Tummy tuck vs liposuction

Really want to get some procedures done but I’m really scared about getting cut and being in so much pain!!! Can liposuction be done to achieve a flat tummy and no bra rolls?? I would love to do my stomach and transfer the fat to my hips and butt!! Help me make up my mind


F, 42, New Jersey

The answer to your question depends on whether or not you still have good skin elasticity and muscle tone in your abdominal area. Both liposuction and tummy tuck plastic surgery procedures result in fat removal and a flatter abdomen, but a tummy tuck can correct issues with skin laxity and muscle tone as well as removing fat deposits.

If you are close to your ideal weight and are having trouble getting rid of stubborn fat deposits in specific areas, then you may be a good candidate for liposuction. On the other hand, if you have a combination of stubborn fat, accompanied by loose or sagging skin and slack abdominal muscles in certain areas -- then you may be a better candidate for a tummy tuck.

If you are interested in harvesting the fat from your abdominal area and moving it to your hips and butt, this can be accomplished along with liposuction in what is referred to as a Brazilian butt lift. I would not recommend this procedure however if you have loose or sagging skin, as the fat transfer alone will not likely correct this issue.

The decision between a tummy tuck vs. liposuction depends largely on your own anatomy. Both cosmetic procedures can successfully flatten the abdominal area, but only a tummy tuck can correct sagging, extra skin, remove stretch marks, and tighten the underlying muscles in the abdomen.

As you noted in your question, you're reluctant to undergo an invasive surgical procedure because of the painful recovery period. I can't give any medical recommendations here but I suggest meeting with an experienced cosmetic surgeon to discuss less-invasive options like liposuction and CoolSculpting. Liposuction is a minimally invasive procedure with a much shorter recovery time than a tummy tuck. CoolSculpting is a completely non-invasive body contouring procedure which can remove up to 30% of the fat from the treatment area without requiring an incision.

Not all patients are good candidates for liposuction or CoolSculpting however. If you have excessively loose skin, or have serious laxity in your abdominal muscles then a tummy tuck procedure may be required.

To answer your last question about transferring the fat to your hips and butt: Yes, this can be done in conjunction with liposuction as part of a Brazilian Butt Lift procedure. It is not advisable to transfer fat to the buttocks at the same time as a tummy tuck procedure though, as it can cause some postoperative difficulties.

Tummy tuck and liposuction procedures each have different strong points, and each are better suited for different situations. Which one is right for you will depend on your specific anatomy and what your aesthetic goals are.

If you have subcutaneous fat deposits on your belly, thighs, hips, and other areas, liposuction may be right for you. But keep in mind that liposuction is not intended for extremely overweight patients. A good candidate for liposuction should be within 30% of their ideal weight and have relatively firm skin with good skin elasticity. If you have stubborn fat deposits in specific areas like love handles or excess belly fat -- liposuction may be right for you.

But if you have loose skin or loose abdominal muscles as many women do after multiple pregnancies, no amount of abdominal liposuction will restore skin elasticity. In these cases you'll likely need tummy tuck surgery to remove the sagging skin completely and to tighten the muscles in the abdominal wall.

We have had excellent results with both procedures. I can't give you any direct medical advice about which plastic surgery is right for you without a personal consultation, but my recommendation is to contact a board-certified plastic surgeon who has extensive experience performing both tummy tuck procedures and liposuction.

A tummy tuck and liposuction are both good options for achieving a flat abdomen, but they each have different indications and treat different issues.  Liposuction ONLY addresses excess fat just beneath the skin (subcutaneous fat).   So to the extent that that is your issue, modalities like liposuction are extremely effective.  Coolsculpting is also a good option to treat this, and it is non-invasive.  It requires a few treatments, and is less definitive than liposuction, but for someone who wants to avoid surgery, it is a very good option.  For someone who has lax skin in the abdomen, liposuction runs a risk of contour irregularities. 

All that said, if your issue is not the fat sitting just underneath your skin, but rather laxity to the abdominal wall (which often results from pregnancy or significant weight loss), then a tummy tuck is likely what you need.  Liposuction DOES NOT work for this.  A tummy tuck tightens the abdominal wall and removes excess fat and skin.

Neither liposuction or a tummy tuck is a weight loss tool but rather are body contouring tools best used on patients who are in shape and at their optimal weight.  

With respect to transferring fat, that is very often done - it is called a Brazilian Buttock Lift (BBL).  It involves a combination of liposuction to the areas around the buttocks and fat grafting into the buttocks.  It is somewhat controversial if this can be done at the same time as a tummy tuck.  Healing after a tummy tuck requires you to sit on your back in a beach chair/flexed position, while healing after a BBL requires you lie on your stomach for 2 weeks with only a few hours of sitting on a special pillow.  So to do both at the same time makes the recovery very difficult (you need to lie only on your side).  They can be done together, but it is not recommended.  

I hope this helps.  Good luck!