Can Liposuction Be an Alternative to Tummy Tuck?

I'm a Tummy Tuck candidate, results are likely dramatic, but can't miss work for 2 weeks and have obvious follow-up recovery 1-4 months.

Flat abs would be nice, but not priority compared to hating the hip-to-hip pooch. I'll never be size 8, everywhere else proportional, but bulging tummy makes me unhappy with otherwise acceptable 36 yo, 5'9'', 165 lbs body.

Could Liposuction be done, then assuming more skin hanging post-lipo, just cut skin off without going through trauma of tightening muscles and stretching the skin down? If I'm ok with droopy belly button, still full-ish upper and lower abs, and can accept scar, is procedure like this feasible w/ less recovery time?

Doctor Answers 8

Liposuction or tummy tuck

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It's best to see a qualified physician who can do a full exam and make the appropriate recommendation.  In general, many patients can get satisfactory results with just liposuction if they're just concerned with removing excess fat and not requiring the skin to be tight.  There is some retraction of the skin after liposuction but not enough to take care of overhanging skin.  If your skin has good turgor and recoil (you can tell by pinching the skin between your fingers and seeing how quickly the skin bounces back--if it doesn't bounce back, that's not a good sign.)  Skin with poor elasticity and recoil probably won't retract as well after liposuction alone.  And the main question is whether you want to look better under clothes or if you want to be able to wear a bikini.  A tummy tuck will leave a large hip to hip scar so it's important to ask your surgeon what kind of scar you're going to have if you decide to go forward with that procedure and to see how that scar looks like with a bikini.  Even if your abdomen is nice and tight, you still might not be able to wear your favorite string bikini if the scar is too visible.  There's no harm in having the liposuction first and seeing if that will do the trick and deciding later to go forth with the tummy tuck if necessary.  This stepwise approach might save you from having the more invasive surgery unless absolutely necessary.

Walnut Creek Dermatologic Surgeon


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Liposuction is not an alternative but rather addresses a different problem than a TT. Liposuction is less invasive and quicker to recover from than a Tummy Tuck (abdominoplasty). This is because liposuction only involves removing fat from beneath your skin. Your body will cause the overlying skin to contract only to the degree it is capable, often leaving redundant skin which can be unsightly. In other words, you need good elasticity to get a good result.
A Tummy Tuck involves removing redundant skin and tightening the underlying muscles. Sometimes liposuction is combined as needed with a Tummy Tuck for the best possible result. Your photos suggest that you probably are a candidate for a Tummy Tuck. The question is whether the shape of your abdomen is affected by an excess of fat, skin, muscle separation or laxity, or some combination thereof. This can only be determined by examination, so go ahead and consult with a board certified plastic surgeon. Some of my patients elect to have liposuction first, and then opt for a Tummy Tuck if the results are not satisfying.

They complement each other.

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Eack procedure has its own limitations. Liposuction, in general, is not an alternative to tummy tuck. If you were advised to have tummy tuck then liposuction will not give you the shape you want. I see  patients  who want to substitute tummy tuck with a lesser procedure only to find themselves waisted their time and money and are not happy with their results. I hope that is helpful.

Moneer Jaibaji, MD
San Diego Plastic Surgeon

Hard to answer without an examination

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The most accurate answer to this question is obtained only after you are examined by the surgeon. If there is minimal fat above the muscle wall then there will be minimal improvement with liposuction. If there is more than an inch of fat that can be pinched between two fingers, you might receive a flatter contour after liposuction, but if the muscle still bulges outwardly, this will not look as good as if you also have the tummy tuck later. Excess skin often retracts after liposuction, but yes, it can be removed surgically if necessary.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Liposuction instead of tummy tuck

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Dear Rosemma

You obviously have somewhat of a dilemma. It sounds like you want a tummy tuck but don't have the time or the vacation available to recuperate.

Some of my patients are borderline candidates for either meaning you could get an ok result with lipo but a better result with a tummy tuck. If it is the thickness of the abdominal wall that bothers you then lipo will help. In many patients the skin shrinkage as a result of the surgery will satisfy them for the time being and later have a tummy tuck or panniculectomy (removal of hanging skin).

Speak to your doctor to see if he thinks you would benefit from lipo as this has a dramatically shorter recovery period which is a major concern to you. If he feels that you would not benefit from the lipo and other consultations agree then you might consider waiting until you have the time to proceed with the right operation not the expedient one.

Good Luck!

Liposuction can be an excellent first step

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A bulging abdomen usually has internal and external fat excess. Liposuction will sculpt the external fat and weight loss will reduce internal fat.

Liposuction often is followed by good skin retraction. However, a secondary tummy-tuck or just skin excision can be done later.

Spread muscles (diastasis recti) of the abdomen are not corrected by liposuction, but are tightened with a tummy-tuck.

Lesser surgery equal lesser results

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As long as you are OK with the fact that lesser surgery will lead to lesser results, then you are probably OK. You may be setting yourself up for disappointment however. Have a long talk with your surgeon about this one and think about it a while before you have the surgery.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon

Liposuction is probably your best alternative

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Liposuction will definitely make a noticeable difference and you will get some skin contraction as well so go ahead and get the liposuction. It is safer and you are back to work in 2 days. You can always get a tummy tuck later if you desire but you would be surprised at how much better your tummy will look with just the liposuction. Liposuction costs run about $6000 for abdomen and sides.

David Hansen, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.