There are a variety of reasons why someone may be dissatisfied with their appearance when they glance at their midsection in the mirror. Excess weight, skin laxity following a weight loss journey, and midsection changes following pregnancy are all factors. But how do you determine whether liposuction vs. tummy tuck is right for you?

In this article, we address the differences between liposuction and a tummy tuck, and why some patients may consider one, the other, or both.

This post should be a starting point for those considering a tummy tuck vs. liposuction. However, the precise surgical plan is dependent on individual patient characteristics and therefore completely customized. Keeping patient safety and outstanding results in mind, we begin every patient encounter with an extensive consultation and physical exam. We then propose discussing a surgical plan or range of plans with the patient.

The Difference Between a Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction

While a tummy tuck and abdominal-area liposuction address the same treatment area, there are important differences between the procedures themselves. These include conditions each procedure addresses, potential downtime, recovery, and scarring following the procedure.

During an in-person consultation, a surgeon discusses a patient’s history of weight gain, weight loss, pregnancy history and desire for future pregnancies as well as any history of any surgeries in the area. These factors, as well as a physical examination assessing for extra skin, skin laxity and skin quality, help determine his surgical approach.

Liposuction is the removal of fat only, while a tummy tuck involves removing fat and extra skin. A tummy tuck involves a large incision along the bikini line, while liposuction involves removing fat through small incisions. The overlying skin will contract over time.

Sometimes the idea of liposuction seems more attractive to a patient because the incisions are smaller, and the scarring is less. However, liposuction alone cannot address factors such as excessive skin, poor skin quality, and abdominal wall laxity.

These procedures are often combined for enhanced results. In fact, probably 80 to 90 percent of patients undergoing a tummy tuck will also get some liposuction at the same time for contouring around the hips, flanks or midsection to put the cherry on top of their results.

Risks of Liposuctions and Tummy Tucks

A tummy tuck and liposuction each carry unique risks. While major complications are uncommon, their presence reinforces the importance of consulting with a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Before any kind of abdominal surgery, a patient must have a BMI in a range that’s considered safe for surgery. A BMI above 30 increases risk, and above 35 risk significantly increases. A BMI above 40 may become prohibitive. An initial BMI-based risk assessment is determined during a phone call with a patient care coordinator, who may offer guidelines for being in a safe weight range prior to scheduling a surgical consultation.

Following any plastic surgery procedure, patients may experience side effects. These include pain, scarring, infection, bleeding from the incision, blood clots and cosmetic dissatisfaction.

Risks unique to liposuction include asymmetry, contour deformities and lumpiness. Following a tummy tuck, patients may rarely experience necrosis of skin if the surgeon tries to pull the skin too tight or if they’re overly aggressive in their approach.

Finding the Right Fit

Surgeons caution against choosing liposuction over a tummy tuck simply to avoid larger scars. This can leave the patient with a contour deformity, characterized by divots or depressions in the treatment area or hanging skin.

Instead, find a trusted plastic surgeon who will strive for a carefully placed and elegant surgical closure, resulting in a scar that’s visible only below the bikini line, not while you’re at the beach or wearing clothing.

Liposuction is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures that’s performed by untrained providers. He recommends that all patients verify their surgeon’s credentials and training by visiting the American Society of Plastic Surgery’s website and searching the potential provider’s name. Liposuction can be performed without general anesthesia, but is oftentimes done so by under-qualified providers or with suboptimal results due to patient discomfort.

Choosing the right surgeon who will make an honest assessment with an outstanding result in mind will help minimize risk and ensure the very best results.

You want to find someone who is not only board-certified, but who will perform a complete history and physical, taking your health into consideration along with your other goals to develop a surgical plan that’s safe and effective.

The Best Time to Have a Tummy Tuck or Liposuction

Following liposuction or a tummy tuck, it will take time for incisions to heal. Patients need to limit physical activity for about a month. They will not want to submerge incisions in water – so no baths or swimming pools.

Because of this, late fall, winter and early spring are popular times to have liposuction or a tummy tuck.

Liposuction or a tummy tuck can, of course, be performed at any time of the year, as long as people understand and comply with restrictions. A typical patient could take a beach vacation or go to a pool or the lake one month post op.

Cost of Liposuction vs. a Tummy Tuck

The cost of liposuction, a tummy tuck, or a combination of the two surgical procedures varies and depends entirely on the individual. Because each patient requires a customized surgery and time in the operating room, no cost estimate is the same.

To learn more about liposuction vs. tummy tuck cost, patients should call to receive an initial assessment. The office will offer ballpark pricing to make sure it’s worth a potential patient’s time to schedule an initial in-person consultation.

Following the initial in-person surgical consultation, a surgeon will provide his or her best recommendation for patients and a surgical quote.

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