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What is the difference between a tummy tuck and liposuction?

Which is best for you? A San Antonio plastic surgeon explains

· Tummy Tuck,Liposuction,Plastic Surgery

Abdominoplasty vs Lipectomy

If you're interested in the look and feel of a flatter tummy, you have a few options. Two of the most popular are tummy tucks (abdominoplasty) and liposuction (lipectomy). While most people understand that these body contouring procedures can help reshape problem areas of the body and achieve increased tone, few know exactly how the two procedures differ. In this article, you'll learn more about the differences between liposuction and a tummy tuck, so you will be able to better decide which body contouring option is right for you.

What is a tummy tuck?

A tummy tuck, also called abdominoplasty, is a procedure wherein a plastic surgeon removes excess abdominal skin and tightens the muscles of the abdominal wall. A tummy tuck can offer impressive results, and this procedure is generally the right choice for people whose main concern is excess abdominal skin, slack abdominal muscles or stretch marks (caused by pregnancy or significant weight loss, for example), rather than abdominal fat. 

How do you tighten muscles with a tummy tuck?

To perform a tummy tuck, a plastic or reconstructive surgeon makes a small incision across the lower portion of the abdomen. The main muscles in your abdomen are your rectus abdominus muscles, or the two big muscles that run vertically down your stomach. During weight gain, these muscles stretch vertically and separate horizontally. After weight loss, exercise and crunches can strengthen the vertical "stretch", but they can't fix the horizontal separation. That's right! All the ab work in the world won't get rid of that darn pooch. The pooch is created by the separation of those muscles, called diastasis recti. During abdominoplasty surgery, the surgeon brings those ab muscles back together in the middle where they are supposed to be.

What is liposuction?

Liposuction, or lipectomy is a body contouring procedure that is ideal for people struggling to lose stubborn fat in a specific location - most often the abdomen, buttocks, back, hips, thighs, and upper arms. No longer just a solution for "love handles" or inner thighs, however, the procedure can even be done on the chin, knees, and calves, making it an ideal solution for nearly any "problem areas" of fatty deposits. This contrasts with a tummy tuck in that liposuction focuses on the fat, and abdominoplasty focuses on the skin and muscles. This procedure is less invasive than an abdominoplasty, and the associated recovery time and scarring are minimal.

Because of the relatively un-invasive nature of this procedure, doctors perform about 500,000 liposuction procedures each year. It is the most popular type of cosmetic surgery procedure for celebrities and non-celebrities alike! Men typically get the liposuction procedure on their chest, abdomen and buttocks, and women typically have lipo performed on their breasts, hips, waist and buttocks.

How do you remove fat during liposuction?

During "lipo" surgery, as it is sometimes called, a cosmetic surgeon makes a tiny incision and inserts a narrow, hollow instrument called a cannula into the subcutaneous fat layer of the skin. As the cannula is moved through the fast layer, it breaks up the fat cells so that they can be removed through a syringe or suction device. The best candidates for liposuction are individuals who have a level of muscle and skin tone, but could use some contouring. Liposuction does not address loose skin or stretch marks, but can help reshape the body and improve a patient's self-confidence. The illustration below shows how the liposuction process works.

San Antonio liposuction

About the author: Dr. Matt Bindewald is a former military surgeon with extensive experience in reconstructive surgery. In particular, he is known for his expertise in performing abdominoplasty and other complex plastic and reconstructive procedures. Given his volume of insurance-covered reconstructive cases, many patients find his pricing schedule more reasonable than surgeons who focus solely on cosmetic cases. His office can be reached at (844) DR-MATT-B, or 844.376.2882, or prospective patients can request an appointment or ask a question online at

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