Abdominoplasty vs. liposuction

Abdominoplasty also called Tummy Tuck and liposuction are two different surgical procedures that aim to change the appearance of your midsection. Both procedures claim to make your stomach appear flatter, tighter, and smaller.

In terms of the actual procedure, recovery time, and risks, there are some key differences between the two. Keep reading to learn more.

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Quick Facts

. About

. Abdominal liposuction is a surgical procedure. It removes localized fatty tissue from the abdomen.

. An Abdominoplasty, or Tummy Tuck, 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 an Abdominoplasty.

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. Safety

. In rare cases, liposuction can result in infection or fat embolism.

. Abdominoplastys are associated with a higher possibility of risks than other cosmetic procedures.

. Cost

. The cost of liposuction vary depending on which part or parts of your body you choose to have treated. The average cost for a liposuction procedure is $1200.

. The average cost for an Abdominoplasty procedure is $1300.

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Comparison between Abdominoplasty and liposuction

What is Liposuction?

Liposuction also known as Lipoplasty or Lipo is a surgical procedure that uses a suction technique to remove fat from specific areas of the body, such as the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms or neck. Liposuction also shapes (contours) these areas.

In fact, Liposuction is a surgical procedure which removes the exercise and diet resistant stubborn fat from a person’s body and enhances its aesthetic appeal. The doctor puts a small, thin tube through very small cuts in the skin. Then the doctor moves the tube around under your skin to reach areas with more fat.

Liposuction is often combined with other procedures to create a desired shape and is one of the safest and most popular cosmetic procedures.

What is Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)?

An Abdominoplasty, or Tummy Tuck, is a cosmetic surgery to improve the shape of the tummy area (abdomen).

It can involve removing excess loose skin, fat and stretch marks and tightening the abdominal muscles. It is sometimes combined with liposuction to help shape the abdomen. The results can be long lasting, particularly if you keep to a healthy weight after your surgery.

It is popular following pregnancy, massive weight loss or whenever a flabby abdomen with weak muscles impairs body contour.

It’s not a quick fix for losing weight as the procedure is usually only recommended for people with a healthy body mass index (BMI).

How is a liposuction procedure performed?

For the liposuction surgery, very small incisions are made at the place from where the fat is to be removed and then a narrow tube called cannula is inserted into a small incision nearby the targeted area. Next, this tube is attached to a strong vacuum which is drawn back and forth within the excess fat in order to draw it out while keeping the blood vessels and nerves intact.

Some liposuction procedures may require only local anesthesia and intravenous sedation limited to a specific area of your body. Other procedures may require general anesthesia, which induces a temporary state of unconsciousness.

The surgical team will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen level throughout the procedure. If you are given local anesthesia and feel pain during the procedure, tell your surgeon. The medication or motions may need adjustment.

The procedure may last up to several hours (usually takes between one and four hours), depending on the extent of fat removal.

If you’ve had general anesthesia, you’ll wake in a recovery room. You’ll typically spend at least a few hours in the hospital or clinic so that medical personnel can monitor your recovery. If you’re in a hospital, you may stay overnight to make sure that you’re not dehydrated or in shock from fluid loss.

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How is an Abdominoplasty procedure performed?

In this surgical procedure, your surgeon will remove your loose abdominal skin and tighten up your abdominal muscles with sutures.

. Your surgeon will mark your abdomen to indicate the location of the incisions, the center of your torso and the location of the repositioned navel.

. A solution of lidocaine (a local anesthetic) and epinephrine (a vasoconstrictor that controls bleeding by constricting blood vessels) will be injected.

. The primary Abdominoplasty incision will be above the pubic mound, from one hipbone to the other. In a full abdominoplasty, another incision is made around your navel. In a mini-Abdominoplasty, your surgeon will use a shorter incision.

. The surgeon will loosen the skin from your abdominal wall to your ribcage and then place sutures in the fascia of your abdominal muscles to pull them into a tighter position. This is the muscle repair portion of the surgery.

. After your abdominal muscles have been sutured, your surgeon will remove excess fat by liposuction or other methods. Your abdominal skin is then stretched down over your incision line and the excess skin is removed.

. Next, your surgeon will mark the placement of your navel. Although the skin around your navel has been moved, the navel almost always stays in the same place. Your surgeon cuts a hole through the redraped skin and sutures it around your navel.

. Your surgeon will use tissue glue, sutures, staples or Steri-Strips to close the incisions.

