In the plastic surgery world, liposuction and tummy tuck go hand-in-hand about as well as peanut butter and jelly. That is, it's a timeless combination. Why? Because they approach the same problem in 2 complementary ways. That's especially true for women who have had children and are trying to regain their pre-pregnancy bodies.
Along with cosmetic breast surgery, liposuction and tummy tuck are the traditional components of a mommy makeover. They really are complementary procedures: Liposuction removes excess fat; tummy tuck removes excess skin. Some surgeons refer to liposuction as "liposculpture" because they use it to shape smooth, attractive contours after performing a tummy tuck.
Moreover, liposuction alone can't produce the results envisioned by patients who have had children.
"Fat deposits can be corrected with liposuction alone," says Dr. Dennis Hammond, a Grand Rapids, MI plastic surgeon, "but abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is necessary to achieve the best contour if stretched musculature or loose skin are present."
For many women, pregnancy irreversibly damages the skin and the underlying abdominal muscles. Skin stretched during pregnancy may lose its elasticity and start sagging. The distension of the abdominal muscles to accommodate a growing baby often results in a rounded appearance of the abdomen, even if a woman is in excellent physical shape. A tummy tuck addresses both skin that has lost its elasticity and the abdominal wall. The excess skin is removed and the muscles and fascia are sutured back to their pre-pregnancy state.
What that all means is that even if a woman spends hours at the gym logging mile after mile on the treadmill, or completing multiple sets of crunches, that excess skin and belly pooch aren't going away. This is because the connective tissue, or fascia, of the abdominal wall becomes stretched — a condition called diastasis recti that remains irrespective of fitness level. That, of course, can be extremely frustrating.
It's also important to keep in mind that neither of these procedures are considered weight-loss surgeries. If your goal is to drop more than 15 pounds, plastic surgery is not the right approach. Weight loss should be accomplished before undergoing a tummy tuck. Additionally, if you loses significant weight after a tummy tuck or liposuction, you may well be left with more excess skin, undoing the very results and appearance you have worked so hard to earn. The takeaway: It's very important to be at a weight you are happy with and comfortable maintaining in the long term before you consider plastic surgery.
One of the key differences between liposuction and tummy tuck procedures is the recovery time needed. Someone who undergoes liposuction alone may return to moderate activities sooner than someone who combines the procedure with a tummy tuck. Usually, people who undergo liposuction can be back to work in a couple days, while tummy tucks may require up to a week off work. Most plastic surgeons recommend limiting strenuous activities for at least 4 weeks after a surgery involving both procedures. It usually takes a month for patients to start feeling normal and seeing the final results of their liposuction and tummy tuck.