Authored by Revere Health

What’s the Difference Between a Tummy Tuck and Liposuction?

July 25, 2017 | Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

There are several treatments out there for fat removal, and they may be confusing for people who are unfamiliar with them. Two such treatments that are similar in some ways, but different in several others, are tummy tucks and liposuction.

What are these treatments, why are they done and how do they differ? Let’s take a look.

Why They’re Done

A tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, is designed to improve the appearance of the abdomen by removing excess skin. Benefits of the tummy tuck include:

  • Removing loose skin or fat
  • Tightening a weak fascia (the connective tissue in the abdomen)
  • Removing stretch marks and excess skin below the belly button

Tummy tucks are often used by women who have had a C-section, and they can be combined with other body contouring cosmetic procedures. However, if you are planning to lose a large amount of weight, considering future pregnancy, or have a body mass index (BMI) over 30 or a severe chronic condition, your doctor might advise against a tummy tuck.

Liposuction can treat a larger variety of areas, including:

  • Thighs
  • Hips and buttocks
  • Abdomen and waist
  • Upper arms
  • Back
  • Inner knee
  • Chest area
  • Cheeks, chin and neck
  • Calves and ankles

Liposuction helps slim and reshape these areas by removing excess fat deposits and improving body contours and proportions. It’s excellent for treating large areas in a single procedure, and its results are more consistent and predictable than noninvasive treatments. Liposuction is not a substitute for proper diet or exercise, nor is it an effective treatment for cellulite or loose, saggy skin.

Procedure Differences

Both of these treatments are usually performed under general anesthesia. During a tummy tuck, the procedure will go as follows:

  • You’ll be given anesthesia.
  • Your surgeon will make incisions to remove most of the skin and fat between your bellybutton and pubic hair in an oval shape.
  • The fascia will be tightened with permanent structures.
  • Your surgeon will reposition the skin around your bellybutton. The bellybutton will be brought out through a small incision and sutured in its normal position.
  • The incision will be stitched together, leaving a scar that falls along a natural bikini line crease.

You may be given an antibiotic to prevent infection, and the process will take about three hours.

Liposuction also follows simple steps:

  • You’ll be given anesthesia.
  • Small incisions will be made, then a thin, hollow tube will be inserted through the incisions to loosen fat using a controlled back-and-forth motion.
  • All dislodged fat is then suctioned out of the body using a surgical vacuum or syringe attached to the tube.

Once swelling and fluid retention wear down, you’ll be able to see full results of liposuction.


Risks of tummy tucks include:

  • Fluid accumulation beneath the skin
  • Poor wound healing – antibiotics can be given to prevent this
  • Scarring – this is placed along a bikini line, which is easy to hide. Scarring will vary from person to person
  • Tissue necrosis – when fatty tissue deep within the skin in the abdominal area is damaged or dies. Smoking increases risk of tissue necrosis, which might heal on its own or might require a touch-up surgical procedure
  • Changes in skin sensation – certain reduced sensations or numbness that usually diminishes in the months following the procedure

Risks of liposuction include:

  • General risks associated with anesthesia
  • Bruising
  • Changes in skin sensation
  • Damage to structures like nerves, blood vessels, muscles, lungs and organs
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Infection
  • Irregular contours
  • Irregular pigmentation
  • Need for revision surgery
  • Persistent swelling
  • Poor wound healing
  • Rippling or loose skin, worsening of cellulite
  • Swelling
  • Thermal burn or heat injury from ultrasound techniques


Tummy tucks can give your abdomen a more toned and tight appearance. They also have lasting results, as long as a you keep a stable weight.

Despite some lost natural firmness, liposuction is relatively permanent as long you maintain a healthy weight and fitness level. There may be situations where multiple procedures are necessary.

If you’re considering a tummy tuck or liposuction, talk with your plastic surgeon. He or she will recommend the proper procedures for you.

Our physicians are board-certified with the American Board of Plastic Surgery, making them some of the most qualified providers in the nation to handle both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery procedures. Our staff will work with you to determine your options and goals and make sure you feel comfortable throughout your treatment.



“Tummy tuck.” The Mayo Clinic.

“Liposuction.” American Society of Plastic Surgeons.



The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.