Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to two belly-related cosmetic surgical procedures, tummy tuck and liposuction, Long Island-area plastic surgeon Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh often encounters people who are unsure about the differences between the two. Women and men seeking to make a change are not expected to come into a consultation knowing exactly which surgeries and techniques are best suited to give them their desired look, which is perfectly okay since it’s the surgeon’s job to assess each patient and develop a treatment plan.

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That said, a little knowledge goes a long way, and understanding what sets liposuction and tummy tuck apart is a good foundation for setting initial expectations of the surgery and its results.

Most simply put, liposuction is a fat-reduction procedure, while tummy tuck—technically known as abdominoplasty—is a set of procedures that work in harmony to provide a flatter belly. A tummy tuck may include liposuction, but not the other way around.



There are several variations on liposuction techniques, but they all share the common factor of working to loosen fat cells for removal from the body. Whether this loosening action is accomplished by the manual back-and-forth motion of a cannula, heat from a laser, sound waves, or focused direction of sterile water, the end result is the same: Unwanted cells that sat fixed in place are freed or even liquefied for removal.

While smaller areas, such as the area under the chin, may be targeted with a manual technique, Dr. Alizadeh prefers to use HydraSolve for larger areas requiring liposuction. HydraSolve is uses low water pressure and warm saline to gently break up the fat prior to removal, resulting in less trauma to the soft tissue and more even contours and results. Additionally, the warm saline temperature allows for some shrinking of the skin during fat removal to ensure the most elasticity or “snap” is retained with the skin. Fat cells removed via more gentle techniques can then be processed and used as injectable material to increase volume in areas elsewhere on the body, such as the breasts or buttocks. In fact, Dr. Alizadeh often combines liposuction and fat-grafting to help reduce areas of cellulite, especially along the thighs and buttocks.

Liposuction differs from nonsurgical treatments in that fat-reducing injectables or cooling devices disrupt the integrity of fat cells, which are left in place to be eliminated by the body. As a surgical procedure, liposuction involves the creation of a small incision, which allows the cell-loosening agent to be inserted and freed fat cells to be suctioned out.

While liposuction is typically associated with a bulging stomach, hips, or “love-handles,” it can be used nearly anywhere on the body where excess fat exists, including the abdomen, upper back, arms, hips, thighs, and buttocks. It can be used to reduce overly large breasts (on women and men), reduce the appearance of “love handles,” and even to bring more definition to such focused areas as the knees or below the chin.


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Liposuction can address the fat part of a bulging belly equation, but it may not be the final answer—especially for patients who lose a significant amount of weight, have had previous pregnancies, or who have otherwise loose skin. Abdominal skin can sag like a deflated balloon, even in patients who do not have excess fat or are overweight.

A tummy tuck is designed to correct that loose, baggy skin problem by removing redundant skin to give the stomach area a tighter, more toned appearance. This involves making an incision—typically low on the abdomen where it will be covered by underwear or a bathing suit—then removing the excess skin, re-draping the remaining skin, creating a new navel if necessary, and suturing the tissue into place.

Additionally, many patients, especially women who’ve experienced pregnancy, may require tightening on the internal abdominal muscles as these can become loose and lose their tone, resulting in a bulging belly despite a patient having little to no fat excess. If necessary, it is done during the same time the excess skin is removed.

As with liposuction, there are several tummy tuck techniques available, including a mini tummy tuck that focuses only on tissue below the belly button; and a panniculectomy that removes a large amount of skin—an abdominal apron—that may be the result of patients who lose massive amounts of weight. For patients who are conscientious about scarring, different lasers, such as Sciton’s Halo Hybrid Fractional Laser and TRL, can be used post-procedure to help decrease redness and flatten any scars that may become raised.

While liposuction and a tummy tuck may be different procedures, they both have one element in common: They are for body-contouring purposes only. As a cosmetic procedure, they are not intended to be used as a strategy for weight reduction. Ideal candidates should be within five to 10 pounds of their ideal body weight before undergoing either procedure.

To learn more about tummy tuck and liposuction from Long Island plastic surgeon Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, call his Cosmoplastic Surgery offices in Manhattan and Westchester (212.348.0100) or Long Island (516.439.5010), or send a message online via his “Contact Us” page.