I saw a patient yesterday who presented with a request for liposuction of the abdomen. However, when I examined her, I felt that she was a better candidate for an abdominoplasty, or a tummy tuck. What determines which option is best for a given patient?
Liposuction is the ideal choice for patients who have focal areas of fat deposits which have not responded to diet and exercise. These areas differ for men and women; women tend to deposit their excess fat in their hips, thighs, and lower abdomen, while men tend to have excess in the central abdomen. Liposuction can also be used to address fat in other locations, including the arms, under the chin, and buttocks. While liposuction can remove fat, it cannot tighten the skin.
Recovery following liposuction surgery is relatively easy; most patients feel sore for several days but can resume most activities within a short period. Moderate swelling is present for several weeks, and final results are generally seen 3-6 months after surgery. Most patients have a fair amount of bruising which resolves in 1-2 weeks.
For patients with excess skin and fat in the abdomen, a tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, may be a better option, and this was the case with the patient I saw yesterday. Many women have loose abdominal muscles after they have had children or if they have undergone a significant weight loss. During surgery, the abdominal skin is elevated, the muscles are tightened, and the excess skin and fat are removed. Liposuction is often used as an adjunct procedure to slim the flanks and hips. There is a long, transverse scar on the lower abdomen following tummy tuck surgery, but this fades somewhat during the first year after surgery.
Recovery following tummy tuck surgery is longer than that with liposuction. I generally advise patients to avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for 2 weeks following surgery, and to limit abdominal exercises for 6 weeks. A significant amount of the swelling will resolve within the first month after surgery, and final results will begin to be seen at 3 months postoperatively.
While both procedures are excellent options for patients seeking body contouring, each has its own benefits and limitations. The best way to determine which is best for you is to see a board-certified plastic surgeon who can present you with your best options after a full examination.