This is a question I frequently hear from women and men seeking a slimmer, more toned midsection after diet and exercise have failed to produce their desired results. While both surgical options can effectively sculpt the midsection, each procedure addresses a different cosmetic concern. In general, a tummy tuck removes excess skin in the abdominal area, while liposuction targets stubborn pockets of fat. Some patients can benefit from one or both of these techniques to achieve their aesthetic goals.
For patients with loose redundant skin in the midsection (with or without the accumulation of excess fat), a tummy tuck may be the ideal option. Also referred to as abdominoplasty, this extremely popular aesthetic treatment is designed to eliminate lax, sagging skin while tightening the underlying muscles of the abdominal wall.
Tummy tuck surgery is often beneficial for those who have undergone major weight loss or for women after pregnancy, as loose skin is a common side effect of the skin stretching and not being able to fully retract. If indicated, liposuction can also be employed in conjunction with tummy tuck surgery to extract any undesired fat buildups and “fine-tune” the final outcome.
If your issue pertains solely to a buildup of excess fat around the abdominal region, liposuction may be more appropriate. Designed to remove localized pockets of fatty tissue, liposuction can be used to meticulously sculpt the targeted treatment area until a smooth contour is achieved. The one caveat is that liposuction is only ideal for patients with good skin elasticity.
Our goal is to have the skin contract down to the new contour once the desired fat is removed by liposuction. With age, pregnancy, or major weight loss, the skin may no longer “tighten up” – even with liposuction. If you feel that you have loose skin as well as excess fat, liposuction alone is not the best fit for you. However, when liposuction is combined with tummy tuck surgery, these patients can often achieve beautiful contouring results.
Ultimately, if you are interested in improving the appearance of your midsection, my advice is to seek the expertise of a board-certified plastic surgeon who has extensive experience with both liposuction and abdominoplasty. Following a thorough assessment, he or she should be able to recommend the most appropriate technique for your specific needs and desires.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on January 26, 2016.