Do I Need a Tummy Tuck or Liposuction?

Do I Need a Tummy Tuck or Liposuction?

As board-certified cosmetic surgeons, one of the most common complaints we hear from our patients is that they are dissatisfied with the appearance of their abdominal region. There are many reasons the belly area is such a widespread “trouble spot.” For one thing, most people are genetically predisposed to carry weight in their midsection, which makes that fat especially hard to lose, no matter how diligently you diet or exercise. 

Pregnancy or previous obesity are other reasons that might stand between you and the toned tummy of your dreams. If your skin becomes too stretched, it often cannot bounce back to your desired shape, no matter how much weight you have lost or how many crunches you do. In cases such as these, body contouring surgery may be your ideal pathway to obtaining the desired aesthetic outcome, but that still leaves the question: What is the right procedure, a tummy tuck or a liposuction?


Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction: Understanding the Difference

A tummy tuck, also called an abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure in which a qualified cosmetic surgeon can tighten weakened abdominal muscles and remove undesirable excess skin and tissue. A full tummy tuck is an ideal surgery for anyone who is frustrated with skin and muscles that have become stretched-out and begun to sag due to pregnancy, weight loss, age, or any combination of those factors. 

In contrast, liposuction is a procedure that is designed to remove fat from targeted areas of the body. Because it does not address loose skin, liposuction is best for patients who have sufficient skin elasticity, are at or near their ideal body weight, and have not experienced pregnancy or weight loss. If your skin has lost its elasticity, and you attempt to have undesirable body fat removed with liposuction, the loose skin will remain hanging, and may even become even droopier than it was before your procedure.  

After pregnancy or drastic weight loss, people might still be good candidates for liposuction as a stand-alone procedure. However, more often than not, the skin and abdominal wall have become permanently stretched in these patients, and the best way to address these issues is with a tummy tuck – often in combination with liposuction.


What Does Liposuction Entail?

During a liposuction procedure, your surgeon will make small incisions in your skin, then use a thin tube called a cannula to suction away unwanted fatty tissue. The goal is not merely to remove as much fat as possible, but to aesthetically sculpt the target area to a more desirable, natural-looking proportion. In addition to the abdominal region, the most popular areas for liposuction include the hips, flanks, thighs, and upper arms. 

Liposuction has consistently been among the five most frequently performed cosmetic surgeries in the U.S. for the past several decades because:

  • It has a well-established track record of safety and minimal risk.
  • It creates natural-looking results with virtually undetectable scars.
  • Compared with more extensive cosmetic procedures, liposuction requires a relatively short healing time.


What to Expect With a Tummy Tuck

Your surgeon may recommend a tummy tuck – with or without liposuction – to restore loose abdominal muscles to a more cosmetically ideal position. A full tummy tuck surgery begins with the surgeon making an incision from hip to hip, then tightening the abdominal muscles, removing excess skin, and stitching the remaining skin together to repair the stretching that occurs with pregnancy or obesity. In addition to repairing the skin and abdominal wall, your surgeon may recommend getting liposuction alongside your tummy tuck to provide an even more dramatic improvement in your body contours.

Most patients take two weeks off work to rest and recover after getting a tummy tuck procedure. During this time, we will send you home with detailed instructions on how to manage pain, how to look after your incision sites, and when you should return for follow-up appointments. It can take up to six months for the full results of your tummy tuck to emerge.


Is Body Contouring Right for You?

To help you decide which of these procedures will help you achieve the flat, toned tummy you have always wanted, contact the Maryland Institute of Plastic Surgery to set up a consultation with one of our four board-certified cosmetic surgeons. After a discussion of your cosmetic goals and a thorough examination of your skin, fat, and abdominal wall layers, we can help you determine if body contouring surgery will help you achieve the outcomes you want.