The question of whether to have a tummy tuck or liposuction is a very common one. The two procedures address different problems. Liposuction deals only with fatty tissues, whereas Tummy Tuck deals with muscle, skin, and fat. Some patients are candidates for lipo only, some for Tummy Tuck only, and some could have either procedure, depending on their priorities.
A candidate for liposuction only should have good skin tone. The skin will retract nicely after taking out the fat. Recovery time will be minimal, 7-10 days and you’re back to work. I like doing the procedure with a super fine cannula, and after surgery I apply foam pads to the skin to create the best possible smooth contour.
A patient who has loose skin, or a lot of stretch marks, or poor muscle tone will be much better off with a tummy tuck. The recovery time is longer, but the use of local anesthetic pumps has helped tremendously to minimize pain. Patients should be ready to miss work for 3 weeks. The payoff is tighter abdominal skin and a dramatic change in shape.
Some patients can’t spare the time off work, or the expense for a tummy tuck is more than they are prepared to spend. In these cases a liposuction can achieve a visible improvement in body contour, but skin won’t be tightened.
IF the skin is loose, but muscle tone is OK, the patient may benefit from a dermatolipectmy. This is an excision of skin and fat only. It has a scar like a tummy tuck, but since no muscle work is done, recovery time is short (1 week), and the price is much less than a tummy tuck.
To help you understand the difference between liposuction and tummy tuck, take my Interactive Plastic Surgery Body Quiz to see ‘What’s Right for You!’.
Ricardo L Rodriguez, MD