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People may consider having cosmetic surgery for various reasons. After pregnancy or substantial weight loss, for example, the abdomen may take on a less-than-desirable appearance. Anyone considering abdominal cosmetic surgery should know the differences between abdominoplasty and liposuction. The former, also known as a tummy tuck, is a procedure that not only removes fat and excess skin, but also tightens the muscles of the abdominal wall. Liposuction only removes excess fat by suctioning it out of the abdomen.
The choice between abdominoplasty and liposuction depends in part on the patient's desired results. A tummy tuck typically is recommended for individuals that have both extra fat and loose skin on the abdomen. This loose skin does not respond to diet or exercise and is common in female patients after pregnancy. Members of both sexes may also be left with excess skin after losing a lot of weight.
Liposuction does not affect loose skin or the abdominal muscles in any way. This procedure simply suctions excess fat from specific areas, such as the "love handles" at the sides of the waist and the abdomen. A patient considering abdominoplasty and liposuction will likely benefit more from the latter procedure if his only concern is pockets of fat that remain despite proper diet and exercise.
There are different varieties of both abdominoplasty and liposuction. A partial abdominoplasty targets the lower abdominal area, below the navel. This is generally an outpatient procedure that only takes approximately two hours to complete. A complete abdominoplasty removes excess fat and skin from the entire abdomen. As this procedure is more invasive, it may take up to five hours to finish and requires a short period of hospitalization afterward.
Liposuction is usually an outpatient procedure, with techniques that vary according to the amount of fat to be removed and the patient's skin type. Tumescent liposuction, in which a mixture of saline, lidocaine and epinephrine is injected into the fatty area, is most frequently used. This procedure calls for a large amount of fluid, unlike the super-wet method that only uses an amount of liquid equal to the amount of fat to be removed. Fat may also be liquefied using ultrasound vibrations, either alone or in conjunction with super-wet liposuction, before it is suctioned out.
Some patients may be ineligible for both abdominoplasty and liposuction. These include people who smoke, as smoking can restrict blood flow to the surgery site, which can impede proper healing. Patients who have a history of developing blood clots may also not be good candidates for these procedures.