You’ve tried everything: fasting, dieting, exercise, probiotics, even weight-loss pills. But no matter what, you still can’t get rid of that flabby, bulgy, unappealing belly of yours. When all else has failed, it might be time to consider a surgical solution to this persistent and seemingly intractible problem. And that typically means choosing between one (or both) of two procedures: liposuction and/or tummy tuck.
Make no mistake: liposuctions and tummy tucks are surgical procedures. And like all invasive surgeries, they carry with them their own attendant set of risks (up to and including death) that go along with their potential cosmetic and long-term health benefits.
One frequent misperception that people have about these two procedures is that they are simply different avenues toward the same result: reducing the size of one’s midriff. Nothing could be further from the truth. Liposuctions and tummy tucks each have their own very different set of specific indications, purposes, treatment area focus, surgical method, recovery time, risks, and results. The one thing they do have in common is the subsequent scarring each procedure will leave behind (more on that later).
The goal of this article is to provide the basic facts that will help you—in consultation with your doctor—to decide which of these procedures (whether alone or together) is right for you.
What Is It?
The prefix “lipo” is derived from λῐ́πος (lipos), a Greek word meaning “fat.” Thus, as the name implies, the surgeon literally suctions the fat cells out of the treatment area. While the patient is put under general or local anesthesia, the surgeon inserts a thin, hollow tube (called a “cannula”) through a small incision at the fat removal site and applies negative pressure to suck the fat cells out from underneath skin.
Where Can It Be Done?
Liposuction, or lipoplasty, can be performed wherever significant fat deposits have formed, including the abdomen, hips, back, neck, arms, thighs, and legs. Lipoplasty is the most commonly performed cosmetic surgery in the United States.
Am I a Good Candidate for Liposuction?
Simply being overweight is not an ideal indicator for this procedure; nor should liposuction be characterized as a shortcut to losing weight or a speedy alternative to a healthy weight-loss regimen. In other words, it is not intended to “cure” obesity per se, but rather to remove stubborn, unsightly fat deposits from certain areas of the body. If you suffer from a swelling midriff but otherwise are in general good health, eat right, exercise regularly, and have good skin elasticity in the target area, you will benefit the most from this procedure.
How Long Is My Recovery Period?
It all depends on the procedure area and the volume of fat removed. Typically, patients may need up to a week of at-home rest to recover, and must refrain from exercising for two weeks to a month. To alleviate any discomfort during the first few days of recovery, the patient may require pain medication and wear compression garments.
Are the Results Permanent?
As mentioned before, liposuction is not a weight-loss procedure. Maintaining a healthy diet and continuing to exercise regularly are key to keeping the fat deposits from returning. If you are a woman and plan on becoming pregnant, you are advised to postpone the procedure until after you have given birth, and the abdominal area has returned to a more normal contour.
What Are the Risks of Liposuction?
Besides temporary pain and post-surgical bruising, some of the side effects and complications that patients may experience include:
- Increased sensitivity or numbness in the treatment area
- Post-liposuction weight gain
- Surgical infection
- Embolisms (where loosened fat enters the bloodstream through ruptured blood vessels and ends up in the lungs, heart, or brain)
What Is It?
Unlike liposuction, the primary purpose of a tummy tuck (or abdominoplasty or lipoabdominoplasty) is not to remove fat deposits exclusively but to make the abdomen thinner, firmer, and more contoured. Although some fat may be removed as part of the procedure, yet the focus remains on giving the midriff area a more attractive-looking shape. In this procedure, the surgeon makes a long, curved incision in the lower abdomen, removes excess skin and fat, and then sutures the incision closed. The goal is to tighten and strengthen the muscles and fascia of the abdominal wall.
Where Can It Be Done?
Again, unlike liposuction, a tummy tuck procedure is focused exclusively on the middle and lower abdomen.
Am I a Good Candidate for a Tummy Tuck?
As we grow older, our bodies naturally lose muscle tone; at the same time, the elasticity of our skin decreases. Skin creams may help us retain a more youthful appearance; and while sit-ups, pull-ups, and other types of exercise may help stave off some of these unpleasant side effects of aging, they are not guaranteed to be 100% effective over time. Tummy tuck surgery is usually sought by women post-pregnancy (especially after multiple pregnancies, when their childbearing years are over), and by patients with loose or sagging belly skin as a result of major weight loss or liposuction.
How Long Is My Recovery Period?
Since the incision made in a tummy tuck is significantly larger than those made in an abdominal liposuction procedure, the recovery time will be accordingly longer. As with liposuction, pain medication and compression garments are likely to be prescribed, along with a good two weeks of rest at home. In addition, regularly changing the dressing over the wound and, later, removal of the suture will be necessary. The patient should refrain from any heavy lifting or other physical exertion or vigorous exercise for a month or two.
Are the Results Permanent?
Yes—more or less. Bear in mind, however, that an ensuing pregnancy will stretch the skin all over again, as will any significant weight gain in the abdominal area. For that reason, a continuing healthy diet and regular exercise routine are the best ways to maintain a taut belly after the procedure.
What Are the Risk from a Tummy Tuck?
While tummy tuck cosmetic surgery is done relatively routinely and without major complications for most patients, be aware that it carries the same sort of risks as any other kind of invasive surgery. If fluid builds up under the skin after the drains have been removed, the physician can easily aspirate it with a needle. In rare cases, however, the side effects of tummy tuck surgery can be severe, including blood clots, thrombosis, infection, and cardiac and pulmonary complications.
Post-surgery Scarring from Liposuctions and Tummy Tucks
As these are two different types of surgeries, naturally two different types of scars will develop as a result. But that doesn’t mean you have to live with them. Rejuveness offers solutions to minimize the appearance of the resultant scars from each type of procedure.
The most common scarring problem resulting from liposuction is dyschromia (discoloring), which can take two forms: hyperpigmentation (darker scars) and hypopigmentation (lighter scars).
Nevertheless, the incision(s) made for liposuction are exceedingly small, and so any scars that form after the healing process will be equally small and not very prominent. Over time, they may disappear completely on their own.
To speed up the process of liposuction scar healing, we recommend a combination of Silicone Sheeting and Hyper-Heal Cream, applied about one week post-op. For discolored scars that have already been established, your best bet is to use a .2mm derma roller with daily application of Hyper-Heal Cream.
This procedure can leave a curved or arched post-surgical scar that stretches anywhere from 15 to 60 inches in length. A full tummy tuck will produce a larger scar than a partial one, obviously; but ultimately, the severity of the scarring will depend on the amount of skin removed. It can take up to a year for a tummy tuck scar to fully flatten out and lighten in color. To complicate matters, the removal of any adipose fat tissue at the incision site means that some of the body’s most important healing elements are now lacking. Moreover, the increased skin tension along the wound edge will mitigate against an optimally minimal scar formation.
For these reasons, we recommend the following protocols for treating a post-surgery tummy tuck scar:
- Apply Rejuveness Silicone Sheeting as soon as sutures are removed and wound bed is dry. Non-adhesive silicone offers the highest calcium gradient performance.
- 3″-wide silicone sheeting will provide splinting to insure superior wound edge support.
- Taping over the silicone sheeting in a criss-cross pattern will offer even more wound edge support.
- Hyper-Heal Cream will supply many of the lipids and healing molecules lost from the removal of fat tissue.
- After six months to a year (once the healing process has completely ended), begin residual scar management treatment using a combination of Rejuveness Silicone Sheeting, Hyper-Heal Cream, and derma-needling with a Rejuveness Derma Roller.
This video will provide additional information on the differences between liposuction and tummy tuck procedures: