TUMMY TUCKS VS. LIPOSUCTION
The desire for a youthful flat and smooth stomach is common, but so is confusion about the best way to achieve it. In our practice, we receive many great questions from patients liposuction and tummy tucks (abdominoplasty).
Which procedure is best for getting a really flat and smooth stomach?
For most patients, a tummy tuck is the surest way to achieve this result. Liposuction is a wonderful tool for removing fat in areas of the body with tight skin, such as the hips, saddleback and flanks. However, stomach skin has often lost its elasticity (stretchiness) because of age, weight gain, pregnancy or some combination of those factors. If you then remove the fat with liposuction, the skin will not retract and will hang. In contrast, abdominoplasty removes not just the fat but also the extra skin and tightens up the muscles.
Which procedure is the most popular?
We get the most calls for liposuction because when you compare the two operations, liposuction—where you are simply removing the fat—is a much shorter operation and has an easier recovery. You don’t have a long scar, you don’t have to spend a night in the hospital, and you are back to work quicker. With abdominoplasty, you do two things: You get rid of the extra skin and fat, and you tighten up muscles that have stretched out with either pregnancy or weight gain. Tightening both skin and muscle is very important, especially for women who have had multiple pregnancies. The tradeoff is that the operation leaves a long scar down low. We try to keep the scar as low as we can and typically have the patient bring in a bathing suit they like to wear so that we can hide the scar below the swimsuit. The other cost is that the recovery from abdominoplasty is somewhat harder because when you tighten the muscles a cough or a deep breath will hurt more. Because it is a bigger operation, you also have to spend a night in the hospital and take at least two weeks off from work and duties around the home to allow your body to recover.
Is there a way to tell which operation is best before meeting with a cosmetic surgeon?
Factors that increase the odds of needing a tummy tuck include being older (skin loses elasticity with age), having had multiple pregnancies and having had a lot of abdominal fat even if you’ve since lost much of that fat. However, every patient is a little different in terms of the fat they have and the loose skin they have.
Can liposuction be right for some patients even if they have some loss of skin elasticity?
Sometimes. It has to do with their expectations for the procedure. There are some people that are OK with abdominal liposuction even though they know they are not going to get a perfect result. These patients typically don’t want to show off at the beach in a revealing swimsuit. They just want a somewhat smaller pants size and less of a roll of fat when wearing tight clothes, like skinny jeans. In addition, they understand that liposuction is still an operation, although a smaller one than a tummy tuck, and are willing to go through the recovery from surgery for a more modest improvement.