. In a full abdominoplasty, the surgeon will often insert one or more drains to prevent fluid buildup, which can cause pressure on the incision. The drain is a clear plastic tube placed through a very short incision below the main incision, which leads out of the body to a small oval-shaped bulb. Each time you empty a bulb and before you close it again, you will be asked to squeeze it to help drain the wound.

Comparing the Advantages and Disadvantages

Liposuction Advantages

. A liposuction procedures results in safe removal of fat and cellulite from the body.

. It gives the person the desired body appearance and size. (Will make your clothes fit better and your body appear slimmer).

. The patient gets the benefit of improved health and prevention of further health related diseases due to excess weight.

. Liposuction is an easy way to sculpt a body part that exercise or diet cannot impact.

. The procedure boosts self-esteem and enhances body image.

. Permanent results. The effects of a liposuction are long lasting.

. Uses small, minimally invasive incisions, which result in smaller scars than open body contouring procedures.

Abdominoplasty Advantages

. Tummy-tuck surgery will restore a flat tummy that is rigid and well set.

. It helps to trim the waist to one’s desired size.

. You will have a more youthful-looking body, which will show better in clothes and swimwear.

. The surgery eliminates unwanted skin lesions and the skin imperfections that exists on the stomach.

. It can be used along with the other clinical methods like liposuction to multiply the benefits on the body.

. Stretch marks can be found in both men and women. They appear as a result of the skin either growing or reducing in size. These marks are visible on particularly those who undergo weight loss programs and pregnant women. Stretch marks can be reduced or eliminated by the Abdominoplasty procedure and it helps in the process of increasing the skin quality of the people.

. It improves the psychological well-being of the patients who are dissatisfied by their current body shape.

. No risks can be associated with the combination of Abdominoplasty procedure and the other clinical procedures.

. The removal of the skin that is in excess does not cause the infections that occur in the folds of skin (that otherwise occur due to improper hygiene and sweating).

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Liposuction Disadvantages

. Although liposuction is a popular cosmetic procedure, it is also carried out to treat medical conditions like lipomas (benign fatty tumors), gynecomastia, lymphedema and lipodystrophy syndrome.

. In some situations liposuction might result in damage to the skin in the form of marks, pain, swelling and bruises. However, these are temporary effects and subside early.

. Results may be affected by weight gain, aging and pregnancy.

. Liposuction is not meant to improve the look of cellulite or loose skin.

. You may need to lose weight to be a better candidate for liposuction.

Abdominoplasty Disadvantages

. You will have a permanent scar (located in the bikini area) that usually does not go fade, but this can easily be covered up by clothes, or even bathing suits.

. Another pregnancy may influence surgery results, so it is best to wait until you’ve finished having children before undergoing this procedure.

. This is an age-dependent outcome, hence it is important for you to understand all the possible outcomes and complications of the procedure before making a decision.

. Weight gain following abdominoplasty may negatively affect your surgery results.

Comparing the Risks and Side effects

Liposuction Risks and side effects

As with any major surgery, liposuction carries risks, such as bleeding and a reaction to anesthesia. Possible complications specific to liposuction include:

. Contour irregularities. Your skin may appear bumpy, wavy or withered due to uneven fat removal, poor skin elasticity and unusual healing. These changes may be permanent. Damage beneath the skin from the thin tube (cannula) that’s used during liposuction may give the skin a permanent spotted appearance.

. Fluid accumulation. Temporary pockets of fluid (seromas) can form under the skin. This fluid may need to be drained with a needle.

. Numbness. You may feel temporary or permanent numbness in the affected area. Temporary nerve irritation also is possible.

. Infection. Skin infections are rare but possible. A severe skin infection may be life-threatening.

. Internal puncture. Rarely, a cannula that penetrates too deeply may puncture an internal organ. This may require emergency surgical repair.

. Fat embolism. Pieces of loosened fat may break away and become trapped in a blood vessel and gather in the lungs or travel to the brain. A fat embolism is a medical emergency.

. Kidney and heart problems. Shifts in fluid levels as fluids are being injected and suctioned out can cause potentially life-threatening kidney, heart and lung problems.

. Lidocaine toxicity. Lidocaine is an anesthetic often administered with fluids injected during liposuction to help manage pain. Although generally safe, in rare circumstances, lidocaine toxicity can occur, causing serious heart and central nervous system problems.

. Irritation and minor scarring around the incisions are also temporary side effects of the surgery. Avoid rubbing the incisions.

