Tummy Tuck, Liposuction, or Both: Which Is Right for You?

A woman looks at her herself in the mirror after fitting into new, slimmer clothing.

Women consulting with our plastic surgeons to discuss body contouring options such as liposuction or tummy tuck surgery at our Austin, Texas, practice often ask some form of this question:

“I’ve had 3 kids and definitely need some help in my stomach area, but I’m not sure if I would need liposuction, a tummy tuck, or both to get the pre-baby look I want.”

Dr. Kerr answered this question (posted a few years ago on the RealSelf website) by noting that liposuction and tummy tuck are complementary procedures that work well together because their primary goals are distinct. Still, some patients can benefit from liposuction without a tummy tuck and, less often, tummy tuck patients may not need liposuction.

In this blog post, we’ll explain the most important factors determining a patient’s surgical plan and why the patient’s overall health and aesthetic goals play an essential role when deciding which procedures to pursue.

What Do Liposuction and Tummy Tuck Have in Common?

From a results standpoint, both liposuction and tummy tuck surgery (abdominoplasty) can improve the appearance of the abdomen. Also, neither procedure should be seen as weight loss surgery. The goal of each is body contouring, not weight reduction. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. There are many more differences, which is why it’s essential to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon when making a decision about which is best for you.

Those differences include the kind of results you can expect, how long the results may last, the type of anesthetic used during the operation, and what you should expect during the recovery process.

How Do I Know If I Need a Tummy Tuck or Lipo?

We hear this question often. One of the most important steps in developing a body contouring surgical plan is determining if you’re a good candidate for either of the procedures. That decision involves evaluating several factors.

There are 3 primary issues to consider for patients trying to choose between liposuction or a tummy tuck.

Is your skin loose?

Some liposuction techniques that use laser or ultrasound energy to break down fatty tissue claim to tighten skin, too. Even so, patients with loose abdominal skin won’t get their desired results from liposuction alone. During liposuction of the midsection, it’s vital that the patient’s overlying skin shrinks back and adapts to the new contours, creating smooth, natural-looking results. This doesn’t usually happen if the skin is already very loose.

Patients who have had children or lost a good deal of weight through dieting or lifestyle changes will benefit from a tummy tuck, which removes that lax, excess abdominal skin.

Do you have loose abdominal muscles?

Some women develop belly pooches after having children. Even though it may appear to be excess fat or just poor muscle tone, it is actually caused by a condition known as diastasis recti. This occurs when the abdominal muscles are stretched during pregnancy to accommodate the baby, separating to the point of requiring surgery for repair. A tummy tuck can repair these abdominal muscles as well as remove excess skin.

What are your cosmetic goals?

Some of our patients are more concerned about the bulges created by excess fat and aren’t really worried by a bit of excess skin. In that case, our surgeons may recommend undergoing liposuction and waiting a few months to see if they’re happy with the results. Younger patients who have children may retain more of their skin laxity, so liposuction alone is sufficient to meet their goals. If the loose skin becomes more of a concern, patients can schedule a tummy tuck to remove the excess skin and, if needed, repair abdominal muscles.

Should you take a combination approach?

Our surgeons often have this conversation with patients who aren’t sure if they want to get liposuction or a tummy tuck. Liposuction involves making tiny incisions and inserting a thin tube called a cannula to suction fatty tissue from the treatment area. During a tummy tuck, the surgeon makes a horizontal incision very low on the abdomen that stretches from one hip to the other. It’s low enough to be hidden by bikini bottoms, but it’s something that patients need to consider.

Combining liposuction with a tummy tuck—instead of staging the procedures—has the benefit of requiring only a single recovery period. Additionally, there are some cost savings by paying certain fees only once.

The ultimate decision is up to the patient, of course. Our surgeons take the time needed during the consultation to perform a thorough physical examination and clearly explain what’s involved with each procedure option.

If you are considering a tummy tuck or liposuction in the Austin, Texas, area, request a consultation online to meet with one of our experienced, highly trained plastic surgeons. Or call our office at (512) 244-1439 to schedule an appointment.

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