Liposuction of the abdomen removes excess deposits of fat under the skin of the abdomen, but does not remove excess skin. A tummy tuck (also called an abdominoplasty) removes excess fat and skin on the abdomen and involves repositioning of the umbilicus (belly button). A plastic surgeon can also repair abdominal muscles that may have been stretched out by pregnancy or weight gain. A mini-tummy tuck just removes excess skin and fat below the umbilicus without repositioning.
The choice of which procedure to have depends on how loose the skin and muscles of your abdomen are. If you have a bit of a “pot belly” or “spare tire” that do not improve with diet and exercise, and if you have skin with good elasticity and few stretch marks, you are probably a good candidate for liposuction. If your stomach hangs out over the top of your pants and your abdominal muscles are distended when you relax them, you probably need a tummy tuck.
Another difference between the two procedures is that the incisions for liposuction are very small and usually can be hidden in a natural skin fold or below your underwear line. Incisions for a tummy tuck can be extensive. Usually, there is an incision under your abdomen that goes from hip to hip. Dr. Chiu places this incision very low, at the fold of your abdomen, so that you can usually hide it with your underwear and even low cut jeans!
Recovery after a full tummy tuck is also longer than after a liposuction procedure. Many patients can recover from liposuction in 4-7 days to return to a desk job. Depending on the extent of surgery, a tummy tuck can take 7-10 days to return to a similar job description. Most of my patients return to full activities, including jogging, weightlifting, aerobics, and sports, in 3-4 weeks after liposuction and in 4-6 weeks after tummy tuck. I always advise my patients on activities and provide specific instructions to optimize their results for the whole year after surgery. Patients following my individualized regimen frequently experience continued improvement with a “shrink-wrapping” effect that drops dress sizes from the patient. Some patients drop as much as 5-6 sizes compared to before surgery!