Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck: What’s the Difference?

Wondering what to expect with a liposuction vs. tummy tuck? Here’s what to know, including some of the biggest differences in the procedures and the results.

What Is The Difference Between Tummy Tuck and Liposuction?

When discussing the appearance of the trunk, we have to look at it as three layers: skin, fat, and muscle. A tummy tuck, also known as lipoabdominoplasty or an abdominoplasty, treats all three layers, whereas liposuction alone only treats one.

Liposuction is designed to treat fat, and, in most cases, with minimal impact on the skin. Meanwhile, an abdominoplasty is required when there is abdominal wall dysfunction that needs to be repaired. This dysfunction can happen for various reasons, including weakness or poor resting tone, diastasis rectus (i.e. abdominal muscle separation), or hernia.

How Do I Know Which Procedure Is Right For Me?

Patients who wish to sculpt and shape their midsection and treat specific targeted areas are ideal for liposuction. For women, this is most often prior to pregnancy, but in some cases moms may be suitable candidates. Most patients with massive weight loss are not candidates. The modern abdominoplasty is performed with liposuction, so it is not one or the other, but one or both.

Young patients with good elasticity without a history of significant weight changes or skin expansion like from pregnancy, can have liposuction and the skin will retract to some degree. Patients with stretch marks or who already have loose skin are often poor candidates for liposuction because you can remove the fat but the loose skin may worsen.

Is Liposuction Less Invasive?

Liposuction is accomplished through a series of “ports” or incisions that are about the size of a pencil eraser. The benefit to this is that they can be placed in inconspicuous places, but the drawback is that you cannot perform any additional surgery except liposuction through them. Despite the small incisions, no matter what anyone says, liposuction is still an invasive procedure. Liposuction, either alone or with an abdominoplasty, can result in significant blood loss and changes in how the body regulates itself  – so it’s not fair to call it less invasive than a tummy tuck.  

Sometimes people may choose liposuction even if they require either removal of skin or repair of the abdominal wall, as long as they understand the limitations of the procedure. In order to remove any meaningful amount of excess skin, this must also be accomplished through an abdominoplasty “low transverse” incision.

What Does Recovery Look Like?

Liposuction recovery is very patient dependent. Some are up and back to work the next day, with minimal or no physical restrictions, and others require several days or even weeks to recover from the significant changes to the physiology of the body related to multiple liters of fat removal.

Abdominoplasty recovery comes in two phases. During the first two weeks, patients are home from work and are both tight from muscle repair and hunched forward because of the removal of the large wedge of skin. They can start resuming normal activity after two weeks, but no heavy lifting or exercise for six weeks. This is to allow for healing of the abdominal wall and good scar tissue to form and reinforce the repair before starting to flex and use the core muscles.

A Look at Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck Results

With liposuction, your waistline will shrink by inches and your clothing will fit better, but you may still have skin that hangs from your midsection and fullness or roundness of the abdominal wall. To understand why that is, think of removing all fat from the belly until the layer is as thin as your bed sheets. When your sheets lie on your bed, they take the shape of the bed… flat. But now throw the sheets over a kitchen chair and they’ll take that shape. The same happens with your skin and fat. If the muscle layer beneath it is in need of repair and your belly is round and protruding, it will still retain that shape after liposuction alone.

When performed appropriately, neither liposuction nor a tummy tuck remove all of a fat population from a region, they just selectively remove part of the fat of each area. The remaining fat is required to protect, insulate, and preserve metabolic function. This remaining fat is active and can both grow and shrink in response to weight gain or loss. Fat gain or loss in that area may be disproportionate to what it was prior to surgery, but it will still happen there.

Ultimately, liposuction is used ideally for body contouring either by liposculpture or as a “debulking” procedure to remove large volumes of fat without respect to other elements requiring repair. Abdominoplasty is used to make additional improvements to skin and muscle layers as needed. To learn more or schedule a consultation, please visit our homepage or contact us.

I look forward to meeting you!

At ME Plastic Surgery, I provide the most advanced techniques in plastic surgery while maintaining uncompromising standards of safety, patient care and professional ethics. I pledge to give my best so that you can feel your best, no matter your age, body type or background. Please contact my office to set up a one-on-one consultation at one of my locations in Manhattan and Queens. My door is always open.

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