Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and liposuction are surgical therapies for one of the most troubling parts of the female physique: the abdomen. Both procedures have seen significant advances made in the last several years, such as a hastened, less painful recovery for tummy tuck patients and body contouring with fat transfer via liposuction. Combining the two is one of the greatest breakthroughs, a procedure known as lipoabdominoplasty.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Watterson of Charlotte describes the tummy tuck procedure and how for some patients, the addition of liposuction can be the difference between great and incredible results.
The Problem of Loose Skin and Abdominal Muscles
Although skin is highly elastic, it can only take so much stretching before the effects become permanent. For a woman who has been pregnant or lost a large amount of weight, one of the after-effects is often excess skin and around the midsection and heavy stretch marks. This occurs because the skin stretches to accommodate excess fat or a growing baby and no longer has the elasticity to retract.
Another related issue is pregnancy often causes the abdominal muscles to stretch, too, which further contributes to the appearance of a sagging or expanding waistline. This is very similar to the situation with skin: the abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate a growing babe, and not often do they return to the same position.
Unfortunately, no amount of diet and exercise will fix stretched muscles. Only through a tummy tuck can this be achieved.
Combo Liposuction with a Tummy Tuck
Lipoabdominoplasty is the name of the procedure where liposuction is performed amidst a tummy tuck. This is done when excess fat exists, so much so that surgeons know if they were only to perform a tummy tuck, the results would be less than ideal.
“It was really popularized by a guy named Saldana, a guy from Brazil, a fabulous surgeon there,” says Dr. Watterson. “He came and taught us that we could combine aggressive liposuction in the front of the tummy along with a tummy tuck and get some fantastic results. You can tighten the skin with a tummy tuck, you can pull it tight and get rid of the loose skin and stretch marks and really have great results. But if the skin and subcutaneous tissue is a little bit thicker than you want, you can thin it and then pull it tight and get incredible results.”
This Combo Approach May Not be for Everyone
Dr. Watterson says combining liposuction and abdominoplasty usually is reserved for patients who want a “very aggressive approach to slimming the abdominal area.” A common misconception about abdominoplasty is the procedure is meant for weight loss. The fact is, a tummy tuck is aimed at repairing stretched muscles and excising loose skin. Due to this, many patients are great candidates that have little fat in their midsection; they’re just suffering from loose tissue and muscles.
Lipoabdominoplasty is a procedure aimed at patients who have a little extra on top that surgeons can remove and/or contour away. “Not everyone needs that,” reminds Watterson. “Only occasionally. It’s not that common, but it’s something that I will offer to a patient if they have a little more subcutaneous tissue than we want.”
Recovery from Lipoabdominoplasty
According to Watterson, the overall answer as to how recovery will go is “it depends.” After all, each patient is unique and will thus have different amounts of procedure.
In general, “it takes about 10 days for people to get through it,” explains Watterson. “We of course have the Exparel now which numbs up the area for three days. And, we have something new called a nasal clip that we’re using for post-operative nausea and vomiting.”
The key with Exparel is it allows patients to feel better sooner, creating a situation where they can start moving around faster, a key aspect in recovery. “We get our patients up, ambulating, and moving around,” shares Watterson. “We suggest taking ibuprofen to really help them get off the pain medicine ,and that makes a difference in their recovery. It is much shorter than it used to be.”
Perhaps the most exciting news for would-be patients is the vastly improved recovery. While the surgical techniques and procedures have indeed been honed and improved, achieving a faster recovery and thus faster return to life is a game-changer for patients.