Quick Facts

About

  • Abdominal liposuction is a surgical procedure. It removes localized fatty tissue from the abdomen.
  • A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure. Tummy tucks remove loose skin and produce a flatter abdominal wall by tightening slack abdominal muscles.

Candidates

  • Abdominal liposuction may be appropriate for those wishing to address localized deposits of fat around their abdomen.
  • Individuals with significant skin or muscle laxity from the navel down may benefit from a tummy tuck.

Safety

  • In rare cases, liposuction can result in infection or fat embolism.
  • Tummy tucks are associated with a higher possibility of risks than other cosmetic procedures

Reviews

Cost

  • Liposuction for the abdomen can be priced between $5,000 and $10,000.
  • The cost for abdominoplasty may fall between $3,000 and $12,500, with anesthesia and facility fees additional.

Providers near you

For those thinking about contouring their stomachs, abdominal liposuction and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck surgery) represent the most effective surgical options. This article will compare the two procedures and the benefits and risks associated with each.

What does abdominal liposuction entail?

Abdominal liposuction is a surgical procedure performed under local or general anesthesia. It removes localized fatty tissue from the abdomen, helping to eliminate small bulges and provide contour.

Depending on your needs, the treatment can target:

  • The central abdomen
  • The circumference of the lower torso

Many surgeons favor tumescent liposuction for abdominal contouring. Tumescent means a solution is infiltrated into the subcutaneous fat, causing it to become swollen and firm. Tumescent liposuction also decreases the likelihood of blood loss, and post-procedural pain, swelling and bruising.

Liposuction only removes deposits of fat. It does not remove excess skin.

Learn more about liposuction treatment, it benefits and its limitations in our comprehensive liposuction guide.

What does a tummy tuck entail?

Tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is a surgical procedure. While liposuction targets unwanted fat deposits, tummy tucks primarily target loose skin. Tummy tuck surgery also produces a flatter abdominal wall by tightening slack abdominal muscles.

Tummy tucks are generally considered the best solution if the main issue is lax skin or muscle.

There are several variations of tummy tuck:

  • Traditional tummy tuck
  • Mini tummy tuck
  • Extended tummy tuck or circumferential lower body lift
  • Reverse tummy tuck

Learn more about tummy tuck procedures and techniques in Zwivel’s comprehensive guide.

For suitable patients, liposuction may also be teamed with a tummy tuck.

Who is a good candidate?

Understanding the difference between a tummy tuck and abdominal liposuction can be confusing. While both procedures focus on restoring contour to the abdominal area, they achieve this goal in distinct ways. This section clarifies who would be a good candidate for each procedure.

Liposuction

Liposuction can offer benefits for individuals who:

  1. Are within 30% of their ideal weight
  2. Have good skin elasticity and muscle tone
  3. Are in a good state of health
  4. Have localized deposits of fat just underneath the skin around their abdomen they wish to address
  5. Have realistic expectations about what the procedure can achieve

Tummy tuck

A tummy tuck is suitable for individuals who:

  1. Have significant skin or muscle laxity from the navel down
  2. Are in a good state of health
  3. Have finished having children
  4. Have undergone weight loss and are left with sagging skin
  5. Understand that a tummy tuck requires an incision below the navel
  6. Have realistic expectation about what the procedure can achieve.

What happens during the procedure?

Liposuction

Liposuction is performed under anesthesia. Patients may be intravenously sedated or given a local anesthetic to numb the midsection. If tumescent liposuction is being used, a special form of local anesthesia known as tumescent anesthesia is used.

When the area is numb, small incisions are made. The incisions are located close to the fat deposits.

A cannula (thin metal tube) is inserted into the incisions to break up the fatty tissue. The surgeon then uses a medical vacuum to remove the dislodged fat.

The procedure takes between 45 minutes and two hours. More than one liposuction treatment may be required for optimal outcomes.

Tummy tuck

The patient is placed under general anesthesia. Once sedated, the surgeon makes a horizontal incision between the hips along the bikini line.

The surgeon “plicates” the abdominal wall fascia by sewing it to itself from the sternum down to the pubic area, thereby tightening the underlying abdominal muscles, which are generally separated from each other and loose in cases of abdominal laxity. The skin is pulled taut over the abdomen, and any loose skin is excised. The navel is re-positioned. The incision is closed with sutures. The entire surgery takes between 1-3 hours.

The procedure may vary slightly depending on the type of tummy tuck being performed.

A tummy tuck is conducted over the course of one procedure.

What are the possible side effects or risks?

All surgeries carry a level of risk. Risks and complications can be minimized when the procedure is performed under a board-certified surgeon. As such, it’s very important to find a surgeon who has excellent credentials and experience in your chosen procedure.

Liposuction

Possible side effects include:

  • Numbness in the treated area: any loss of sensation is usually temporary, but in some cases may become permanent
  • Contour asymmetries or irregularities: fat that has been removed may leave a wavy impression
  • Seromas: these are temporary pockets of fluid that accumulate beneath the skin. The doctor may need to drain them
  • Poor wound healing
  • Persistent swelling

More serious risks include:

  • Infection
  • Damage inflicted on tissue, muscle or nerve structures
  • Fat embolism: this is rare, but dangerous. Fat becomes trapped in the body’s circulatory system.

