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Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction

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Tummy Tuck vs. Liposuction

Jun 23, 2021

Liposuction and abdominoplasty are two common surgical options to remove stubborn fat from the stomach. While both cosmetic procedures aim to make your midsection look flatter or tighter, the procedures are very different. Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Courtney Crombie explains the differences between the procedures and which one would be best for you.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: If you are struggling with that last little bit of body fat, that one kind of struggle area or something along those lines, you might be looking at a surgical option. But a tummy tuck, a liposuction, these are terms we might understand, but what do they really mean? We're here with Dr. Courtney Crombie. She's an assistant professor and plastic surgeon with University of Utah Health now. Dr. Crombie, liposuction, tummy tuck, what are the differences in these procedures?

Dr. Crombie: So, first of all, a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure that is meant to remove excess skin and fat in the abdominal area, and can also be used to tighten muscles underneath that skin and fat. For liposuction, this is also a surgical procedure, but it's meant to sculpt or reduce small pockets of fat that are resistant to change from diet and exercise. This can also be done on the abdominal area, but can be done in other areas of the body as well.

So liposuction is a much easier recovery because there aren't as many limitations put on you. Basically, you're wearing compression, either abdominal binder, if it's around your belly, or some compression like a girdle or something if it's other places like on your hips for probably four to six weeks. And so fairly easy to conceal because it's just under your clothes. And you're going to have pain in those areas where we liposuction, but you're getting around okay.

Now, for an abdominoplasty, if you're having a full-out abdominoplasty with the muscle placation, that's a much greater recovery. Six weeks where we don't have you lift anything heavier than let's say, a gallon of milk, you are wearing an abdominal binder, you have drains in place that you have to carry around with you for two, maybe upwards of three weeks, you may not be able to stand up straight for the first two weeks. And so it's a much harder recovery and it may be the full six weeks before you feel like nothing happened to you.

Interviewer: If I'm a patient who is looking to get one of these procedures done, what is one of the kind of first steps I should take on my journey trying to decide which of these procedures is best for me?

Dr. Crombie: If there's an area where you have loose skin, then liposuction probably isn't the thing for you because if we remove the fat under that loose skin, that loose skin is probably going to just get looser and wigglier and it's probably not the thing that you're going to want to see when you look in the mirror. You're probably looking at more at having to remove that skin along with the fat underneath. So then we're thinking more of the procedures that are removing the skin along with the fat.

Interviewer: Okay. So like the tummy tuck?

Dr. Crombie: Yeah.

Interviewer: If it's in that region?

Dr. Crombie: Exactly.

Interviewer: Okay.

Dr. Crombie: So liposuction really is to just take away areas where there's just stubborn fat that you can't get rid of, but your skin tone is really quite good there. And one thing also that I want to remind people of is that it's not a good way to lose weight.

Interviewer: What do you mean by that?

Dr. Crombie: Well, sometimes I have people coming in that want to use that as a way to take lots of pounds off, but I don't recommend that. If you're on your way to losing weight, I would recommend that you get to a point of weight loss that you want to be where you're at your comfortable weight. And it's a healthy way that you can maintain and that you're not struggling to stay there, and you're not starving yourself to stay there. But it's something that you can easily stay at comfortably, then that's the time to come see us so that whatever procedure we do is worth your while, worth your time, and worth your money. Does that make sense?

Interviewer: That? Yeah. I like that because that's just it is if you guys remove the fat and I'm just going to put it back on. Is that what you're saying or is it just . . . We want to make sure.

Dr. Crombie: Yeah. Exactly. If you're only partway there and then we do say the tummy tuck and then you go ahead and lose another 20 pounds and then your skin loosens up again, I'd hate to have to redo that procedure after you've just spent all this time and effort because with a tummy tuck when we tighten the muscles, that's a long time where we're not letting you do any heavy weight lifting, you're very immobile, you may have drains in place, and you may have a lot of time off work. And so there's a big investment of pain and suffering to get through your recovery and a lot of people don't want to go through all that again. And then plus it is costly too. So you want to be one and done.

Interviewer: That's some great advice coming from a professional because someone from the outside is like, "Oh, well, it'll just help me get thin. It'll make me look the way I want." No. That's not what we're looking for here. This is that last step. Right?

Dr. Crombie: Right.

Interviewer: So if I am looking for a procedure like this, what is my first step when it comes to finding the right surgeon, finding the right facility, etc., like right procedure? This is some stuff that I didn't know. As a layperson, I record these types of interviews all the time. If I'm just someone coming in for the first time thinking about this, what is the first step when figuring out a surgeon?

Dr. Crombie: Well, certainly you can come and see any one of us at the university. Our Consultations are free and so if you're not sure, then let us take a look, let's talk about what your goals are, and we can even help you if you're not sure, if you're at a point where you're ready to take that next step or if you're still on your journey of weight loss or toning or whatever. And we can figure out where your endpoint is and come up with a plan.