. More serious threats include permanent change in skin colour and damage to nerves and skin. However, these are extremely rare and if a qualified surgeon is chosen to perform the procedure, safe results will follow.

Abdominoplasty Risks and side effects

. There will be swelling which will obscure the actual result until the treated area is healed. This swelling can be controlled by bandages and compression garments.

. Standing and walking can be difficult in the first week after the surgery.

. The patient is likely to feel some pain and discomfort in the first couple of days after the surgery which can be dealt with by pain medication. Bruising is also a common complication.

. There may be fluid accumulation in the operated which can be drained by small pipes attached to the abdomen.

. Incision scars run from one end of the hip to the other. They heal over time but there is a risk of them not fading completely. Anti-scarring medication can help in this.

. Slight irritation around the incision sites where the ducts were inserted.

. Loose skin or ripple. The skin is usually pulled and pulled back after a few months. But in some people the skin may remain a little loose.

. Numbness or other changes in skin sensation

. Allergic reactions

. Damage to underlying structures

. Adverse reaction to anesthesia

. Hematoma or seroma (an accumulation of blood or fluid under the skin that may require removal).

. Bleeding

. Poor wound healing

. Skin loss

. Skin discoloration

. Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)

. Asymmetry

. Nerve damage

. Suture rupture

You can help minimize certain risks by following the advice and instructions of your board-certified plastic surgeon, both before and after your tummy-tuck surgery.

Who is a good candidate?

Who is a good candidate for liposuction?

In general, good candidates for a liposuction include:

. You are physically fit, no more than 20 pounds overweight, and your weight is stable. If you are planning to lose a significant amount of weight or even gain weight (for example, due to pregnancy), this is not the time to undergo liposuction.

. Healthy individuals who do not have a life-threatening illness or medical conditions that can impair healing.

. Nonsmokers

. Individuals with a positive outlook and specific goals in mind for body contouring

. Individuals with a minimal amount of excess skin and good skin elasticity. Loss of skin elasticity with age can compromise lipoplasty results, but if your skin maintains elasticity, age alone is not a contraindication for liposuction surgery.

. Concentrated pockets of fat that do not respond well to diet and exercise, If you are bothered by excess fat deposits located anywhere on your body that don’t respond to diet or exercise, liposuction may be right for you.

Keep in mind that liposuction does not remove cellulite and cannot tighten loose skin. Your surgeon will be able to recommend other procedures to improve those conditions.

Who is a good candidate for Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck)?

There comes a time when you realize that efforts at dieting and exercise are yielding lower numbers on your bathroom scale but not changing the appearance of your sagging and protruding abdomen. The following are some common reasons why you may want to consider a Abdominoplasty:

. Aging, heredity, pregnancy, prior surgery or weight fluctuations have left you with extra skin on your abdomen, abdominal muscle weakness, or both.

. You do not smoke. Smoking slows down the healing process and increases the risk of serious complications during and after surgery. If you smoke, you must quit at least six weeks before surgery.

. Your weight is stable. Slender individuals with extra fat and loose skin in the lower tummy are the best candidates; if you are generally obese, this procedure is not appropriate for you.

. If you have a significant amount of intra-abdominal fat surrounding your internal organs, you may need to slim down before considering an Abdominoplasty.

. You are physically healthy. You must be in relatively good physical shape to tolerate this procedure.

. You are finished having children. The muscles that are repaired during an abdominoplasty can separate again during future pregnancy.

. Internal or external scars from any previous abdominal surgery may also affect your candidacy.

If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.

How long does each procedure take?


Most people only need to do one liposuction procedure to see results. Surgery takes one to four hours, depending on the size of the treated area.


Depending on what exactly you’re having done, the operation can take between two and four hours, but this may vary between surgeons.

What can I expect during recovery?


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.


Abdominoplasty recovery depends on the type of Abdominoplasty 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.



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.


After a successful Abdominoplasty 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.



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.


All forms of Abdominoplasty 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 Abdominoplasty 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 Abdominoplasty scar.

Post-Pregnancy Liposuction or Abdominoplasty


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.


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. Abdominoplasty 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 an Abdominoplasty to allow hormone levels to return to normal.

Comparing cost

Both Abdominoplasty and liposuction are cosmetic procedures. This means your insurance plan is unlikely to cover them, so you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

Liposuction cost

The costs of liposuction vary depending on which part or parts of your body you choose to have treated. The average cost for a liposuction procedure is $1200.

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.

Abdominoplasty cost

The average cost for an Abdominoplasty procedure is $1300.

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

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