Tummy tuck and liposuction are surgical procedures that aim to improve the cosmetic appearance of the abdomen. A tummy tuck involves the removal of fat and loose skin in addition to tightening and bringing the abdominal muscle back to its original mid-line position. Liposuction is a body contouring procedure used to reduce fat volume.
A tummy tuck procedure is best suited for patients seeking a flatter abdomen and tighter skin. The ideal candidate is one with abdominal wall laxity and loose skin. The ideal candidate for liposuction of the abdomen is one who has subcutaneous fat with little redundant skin. A patient with redundancy of the skin and ample fat may end up with sagging skin. For optimal results, patients choosing liposuction should be at or near their ideal body weight.
There are two types of tummy tuck: full and mini. A full tummy tuck corrects both the upper and lower abdomen, while a mini tummy tuck concentrates only on the lower abdomen. The surgeon does not reposition the umbilicus in a mini tummy tuck. Liposuction procedures may be classified as either wet or dry. In wet liposuction, tumescent fluid is injected into the fat tissue. The fluid contains the anesthetic drug lidocaine along with the vasoconstrictor epinephrine. The fatty tissue is then removed from the body by a small device called a cannula. In the dry liposuction technique, no tumescent fluid is injected. This technique is rarely used as it causes additional bleeding.
While the aim for patients choosing a tummy tuck is to have a flat abdomen, patients who are overweight or have a soft abdominal wall may not achieve this result. On average, a tummy tuck procedure removes five to ten pounds of excess fat. A common misconception is that liposuction involves the removal of the extra skin following fat removal. Liposuction only removes fat. Removal of excess skin is not included in the liposuction procedure.
Since both procedures require the use of an anesthetic drug, it is a requirement for patients to be generally healthy before undergoing a tummy tuck or liposuction. Patients are also advised to be close to their ideal weight to ensure a favorable outcome.
Tummy tuck and liposuction may be done at the same time. When the procedure is combined, the surgeon will thin out the fatty tissue through liposuction and then remove the extra skin. Liposuction also allows for additional contouring of the waist and hip area.
Tummy tuck is a more involved procedure than liposuction and requires a longer recovery period. Most patients miss work for two weeks after the procedure. The patient is restricted from heavy lifting and intense workouts for four to six weeks. With liposuction, the recovery is shorter with most patients returning to work in one week. Swelling and bruising should resolve in a few days and patients can resume regular activities at that time.
The effects of a tummy tuck and liposuction are meant to be permanent. However, patients can regain the lost weight if they do not observe a proper diet and exercise. With increased weight gain, new fat cells develop in all areas of the body including those that have been treated. With a small weight gain, existing fat cells just enlarge.