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Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck: Understanding the Difference

There is no universal one-size-fits-all surgery. Rather, there are different procedures that are uniquely designed to meet individuals' varying needs and lifestyles. Tummy tucks and liposuction, for one, are often categorized together because both focus on the midsection. The reality, however, is that these procedures differ in process, results, price, and overall approach.

The midsection can be a stubborn area to lose weight. Sometimes we can’t achieve a flat, taut, and smooth abdomen with diet and exercise alone. Cosmetic surgeries like liposuction or a tummy tuck can help eliminate loose skin or flab around your stomach.

While both procedures aim to give your midsection a makeover, there are significant differences to consider when deciding which surgical procedure is right for you.

Use the information below to help determine which is right for your body, lifestyle, and goals.

lipo-vs-tummy-tuckIs Liposuction Similar to a Tummy Tuck?

Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) and lipo are two diverse surgical procedures. Like any other cosmetic surgery, the procedures should be performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon for your health and safety.

Both surgeries can drastically improve the abdominal area by creating a toned, tight, and slimmer midsection. However, the two surgeries are vastly different regarding the actual procedure, recovery time, risks, and end results.

What is Liposuction?

If your primary problem area is stubborn excess fat around your belly, liposuction can improve your midsection’s overall appearance and shape.

Lipo is a minimally-invasive cosmetic surgery that permanently suctions stubborn fat away from the body. Liposuction is one of the most effective ways to remove stubborn belly fat deposits for good. With that being said, lipo is not intended to be a weight-loss alternative. However, it is an excellent treatment to eliminate localized fat deposits that are typically resistant to diet and exercise.

Liposuction can be used on other areas of the body than the midsection, including the love handles, arms, legs, chin, and butt. Lipo is ideal for people who generally have good skin and muscle tone, meaning there’s no excess skin in the midsection or loose abdominal muscles. Keep in mind liposuction can not eliminate extra skin, stretch marks, and problems arising from loose abdominal muscles. These issues are commonly associated with massive weight loss or pregnancy.

What is a Tummy Tuck?

If your primary concern is loose skin or stretched muscle tissue, a tummy tuck could be your best option.

A tummy tuck is a longer, more invasive surgery to remove excess or saggy skin from the stomach to create a flatter and tighter abdominal area. Excess skin could be prompted by pregnancy, weight loss, or aging. Tummy tuck surgery can also repair weakened or stretched abdominal muscles. If you have a significant amount of skin “flaps” around the belly, liposuction may not be the best route.

How is Liposuction Performed?

Lipo is a safe, efficient option for eliminating pockets of fat. There are various techniques, including SmartLipo, Vaser Lipo, Tumescent Liposuction, and others. Always discuss the different methods and options with your doctor. What works best for another patient might not be what’s right for you and vice versa.

Usually, lipo is performed under local anesthesia, meaning you will remain awake but pain-free and comfortable throughout the surgery. Once the area is numb, the surgeon will create 1 to 2 mm small incisions near the treatment site where a cannula will loosen fat cells underneath your skin. Then, a medical vacuum sucks out dislodged fat deposits.


Treatments usually last from one to two hours and are performed on an outpatient basis. Patients can walk and return home once the treatment is finished. After surgery, mild pain, swelling, and bruising are common. Pain medications and compression garments are recommended to keep you comfortable and speed up the healing process.

It may require several sessions to achieve your desired results.

How is a Tummy Tuck Performed?

A tummy tuck is the most effective way to remove excess skin and repair stretched muscles. However, a tummy tuck is a much more invasive procedure than liposuction.

A tummy tuck is typically performed under general anesthesia, meaning you will be unconscious. After you’re sedated, the surgeon will make a horizontal incision across the lower abdomen. Surgeons make an effort to place the incision, so the scar is well-hidden by the bikini line. If needed, the surgeon will sew the muscles in your abdominal wall together before pulling the skin tight over your abdomen. Any excess skin is removed to create a flat and tight stomach. Some patients may require an additional incision to make an appropriate space for the belly button.

A tummy tuck can last anywhere from two to four hours, and some patients may remain in the hospital for the night. You will have sutures to close the incision sites. Fluid drains, compression garments and surgical dressings are applied to protect the treated area as it heals.

A tummy tuck is completed in one session and may be combined with other surgeries, including a breast lift, breast augmentation, liposuction, or a complete mommy makeover.

Ideal Candidates for Liposuction

You may be a good candidate for liposuction if you meet the following criteria:

  • You’re generally in good health
  • Are a non-smoker
  • You don’t have loose or saggy skin around the abdomen
  • You have great skin elasticity
  • You’re within a reasonable range of your goal weight
  • Are under the age of 40

Ideal Candidates for Tummy Tuck

A tummy tuck may be a better option for you if you:

  • Are in generally good health and close to your goal body weight
  • Have a notable amount of loose or saggy abdominal skin
  • You don’t plan to become pregnant
  • You’re OK with a substantial recovery time
  • Are over the age of 45

Results of Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck

Both cosmetic procedures help with body contouring and give you a flatter, smooth stomach. Future weight gain can impact the results of both surgeries.

Lipo permanently removes bulges of fat and fatty tissue from the targeted areas. Most liposuction patients are pleased with a flatter, more proportioned midsection. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle avoiding weight fluctuation will help preserve the results.

The final results of a tummy tuck are permanent. However, future weight gain or a subsequent pregnancy could re-stretch the abdominal wall. In addition, tummy tuck procedures will leave a visible surgical scar along the lower stomach. Scars should fade over time with proper care but may never fully diminish.

What’s the Recovery Process?

The downtime is also different for each procedure. Here’s what you can expect during the recovery period for each.


Recovery is relatively easy. Depending on how much fat is removed, you may have a slightly longer or shorter recovery process. Swelling, draining, and bruising are common. In most cases, lipo patients are recommended to wear a compression garment to help reduce swelling.

Regular activity can be resumed fairly quickly. Most patients can return to work after 48 hours. You should avoid heavy exercise until you’ve gotten approval from your doctor.

Tummy tuck

A tummy tuck is deemed a more serious operation. The recovery process is longer and more in-depth compared to lipo. Your inclusion will need to be well taken care of, and you’ll be given a compression garment or “belly binder” to help with swelling. Some patients have surgical drains for up to two weeks post-op. Most patients can walk with assistance the day after surgery. Walking is important to prevent clotting. Prescription painkillers and antibiotics are often prescribed to ease any discomfort and reduce your risk of infection.

The initial recovery phase is six weeks. You can expect multiple follow-up appointments with your surgeon to check on how your incision is healing. You must be extremely cautious of your incision and avoid positions or movements that could tug or pull on your incision during this time. You can only resume exercise once you have your doctor’s approval.



What’s the Cost Difference?

With any plastic surgery, factors including where you live, the surgery time, complexity of the procedure, and doctor’s experience can alter the cost. In addition, both procedures are considered elective surgeries in most cases, meaning they will not be covered by insurance.

Lipo is a less invasive surgery and usually costs less than a tummy tuck. Liposuction usually costs between $2,000 and $8,000, whereas a tuck ranges between $6,000 and $10,000. Keep in mind these numbers are estimates.


The numbers above are rough estimates. Each patient is unique. The only way to get a clear understanding of the cost of your cosmetic surgery is to visit a surgeon for an initial consultation. You’ll be given a quote for your treatment at the end of your consultation.

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