What is the Difference Between Liposuction and a Tummy Tuck?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2019
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Liposuction and tummy tucks are both cosmetic procedures which are used to smooth the contours of the body, but these procedures are very different in nature. Anyone considering cosmetic surgery should seek out the services of a board certified plastic surgeon who can evaluate a patient to determine which procedures would be suitable, and discuss options in detail, including the potential risks and concerns associated with different cosmetic surgical procedures.

In liposuction, also known as lipoplasty, a surgical tool is inserted under the skin to remove fat. Some surgical tools may be designed to soften or break up the fat to make it easier to remove. This procedure is designed for stubborn and persistent pockets of fat which resist dieting and exercise, and it can be used anywhere on the body. The abdomen is a popular region for lipoplasty because many people carry their weight in their abdomens, and have trouble getting rid of stubborn abdominal fat.

In a tummy tuck, a surgeon makes a long incision over the pubic bone, and peels the skin and fat upwards to expose the muscles of the abdominal wall. The surgeon tightens the muscles of the abdominal wall, and removes excess skin and fat before closing the incision. Tummy tucks are most commonly used on people who have recently lost weight, and have skin folds or weakened abdominal muscles which cause the abdomen to have a saggy, pouched appearance.


Both liposuction and a tummy tuck require some time resting to allow the site to heal, with the recovery time from liposuction being significantly shorter. Immediate results are not always visible, because the surgery causes trauma which induces swelling and water retention, but over time, a smoother contour should appear. The scars from a tummy tuck will endure for life, although they fade significantly after two years, while liposuction tends to leave less noticeable scarring.

Neither liposuction nor a tummy tuck is a replacement for a patient's diet and exercise regimen. These procedures are designed to supplement a patient's personal care. Both are classically performed under general anesthesia, and the patient will be given analgesia in the days following the procedure to manage the pain around the incisions. After a tummy tuck, a patient will need to take some time off from work to rest, and strenuous activity such as exercise is not advised for several weeks, to avoid tearing the abdominal incision and sutures.



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