Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck: Which Is Right for You?

Woman in bikini showing slim and toned stomach (model)

If you’re self-conscious about the appearance of your midsection but aren’t sure whether you should get liposuction or a tummy tuck, you’re not alone. My patients often ask about the difference between the two body contouring procedures. Both improve the midsection’s appearance, but they work in different ways and are suitable for different types of patients.

They can also be combined during a single operation and complement each other quite well.

What Is Liposuction?

Traditional liposuction removes unwanted fat using a small thin tube called a cannula that breaks up tissue and suctions it from the body. We can use one of several techniques to accomplish this goal, including power-assisted liposuction (PAL), which facilitates the fat extraction. Liposuction can target various areas of the body besides the abdomen, including the hips, thighs, upper arms, buttocks, and neck.

What Is a Tummy Tuck?

Tummy tuck surgery—also called abdominoplasty—removes excess skin and tightens abdominal muscles. Unlike the short incisions made during a liposuction procedure, a tummy tuck requires a horizontal incision that extends from hip to hip just above the pubic area. For a full tummy tuck, the surgeon also makes an incision around the bellybutton and repositions it after pulling down the remaining skin.

The recovery following a tummy tuck is longer than for liposuction, with most patients taking at least 2 weeks off from work. Liposuction patients typically can return to work after a week.

Which Procedure Is Right for You?

A plastic surgeon will recommend the best procedure for you based on factors such as:

Your goals: People whose primary concern is getting rid of stubborn fat are better off getting liposuction as long as their skin retains most of its elasticity. If your abdominal skin is loose, liposuction alone could make the sagging worse. If you want a flatter stomach, especially after having children or losing significant weight, you’ll need a tummy tuck to achieve the desired results.

The type of body you have: If you’re in relatively good shape but have pockets of fat that remain despite exercising regularly, liposuction can be an effective solution. Some people are prone to having fat accumulate in the midsection but don’t need a tummy tuck. Patients with excess skin and separated abdominal muscles are best served by a tummy tuck. If the loose skin is limited to the area below the bellybutton, you may be a good candidate for a mini tummy tuck.

How long you can take off from work: Even though liposuction is considered a surgical procedure, the incisions are fairly small. Depending on the extent of the procedure, you may be able to return to work in less than a week. The recovery following a tummy tuck is not only longer, but it also requires more rest and the support of family or friends for up to 2 weeks. Additionally, tummy tuck patients should wait 6 weeks before resuming strenuous exercise.

Budget: Tummy tucks are generally more expensive than liposuction due to the more extensive nature of the procedure. We offer financing with companies such as CareCredit® or Prosper if you desire.

Choosing a Combined Approach

Combining a tummy tuck with liposuction is often the best solution. The procedure creates a flatter stomach with attractive abdominal contours, smoother skin, and tighter core muscles. In many cases, this is the best way to achieve the full effect of a flatter, firmer, more sculpted abdomen with long-lasting results. The combined approach also means you’ll only have to plan for a single recovery.

If you’re in the Columbia area and considering either liposuction or a tummy tuck, whether you’re from Ellicott City, Baltimore, MD, or beyond, you can request a consultation using the online form. You can also contact our two convenient offices by phone at (410) 884-4200 (Ellicott City) or (410) 751-2348 (Westminster).

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