The two main procedures that you will choose between are liposuction and a tummy tuck; but which procedure is right for you? This article compares liposuction vs. tummy tuck and allows you to determine which procedure is best, given your particular circumstances.
Liposuction is a method of fat removal that physically draws fat out of the body by using a strong vacuum. A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty, on the other hand, involves the surgical removal of both skin and fat from the belly. Each procedure has its own advantages and disadvantages. Liposuction, versus tummy tuck, usually requires only one small incision into which the liposuction cannula is placed. Therefore the surgical scar is minimal. In fact, the plastic surgeon may be able to make the incision at the umbilicus (belly button) so that the surgical scar is essentially invisible. In a tummy tuck, a large patch of skin is removed along with a layer of fat. Because of this, there is no way to avoid a rather long closure or suture line. In some cases, the suture follows the entire width of the abdomen. While the plastic surgeon is quite skilled in her ability to close this incision while leaving the most minimal scar, at best there will be a faint line that reveals the surgical scar indicative of a tummy tuck. This can be minimized somewhat by making one incision along a natural, horizontal crease in the abdomen, but that is not always possible.
Advantages to tummy tuck vs. liposuction
The biggest advantages of tummy tuck procedures are that more fat is removed during a tummy tuck vs. liposuction and that a tummy tuck also involves removing excess skin. In liposuction of the abdomen, one of the biggest complaints that people have is that they are left with a fold of skin that may or may not fully retract over time. The more fat that is removed during liposuction, the larger that this fold of skin will be. With a tummy tuck, however, the skin is removed in proportion to the amount of fat. Also, the skin is drawn rather tightly and stapled/sutured in place. Thus when a tummy tuck is fully healed, the remained skin appears toned—more than would be in a liposuction procedure.
If cost is a factor, and it often is, liposuction is usually much less expensive than a tummy tuck. In fact, the surgeon’s fees alone are about double with a tummy tuck vs. liposuction ($5,400 vs. $2,800). Also, many liposuction procedures can be performed under local anesthesia while tummy tucks usually require general anesthesia. This further increases the cost of the tummy tuck.
Bear in mind that recovery times are usually longer with tummy tuck vs. liposuction. Since there is a larger incision with a tummy tuck, more skin needs to close and heal, which prolongs recovery.
Despite its greater cost and recovery time, there is really no substitute for the degree of fat and skin removal that can be obtained with a tummy tuck. It is important to view many “before and after” photos of patients that have had liposuction and tummy tucks. You need to be realistic about the amount of belly fat you want to be removed and the limitations of liposuction alone. Your plastic surgeon should be able to give you a realistic assessment of your clinical situation and guide you in your decision between liposuction vs. tummy tuck.