasion. This also provides less scarring on the abdomen. Also, the injected solution before the suction process helps with the bleeding. Only the fat is extracted – permanently – with liposuction.

Advantage of Tummy Tuck over Liposuction

A tummy tuck helps you get rid of the excess skin and fat while tightening the connective tissues over your abdominal muscles permanently. You can not get rid of loose skin with liposuction and that is where a tummy tuck comes in handy.

Final Verdict

If you are fit, non-obese, and have a good skin tone with no sagging, liposuction is the best procedure for you to achieve your aesthetic goals. If after giving birth or massive weight loss you have loose skin and wider abdominal muscles, a tummy tuck is the option for you. However, before deciding to undergo these surgical procedures, you must consult with your doctor. At the end of the day, they will guide you toward the best option for you.

Liposuction Tummy Tuck
Results Flatter stomach Refined and shaped-looking midsection No more loose skin Tighter abdominal muscles
Who is it good for? Fit, non-obese people with toned skin, who have an adequate fat percentage in their body People who have reached their goal weight and maintained it, and have sagging skin and separated abdominal muscles
Permanence & Maintenance Respectively easy with the help of strict instructions given to you for your before- and after-surgery process A little harder than liposuction, but is still easy with the help of strict instructions given to you
Procedure 1 to 3 hours on average 1 to 5 hours on average
Anesthesia Local and general anesthesia General anesthesia
Invasiveness Minimally invasive Open surgery, respectively invasive
Complications & Risks Contour irregularities, bleeding, infection, infection, swelling and fainting, internal puncture, asymmetry, blood clots, seroma, and allergic reactions Bleeding, infection, change in skin sensation, scar on the skin, asymmetry, blood clots, allergic reactions, pulmonary complications, skin contour irregularities, skin loss and/or skin necrosis, and chronic pain
Pain Level Mild discomfort and pain More uncomfortable and painful. Although incredibly rare, pain may be chronic.
Scars 2 or 3 small incisions, hard to detect Wide incision across the lower abdomen, easy to cover with underwear and/or tattoos
Recovery Time 3 months on average 3 to 6 months on average
Recovery Process Relatively easy with the help of compression garments and an anti-inflammatory diet A bit harder, but still easy with the help of compression garments and an anti-inflammatory diet
Cost Less expensive More expensive

Hopefully, this comparison helped you to grasp the differences between the two cosmetic procedures; liposuction and tummy tuck. You should know by now which procedure is possibly the option for you. While liposuction can not treat skin laxity, it can remove the pockets of fat permanently. In the concern of skin laxity, tummy tuck comes to one’s rescue. If you are still unsure about your body type and what procedure is right for you, you can contact us and one of our consultants will reach out to you to discuss what your options are.

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