Tummy tuck surgery (also called abdominoplasty) is the fourth most common cosmetic surgery performed nationwide. Despite the pandemic last year, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, over 116,000 people got the procedure done in 2020. Liposuction was done nearly 200,000 times! Read on to find out the answers to the most common questions about the procedure, including the one patients ask about the most – tummy tuck vs lipo.
1. What Does a Tummy Tuck Do?
Tummy tucks combine excision of loose skin below the belly button and repair of the “rectus diastasis”, which means separation of the muscles in the midline of the abdomen. Patients can check for themselves if they have a rectus diastasis by doing a “crunch” sit-up. To do so, lay flat on your back and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Patients with rectus diastasis will notice a bulge in the midline. You would benefit from repair of the muscle separation if the bulge is more than two fingerbreadths wide .
I tighten the abdominal wall even further and cinch the waistline in as much as possible by tightening the “external oblique” muscles. These muscles run diagonally along the lateral part of your abdomen on either side. I like to describe this as creating an “internal corset”.
2. Tummy tuck vs Lipo.
Liposuction does not involve removal of any skin, but instead uses suction to remove unwanted fat. If you have good skin tone and excess fat, you may be a good candidate for liposuction. If you have loose skin and a weak muscle layer, a tummy tuck is the better option.
I use “power assisted” liposuction, which allows me to accomplish the surgery more quickly and with less force compared to traditional liposuction. This means less pain, swelling and bruising for our patients.
3. Can I Get Both Liposuction and a Tummy Tuck at the Same Time?
Yes, and this is done very commonly. Liposuction can be performed to the upper abdomen, flanks or the back (or all three areas) at the same time as the tummy tuck. The addition of liposuction does not extend the length of recovery beyond that associated with a tummy tuck alone.
Below is a good example of a patient who had a tummy tuck, combined with liposuction to the upper abdomen, flanks and back.
4. What’s a Mini Tummy Tuck?
A “mini” tummy tuck means different things to different surgeons. Typically, it treats minimal amounts of skin laxity and abdominal wall weakness. The surgery is limited to the lower abdomen. Therefore, the recovery is easier when compared to a full tummy tuck.
5. What is the recovery timeline?
Patients’ expectations during their tummy tuck recovery week by week is a common concern. First off, I use the most gentle techniques to minimize postoperative discomfort. In addition, I always use Exparel, which is a long acting local anesthetic that provides postoperative pain relief. Exparel minimizes patients’ reliance on narcotic pain medication. The longer you take narcotics, the more difficult the recovery can be. Although all patients are different, tummy tuck patients treated with Exparel typically require narcotics for only five days or less.
Patients are comfortable enough to stand straight and walk around, even the evening of the surgery. Showering is permissable after 48 hours. Patients can jog or do lower body exercise two weeks after surgery. Patients can resume full activities after four weeks.