The Surgeon Minute

What’s Right For Me, a Tummy Tuck or Liposuction?

What’s Right For Me, a Tummy Tuck or Liposuction?

Age, weight loss, and childbirth generally take a visible toll on the body, leaving the abdominal area looking uneven with excess and sagging skin. There are several plastic surgery methods to reshape the mid-section, but it’s important to decide which one is right for you: a tummy tuck or liposuction. The former is a procedure aimed at correcting loose skin and muscles of the abdomen, while the latter extracts fat while recontouring what remains.

For many patients, one or the other is the only correct choice, while sometimes they may be used in parallel. Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Mary Gingrass discusses what each procedure offers and who is a good candidate and why.

Is Liposuction The Best Choice?

Liposuction is an excellent procedure for people who overall are in good shape, but have extra fat in the abdominal area. Dr. Gingrass says liposuction can be used to remove fat, but it doesn’t tighten the skin and is a procedure that should never be taken lightly. “It’s not uncommon for patients to come in and think that they can go back to work in a day or a couple of days and nobody will every know, and they’ll just look better,” shes shares. Liposuction is a surgical procedure, and depending on how much fat was removed, will involve a period of recovery. The results are immediate and the recovery won’t be too long, but patients may need to wear compression garments for some weeks and maybe months after.

The skin quality is really going to be the determining factor whether liposuction is the right option. If the skin is great and it’s just fat that needs removed, liposuction is the answer. If a patient has significantly loose skin (whether from childbirth or massive weight loss) liposuction can pull the fat our underneath, but that skin will remain loose. Many who have loose abdominal skin are facing it in tandem with loose abdominal muscles – something they may not even know has happened. The only correction for these issues is via a tummy tuck.

Who Is A Tummy Tuck Candidate?

Gingrass says a patient needs to know that a tummy tuck is more invasive and will require a little more time for recovery. She says it’s fairly easy to determine who needs which procedure. “Having been around the block and in practice for 20 years, I think I can make good recommendations on whether someone needs liposuction or a tummy tuck,” says Gingrass. However, she says the procedure has to fit into the patient’s needs, wants and lifestyle. It can take weeks or even months before the swelling goes down after a tummy tuck, in addition to being heavily limited in physical activity during the initial phase of recovery.

Tummy tuck patient - Dr. Gingrass.

For women seeking to improve their post pregnancy body, Gingrass says the tummy tuck is usually the answer. “A woman might be a better candidate for a tummy tuck than liposuction if she has had pregnancies or weight fluctuations, if the skin is stretched out, and if there are stretch marks,” she explains. “There can be injury or damage to the muscle wall that has occurred with pregnancy.” Gingrass says the procedure can be used to tighten abdominal skin and tighten muscle to improve appearance. “They may need muscle tightening and that could improve the outcome of any kind of tummy surgery.”

Making the Case For Both

It’s worth noting that liposuction and tummy tuck procedures go well together and are performed in tandem often. They form two of the three points of a typical mommy makeover procedure: breast augmentation and/or lift, a tummy tuck, and liposuction. Because the tummy tuck downtime is somewhat significant, pairing a little bit of liposuction means that patients can “bundle” their recovery, avoiding having to take further time off at a later date to separate the procedures.

The real answer to the question tummy tuck or liposuction is going to be found during the consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon. It may be difficult to tell for some whether they need this or that, whereas an experienced surgeon will be able to dial it in for a patient’s unique concerns.

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