Are you weighing the pros and cons of an abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck vs liposuction? This is one of the most common debates for plastic surgery patients who want a flatter stomach. Although these two procedures may seem very similar at face value, they are actually quite different. Your abdominoplasty surgeon at Zenn Plastic Surgery can help you understand the differences, and also which procedure would deliver the best results in your particular case.

In the question of tummy tuck vs liposuction, it is important to understand what each can do and what each cannot do to your abdominal area. First, both can improve the appearance of your stomach area. Secondly, each of these plastic surgery procedures can remove excess fat from your mid-section. But this is where the similarities end. In fact, abdominoplasty and liposuction are very different cosmetic surgeries performed to achieve different goals.

Tummy Tuck vs Liposuction: Determining Factors

Three of the determining factors in the debate of tummy tuck vs liposuction are your abdominal skin laxity, muscle laxity and cosmetic goals.

Skin Laxity

Skin laxity is the amount of sagging skin you have on your abdomen. This sagging typically occurs after losing a large amount of weight, after pregnancy, or sometimes it just comes with age. To improve the tautness of abdominal skin, abdominoplasty is the right choice. During a tummy tuck, your plastic surgeon removes the excess skin using an easily concealed incision on the lower abdomen.

If you have little to no skin laxity, liposuction can improve the size and appearance of your abdomen. This procedure involves four to six tiny incisions for elimination of excess fat.

Muscle Laxity

Substantial weight loss and pregnancy can also lead to loosening of the abdominal wall. This muscle laxity sometimes creates a bulging “pot belly” appearance. However, a pot belly appearance can also be the result of excess fat in the same area. This is why it is important to visit a board-certified plastic surgeon for a tummy tuck vs liposuction consultation.

Only an abdominoplasty will provide tightening of these muscles once they separate and bulge. Liposuction does not improve muscle laxity.

Your Cosmetic Goals

Your individual cosmetic goals are a big factor in deciding between tummy tuck vs liposuction. What bothers you about your appearance may not bother someone else about theirs and vice versa. Hence, it is important to honestly and openly discuss your cosmetic goals with your plastic surgeon. He or she will provide guidance and support for your achievable goals and inform you about the methods required to reach them.

For some patients, there is no need to decide between tummy tuck vs liposuction because a combined, simultaneous approach is the best choice.

Key Differences of Tummy Tuck vs Liposuction

There are several key differences between a tummy tuck vs liposuction. Knowing these differences can help you make your best decision.


Results are the biggest difference in tummy tuck vs liposuction. Liposuction removes excess fat from your abdominal region while abdominoplasty removes excess fat and skin.

The most common reasons for having an abdominoplasty are major weight loss and pregnancy. Because both conditions can leave you with sagging skin around your mid-section. In pregnancy, the abdominal walls can also stretch or tear. An abdominoplasty repairs these muscles back together and removes the excess skin for a more youthful and taut appearance.


How long the results will last is a factor in many plastic surgery decisions. In the question of tummy tuck vs lipo, both procedures can provide permanent results. But maintaining the results is in your hands.

Liposuction removes fat cells. While this reduces the number of fat cells in your abdomen, weight gain can still occur in remaining cells.

Abdominoplasty also permanently removes excess skin and fat cells. If necessary, this procedure permanently tightens the abdominal muscles, too. But again, if you gain too much weight, experience a ventral hernia or have another pregnancy, you may experience the same damaging effects as before your surgery.


Liposuction and tummy tuck may involve different types of anesthesia. Liposuction usually involves intravenous (IV) sedation, with or without local anesthetic. However, abdominoplasty requires general anesthesia. As you consider your treatment options, your plastic surgeon discusses anesthesia with you. Above all much of the decision-making process involves consideration of your current health, medical history and personal preferences.

Incisions and Scars

Liposuction involves use of a thin tube called a cannula to loosen adipose tissues. Your plastic surgeon then uses a suction device to extract the excess fat cells through the same tiny incisions. Each of the incisions made for lipo measure about the same length as a grain of rice.

For abdominoplasty, your incision is made in the skin at the base of your abdominal wall. This bikini line scar enables your plastic surgeon to sew together the lax abdominal muscles and remove excess skin. The resulting scar decreases in size and appearance over time and is easily concealed by your underwear or swimsuit bottom.

Recovery Time

Liposuction recovery time largely depends on how many areas were treated, amount of fat removed, technique used and other factors. Most people can go back to an office-based job in several days. But you should not expect to do any heavy lifting or physical labor for at least two weeks.

Of course, abdominoplasty is an outpatient surgery, just like lipo. But recovery and getting back to work can take a little longer. Most patients have surgical drains for up to a week following their procedure. In your initial consultation and based on the extent of your surgical goals, your plastic surgeon will provide guidance for how long your recovery will take and what to expect.

Who Makes a Good Candidate

Good candidates for liposuction are those with excess pockets of abdominal fat that resist improvement through diet and exercise. For the best results and to avoid needing multiple procedures, it is important to be within 10 pounds of your goal weight.

For abdominoplasty, you should not have a BMI over 30. You should also not be on a continuing weight loss journey, or planning for future pregnancy. Good candidates for abdominoplasty are those who have excess skin on their abdomen, sides, hips and lower back, with or without lax abdominal muscles.

Tummy Tuck vs Liposuction: Find Out Which Is Right for You

To decide between tummy tuck vs liposuction, schedule a consultation with Dr. Michael Zenn of Zenn Plastic Surgery. Dr. Zenn and his skilled team will help you understand your options for achieving your cosmetic goals and feeling more comfortable in your body.

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