Tummy tuck

Tummy tucks are associated with a higher possibility of risks than other cosmetic procedures. Possible side effects include:

  • Prolonged swelling
  • Changes in skin sensation
  • Bleeding
  • Seroma
  • Persistent pain

More serious risks include:

  • Asymmetry
  • Poor wound healing
  • Fat necrosis (tissue death)
  • Skin loss
  • General anesthesia risks
  • Unsightly scarring

What can I expect during recovery?

Liposuction

Abdominal liposuction is generally an outpatient procedure. Recovery is usually quick, with most people returning to work and their everyday activities within a few days. Bruising, swelling and mild discomfort, however, may persist for several weeks.

Recovery times vary from individual to individual with the amount of downtime being influenced by factors such as:

  • The volume of fat removed
  • The areas of the abdomen where fat was removed
  • The patient’s general health

Most surgeons recommend that patients use a compression garment to support the body’s new contours – at first.

Tummy tuck

Tummy tuck recovery depends on the type of tummy tuck that the patient has undergone.

Drains will be left in for several days after surgery to channel fluid away from the incision site. Many patients feel tired for a few days while the effects of the anesthesia wear off.

Patients will not be able to engage in their usual everyday activities such as driving or light exercise for at least two weeks. Most patients require two weeks before they return to work. Healing is a gradual process, with full recovery potentially taking six weeks or longer.

An abdominal binder, or compression garment, will need to be worn for six weeks. Patients can further accelerate their recovery by following the tips listed here.

Results

Liposuction

Those who have liposuction performed on their midsection typically enjoy a flatter abdomen following the procedure. While the results are intended to be permanent, should you start to gain weight it’s possible you could reverse the results.

In one clinical study, up to 56% of patients gained weight following their liposuction procedure. The part of the body where fat was most likely to return was the abdomen, further emphasizing the importance of maintaining a stable weight both before and after surgery.

Tummy tuck

After a successful tummy tuck operation the abdominal wall will appear stronger and the skin on its surface tauter. The loose skin will not return unless the area is stretched by substantial weight gain or pregnancy.

Some patients notice that their navel appears different following surgery. There will be a post-op scar left directly below it, although with proper care it should fade over time. Most surgeons are careful to make the incision in an area where it can be concealed below the bikini line.

Scarring

Liposuction

Liposuction requires surgeons to make tiny incisions into a patient’s skin. As such the procedure will leave small scars around the treatment area, however, they should fade over time.

Tummy tuck

All forms of tummy tuck surgery leave a scar that runs horizontally from hip to hip across the lower abdomen. The length of the scar will depend on the type of tummy tuck procedure that has been performed. The scar will be permanent, but should fade substantially over time. Plastic surgeons generally make the incision below the bikini line so the scar can be concealed by underwear or swimwear.

Full abdominoplasty also results in a scar around the navel that with time will ultimately blend in with its surroundings and be largely imperceptible.

For patients who have no significant skin laxity above the navel, a low-central vertical scar may result, extending 2-4 cm upwards toward the navel from the horizontal tummy tuck scar.

Post-pregnancy liposuction or tummy tuck

Liposuction

Abdominal liposuction will remove excess post-pregnancy fat from the abdominal area and the love handles (flanks). Scarring is minimal and almost invisible. Liposuction is best pursued 6-9 months after pregnancy to allow ample time for postpartum recuperation.

Tummy tuck

Abdominoplasty is suitable for women looking to remove loose skin or stretch marks that have resulted from pregnancy. It is also effective for women with diastasis recti. Diastasis recti occurs when the abdominal muscles separate during pregnancy. Tummy tuck surgery tightens stretched, separated abdominal muscles and excises loose skin. If excess fat is also a concern, liposuction can be included for optimal contouring. Ideally, it’s better to wait a year before pursuing a tummy tuck to allow hormone levels to return to normal.

Before and afters

Liposuction

Liposuction Before and after

View more liposuction before and afters here

Tummy tuck

Tummy Tuck before and after

View more liposuction before and afters here

Reviews

Liposuction

A clinical study of abdominal liposuction patients reported that 78% of participants were satisfied with their results. Another study reported that 79.7% of patients who had undergone a liposuction procedure said they would undergo the surgery again.

Tummy tuck

In the same study, patients who underwent a tummy tuck procedure rated their results 8.7 out of 10. Patients who underwent lipoabdominoplasty (liposuction and abdominoplasty combined) rated their results 9 out of 10.

Cost

Liposuction

Liposuction for the abdomen is typically priced between $5000 and $10,000.

Factors such as the surgeon’s location, credentials, the type of facility where the procedure is being performed and the volume of fat removed all impact the final cost.

Tummy tuck

The cost of an abdominoplasty procedure in the United States is typically between $3000 and $12,500, in addition to anesthesia and facility fees.

The type of tummy tuck, the credentials of the surgeon, anesthesia fees, the facility itself and its geographic location, all influence the final cost of the procedure

Takeaway

Both abdominal liposuction and tummy tuck surgery have their merits, reliably delivering excellent contouring results for the right candidates.

Liposuction removes small, localized fat deposits around the abdomen or mid-section, while tummy tuck surgery focuses on removing loose skin and tightening muscles.

The two procedures can be combined for superior results.

Plastic surgeons near you

If you feel you would benefit from abdominal liposuction or tummy tuck surgery, a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon will help you to determine which procedure is most appropriate for you.

References

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About The Author

Articles by

Emma Stone, PhD, is a contributing health and wellbeing writer for Zwivel.

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