Liposuction removes fat from any part of the body, while a tummy tuck centers on fat and muscles in the abdomen. A tummy tuck takes longer to recover from and costs more than liposuction (~$5500 compared to ~$2800), but both procedures involve somewhat similar technology and risks.
Liposuction, also known as lipoplasty, aims to slim and reshape specific areas on the entire body. The surgeon removes excess fat deposits to improve body contours and proportions. Target areas for liposuction are the abdomen, waist, thighs, hips, buttocks, arms, neck, back, chin, chest, cheeks, calves and ankles. Liposuction is ideal for individuals who are within 30% of ideal weight but who have disproportionate fat deposits. Suitable candidates should be healthy and have firm, elastic skin. Liposuction does not affect cellulite.
A tummy tuck or abdominoplasty aims to remove excess fat and skin and restore weakened or separated muscles in the abdomen. The goal is to achieve a smooth, firm abdominal profile. Suitable individuals are at their target weight but have a protruding, loose abdomen. The laxity is usually caused by pregnancy, aging, weight fluctuation, heredity or prior surgery. Prime candidates should be healthy non-smokers with a stable weight.
What's the difference, and which one is for you? This video explains the basic concept of liposuction as well as an abdominoplasty:
Preparation and Cost
For both liposuction and abdominoplasty, patients undergo lab tests and a possible adjustment in medication. They should avoid aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, as these could impact bleeding.
Home preparation is mostly the same. Patients should stock up on ice packs and have loose clothing. However, liposuction patients also need compression bandages. Tummy tuck patients need petroleum jelly for the wound, a hand-held shower and a bathroom chair. Patients are unable to drive after the procedure, so it's best to have a companion.
Liposuction costs around $2,852, not including anesthesia, operating room facilities and other related expenses. A tummy tuck costs approximately $5,241, not including anesthesia, operating room facilities and other related expenses.
Procedure and Variations
For liposuction, the cosmetic surgeon decides whether the patient will receive intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. After this is administered, the surgeon makes small incisions in the target areas. The area is infused with saline solution mixed with pain medication, which reduces bleeding and pain. The surgeon then inserts a cannula to loosen the fat with a back and forth motion. The dislodged fat is then suctioned out. The procedure takes up to two hours, depending on the amount of fat being removed.
The above procedure is tumescent liposuction, which is the typical procedure. Other options include laser-assisted lipo and ultrasound-assisted lipo. Laser-assisted lipo uses a laser to liquefy fat before removal while the ultrasonic-assisted lipo utilizes ultrasonic energy for the same purpose. For a tummy tuck, general anesthesia is administered. The cosmetic surgeon makes a horizontal incision between the hip bones. Weak abdominal muscles are repaired, and excess fat, tissue and skin is removed. The procedure lasts one to five hours.
Patients can undergo a mini tummy tuck or a full tummy tuck. A mini tummy tuck concentrates on the lower abdomen, while a full tummy tuck focuses both above and below the belly button.
Patients are unable to drive after either procedure. The procedure for liposuction may be completed in a clinic or in a hospital, depending on the surgeon. Recovery takes a few days to two weeks. Patients typically experience swelling, bruising and pain. Compression bandages are used to minimize swelling.
Tummy tucks are performed in a hospital. At-home recovery takes four to six weeks. Patients typically experience swelling, bruising and pain. They also cannot stand up straight. Compression bandages are used to minimize swelling.
Liposuction carries with it certain risks. Typical risks include uneven contours, asymmetry, change in skin sensation and skin discoloration or swelling. Significant complications include excessive fluid loss or fluid accumulation, skin or nerve damage and unfavorable scarring. Infection is always a risk. Serious but rare complications include fat clots, blood clots and damage to deeper structures such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, lungs and abdominal organs. Those undergoing ultrasound-assisted liposuction risk thermal burns or heat injuries from the ultrasound.
Typical risks of abdominoplasty include asymmetry, unfavorable scarring, numbness or other changes in skin sensation and skin discoloration. Infection is always a risk. Bleeding and fluid accumulation are serious complications. Other serious but rare complications include skin loss, blood clots, nerve damage, deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications.
- What is a tummy tuck? - American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- Tummy Tuck - WebMD
- What is liposuction? - American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- Cosmetic Procedures and Liposuction - WebMD
- What Can I Expect Before, During, and After Liposuction? - FDA.gov
- How Long Does Liposuction Surgery Take? - Dr. Philip Miller
- Laser-assisted liposuction (SmartLipo) - American Society of Plastic Surgeons