Tummy Tuck vs Liposuction

Both a tummy tuck and liposuction are body contouring procedures that can enhance the appearance of the abdomen. Both treatments vary in many ways and may be suited for varying situations. In this article, we compare and contrast these two cosmetic procedures. 

Abdominoplasty vs liposuction (procedure overview) 

Abdominoplasty is a cosmetic treatment that is designed to get rid of excess fat and skin from the abdominal area. This is a more invasive procedure that leaves a scar. Plastic surgeons will make a horizontal incision above the pubic line, then use it to remove excess tissue and strengthen weakened abdominal muscles. A tummy tuck is completed in a single session and takes about 2-4 hours to complete. 

Liposuction – also referred to as lipo – is a cosmetic surgery procedure that removes excess fat from different parts of the body. This is a less invasive treatment that does not involve any visible scarring. Plastic surgeons create tiny incisions and use a thin tube known as a cannula to suction out the fat. It may take more than one liposuction procedure to achieve the desired outcome. 

Who is a candidate?

Whether you are an ideal candidate for liposuction or abdominoplasty depends on your precise aesthetic goals. 

Who is a candidate for tummy tuckWho is a candidate for liposuction 
You may be an ideal candidate for abdominoplasty if:

  • You are in good physical and emotional health
  • You are looking to address loose abdominal skin or excess fat 
  • You have realistic expectations about the outcome of this procedure 
You may be a good candidate for lipo plastic surgery if:

  • You are within 30% of your ideal weight 
  • You have firm and elastic skin, as well as a decent muscle tone
  • You are a nonsmoker
  • You are in good physical and emotional health 

Results of the procedure 

A tummy tuck results in more permanent results compared to liposuction. Patients who undergo this treatment enjoy a firmer and flatter abdominal profile right off the bat. While results of lipo plastic surgery appear a few months after the procedure, it is easy for fat deposits to reappear in the same or different areas if you gain weight. 

Risks and complications

Like any other plastic surgery, abdominoplasty has its complications. This include:

  • Fluid accumulation – fluid pockets may accumulate below the skin where excess fat has been removed. If this happens, then this fluid will need to be drained right away. 
  • Sensational changes – tummy tuck surgery ends up repositioning the belly button and abdominal tissues. This may influence the superficial sensory nerves in this region and around the upper thighs. 
  • Tissue necrosis – this happens when the fatty tissues in the abdominal area are damaged. The abdominal tissues that do not heal or die must be eliminated from the body.

Liposuction also has its own share of risks and complications, including:

  • Numbness – usually caused by the anesthetic injection made before surgery. If the numbness persists even after the surgery, then this is a problem that may need medical intervention. 
  • Contour irregularities – when the surgeon dislocates excess fat deposits from the abdominal walls, it leaves the skin loose with nothing to hold on to. This then results in a jagged and wavy feeling which causes the skin’s top layer to appear bumpy. 
  • Fluid accumulation – Post-surgery, there is a possibility for temporary pockets of fluid to gather beneath the skin which would have to be drained with immediate effect to avoid further complications.

More severe (but rare) complications of liposuction include infections, internal organ puncture, and fat embolism. 

Tummy tuck vs liposuction recovery 

Recovery from liposuction surgery is dependent on the number of areas that were surgically treated. Post-surgery, you might experience swelling and bleeding at the incisioned areas. The surgeon would recommend a compression garment to help reduce the swelling and fasten the healing process. Painkillers may also be administered to help reduce post-surgery pain. Surgeons advise patients to avoid engaging in any extensive activities such as heavy weight lifting or too much bending until the wounds completely heal. Recovery from liposuction takes a few weeks. 

Tummy tuck recovery takes about six weeks. After surgery, the wound is covered by a surgical dressing that needs to be changed often. Using the help of a belly binder, patients should begin walking as soon as the first day to prevent blood clots around the area operated on. Surgeons also administer painkillers and antibiotics for lessening the pain, and preventing any infections. At this time, a patient is advised not to take part in any strenuous activity such as lifting heavy items. To prevent fluid accumulation, surgical drains are placed at least for two weeks. 


It is evident that while there are similarities, a tummy tuck and liposuction are different procedures. Consult your plastic surgeon to learn more about these treatments and figure out what is best suited for your unique situation.