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Tummy Tuck Vs. Liposuction: What’s The Difference?

Tummy tucks and liposuction are both popular procedures to help people to achieve the body of their dreams. However, these two methods are quite different in how they help make those dreams a reality. Let’s break down the similarities and differences between tummy tucks and liposuction as we outline the basics of both procedures from start to finish.


A common misconception about both tummy tucks and liposuction is that they are a means to lose weight. Really, before undergoing either procedure, you should be within 10-15 lbs. of your ideal weight. Tummy tucks and liposuction are both a means to reshape, tighten and/or contour. Once you’re within your targeted weight range, you can consider a surgery to take your body to the next level. Your surgeon will outline a pre-surgery plan that will help ensure you’re healthy enough to undergo the procedure and fully informed about every step of the process. This plan looks different for each patient, yours will be specific to you and your goals. Generally speaking, you’ll want to quit smoking, disclose any medicine or herbal supplements you’re taking and discuss an exercise and/or nutrition plan with your doctor.


Tummy Tuck

Anesthesia is administered through either intravenous sedation or general anesthesia, meaning you’ll be asleep throughout the surgery. An incision is placed between the pubic hairline and belly button across the width of the abdomen. In most cases, your doctor can place the incision low enough that the scar can be hidden by a bikini bottom, but the size and shape of the incision will be determined by the amount of excess skin you have. Your doctor will then lift the abdominal skin to access and repair weakened abdominal muscles. Then, the abdominal skin is pulled down and excess skin is removed. Sometimes, a second incision around the navel is required to remove skin in the upper abdomen. Finally, you belly button will be sutured into its new position and the incision is closed with staples and/or stitches.


Similar to a tummy tuck, medication is administered to ensure your comfort during the procedure. However, you don’t necessarily need to be asleep for liposuction, so you can select from local anesthesia, intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. Again, your doctor will recommend the best choice for you depending on your goals. Liposuction is still a surgical procedure and should be treated as such, however, modern procedures are minimally invasive and can be completed through small, inconspicuous incisions. From there, diluted local anesthesia is infused to reduce bleeding. Then, excess fat is loosened by a thin tube, called a cannula, and suctioned out of the body using a surgical vacuum or syringe. The incision is then closed with stiches.


Tummy Tuck

Once fully recovered from a tummy tuck, your abdomen will be flatter and firmer and your abdominal muscles will be pulled in closer together. Final results won’t be visible immediately, but as swelling subsides you’ll see your new body fully take shape. There is no method of tummy tuck that doesn’t leave a scar, but a skilled surgeon can take measures to minimize scar visibility. For example, women with a Cesarean section scar can often have tummy tuck incisions in the same place, so both procedures share one scar.


The end result of a liposuction is newly contoured physique. With liposuction, only a few pounds of fat are removed, but it’s done in a way that helps to reshape targeted body parts and therefore can make a significant difference in the look of your body. You won’t lose a more than a few pounds with liposuction but can see significant changes in the shape of your hips, tummy, back, legs, arms, or chin – depending on where the procedure is administered. Again, final results won’t be immediately visible as there may be some swelling after the procedure.


Tummy Tuck

Your incision will be dressed and bandaged, and you’ll be required to wear an elastic bandage or compression garment to support your abdominal muscles as they heal. This will also protect the incision from stretching or reopening. In some cases, small, thin tubes placed under the skin may be temporarily required to drain excess blood or fluid from the operation site. Your surgeon will send you home with a detailed list of instructions to aid in your recovery. These will include how to care for the surgical site and prevent infections, medication, follow up appointments and signs to look for that may indicate a problem. If you follow this plan strictly, you will set yourself up for the swiftest and most comfortable recovery period. Because of the nature of a tummy tuck, a full recovery will take months and you will have to refrain from intense physical activity for an extended period of time.


Post-liposuction, you’ll also need to wear a compression garment in addition to any bandages and dressings on incision sites. This garment is important for the integrity of your new shape – it will help your skin adhere to the new contours of your body and help deliver optimal results. The recovery period for liposuction is shorter than the recovery from a tummy tuck, but you’ll still want to avoid strenuous activity for 2-3 weeks following the procedure. However, you can return to work and other basic activities after just a couple of days.

As you can see, tummy tucks and liposuction are two very different ways to create a new shape to your body. Some patients may even consider undergoing both to combat different problem areas. If you’re thinking about a cosmetic procedure to achieve a new shape, give us a call for a free consultation. Our friendly staff looks forward to helping you look and feel your very best.

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