Liposuction vs Tummy Tuck

Medically reviewed by Dr. John Rosdeutscher – Written by Sine Thieme

Some of us are convinced we need a tummy tuck. We want a flat stomach, and we’ve heard that the most surefire way to achieve it is with a tummy tuck. But what about liposuction? Does it not also remove belly fat and flatten your stomach?

In truth, you can remove fat cells from your abdomen with either liposuction or a tummy tuck. If you’re not sure which approach is the ideal solution for your slimmer look, read on. Our staff at NuBody Concepts Cosmetic Surgery in Nashville and Memphis, TN, would like you to know everything about the pros and cons of each procedure to help you decide which one is better for you.

Minimally-Invasive Liposuction

Of the two methods for belly fat removal we’re discussing today, liposuction is the less-invasive one. It only requires minimal incisions for a tiny cannula to be inserted under the skin, it leaves no visible scars, and the recovery afterwards is swift with very few risk factors – most patients are able to return to regular activities within 1-2 days.

Liposuction is an excellent method to remove belly fat, or really any fat where diet and exercise have not done enough to reduce it. However, liposuction alone often fails to achieve tight skin – the kind of wrinkle-free taut look that would go great with your newly-flatten stomach. After liposuction, you might be left with folds of excess, saggy skin.

This is where adding Radio Frequency Assisted Lipolysis (RFAL) to your liposuction technique can make a big difference: combining a traditional technique or power-assisted liposuction technique with RFAL such as BodyTite or Renuvion can add 35% to 60% skin contraction to your fat removal – all without surgery.

Liposuction before and after picture of NuBody Concepts patient
NuBody Concepts patient who had liposuction on abdomen, flanks and back. View more Liposuction Before & Afters.

Pros of Liposuction

  • minimal downtime
  • minimal trauma
  • no scar
  • can contract some skin with added skin tightening
  • fast recovery of 1-2 days
  • works great for BMIs under 30

Cons of Liposuction

  • does not remove all excess skin
  • less immediate or drastic results
  • does not remove visceral fat
  • less effective for BMIs over 30

Tummy Tuck Surgery

A tummy tuck does more than liposuction. It removes all excess fat, including the visceral fat that is impossible to remove with liposuction. And it also tightens the abdominal skin. Or actually, the plastic surgeon simply removes or “excises” the extra skin, so that what is left over is nice and taut and flat. Skin can lose its elasticity over time or after pregnancy and childbirth, and removing it altogether is the most effective way to flatten the stomach and give it a much younger look.

A tummy tuck often also includes repairing underlying muscles that split during pregnancy and childbirth. As an added bonus, you can opt for a designer belly button while your’e undergoing surgery. Depending on the severity of muscle damage and excess skin, a mini tummy tuck may be sufficient, meaning a lower and shorter scar.

Tummy tuck before and after picture of NuBody Concepts patient
NuBody Concepts patient who had tummy tuck surgery. You can see how well the scar is placed and how much it has faded over time. View more Tummy Tuck Before & Afters.

Pros of a Tummy Tuck

  • immediate, drastic results
  • removes excess skin completely
  • removes all fat – including visceral fat
  • repairs muscles
  • can beautify the belly button
  • yields good results for BMIs between 30 and 40

Cons of a Tummy Tuck

  • requires surgery with sedation
  • longer recovery
  • possibility of risks: risk of infection, anesthesia risks, and other risk factors
  • leaves a scar (although placed discreetly below waistline)

Is Liposuction or a Tummy Tuck Better?

As you can see, the tummy tuck is the most aggressive form of fat removal, but also the most effective one. You’re virtually guaranteed a flat stomach with a body sculpting technique like the tummy tuck, whereas liposuction, even with skin tightening, may not get you the same drastic results. However, even if a good plastic surgeon can strategically place the scar under your bikini line, a tummy tuck still leaves you with a scar. It also has a more difficult recovery with up to 4 weeks of no physical exercise.

Choosing liposuction vs a tummy tuck essentially depends on which of the two options you’re a better candidate for. Younger patients and women who haven’t gone through pregnancy and childbirth tend to have more elastic skin. This helps the skin shrink back once the fat is removed with liposuction. Older patients, patients who’ve experienced drastic weight loss, or women who’ve had one or more children tend to have saggier skin that won’t shrink back even when fat is removed. Such patients will need a tummy tuck to remove the excess skin.

Liposuction and Tummy Tuck Combined

For some patients, it’s not an either-or decision. Liposuction can be effectively combined with tummy tuck techniques for the best overall results. Talk with your surgeon during your initial consultation to discuss if you are a good candidate for a tummy tuck combined with liposuction. 

For instance, you might choose a tummy tuck for your abdomen, but add on liposuction to some surrounding areas like bra bulges, thighs, or even arms, to achieve an overall slimmer look.

Another option is to boost your curves elsewhere to make the flat stomach stand out more. Before the surgeon does your tummy tuck, he could use liposuction on your stomach to harvest some fat, then use that fat in a fat transfer to breast procedure to increase your breast size.

Using Your BMI to Prescreen Yourself

One of the quickest ways to know whether liposuction or a tummy tuck is best for you is to calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI. It is a simple calculation based on your height and weight.

BMI does not measure body fat directly but it can be a useful indicator. And the great news is that you don’t have to see a plastic surgeon to figure it out. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your sofa.

What’s your BMI? Let’s find out!

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BMI under 30 ==> Liposuction or Liposuction with Skin Tightening

If your BMI is under 30, congratulations. You are likely to see good results from liposuction to address those fat pockets resistant to diet and exercise. Adding on skin tightening will help you tighten that skin even more.

BMI 30 – 40 ==> Tummy Tuck

With a BMI between 30 and 40 you may still qualify for liposuction, but you are likely to see much better results from a tummy tuck. Your overall weight is still low enough that your’e not likely to experience too many complications during surgery. This is good news. But your weight is high enough to indicate that your abdominal skin has been stretched quite a bit. With those numbers, it is very likely that you will experience moderate to severe sagging after the belly fat has been removed. You might go down a pant size or two, but you won’t like the way your tummy looks.

BMI over 40 ==> Weight-Loss Program

With a BMI over 40, we may advise you to enter a weight loss program before proceeding with any kind of cosmetic surgery.

Ultimately, it’s best to meet with a plastic surgeon to decide between liposuction and a tummy tuck. Get started today by scheduling a consultation with our plastic surgeon in Nashville or Memphis.

Medically reviewed by Dr. John Rosdeutscher – Written by Sine Thieme