If liposuction could do what a tummy tuck does without the scar, recovery time, and expense, tummy tucks would be a thing of the past. But while liposuction remains the number one cosmetic surgery procedure, the number of abdominoplasties has increased 5-fold over the past 20 years according to statistics from ASAPS. So when is lipo a sensible alternative to a tummy tuck?
For starters, neither is an alternative to diet and exercise. They are both body contouring procedures designed to reshape areas that are out of proportion. After liposuction, the skin in that area must shrink in order to adapt to the new contour, which requires a degree of elasticity; if you have loose skin with stretch marks after pregnancy or substantial weight loss, it is not very likely that lipo will work out well. Stretch marks are a sign that the skin has lost its elastic tone, but even without visible stretch marks there is often not enough “snap” left for the skin to shrink with liposuction.
We don’t hear as much anymore about laser-assisted lipo (e.g., “smart lipo,” “slim lipo,” etc.) but it was promoted as an alternative in some cases to tummy tucks. The idea of using a laser with liposuction is to enhance skin shrinkage. The concept is similar with what is done with Ulthera and radiofrequency devices such as Thermage and ThermiRF: if you place the right amount of thermal energy, you get collagen remodeling and skin contraction (too much, the laser may end up causing scarring under the surface of the skin instead of enhanced skin contraction resulting in a more difficult problem than you started out with.) With laser-assisted liposuction, studies show about 17% more shrinkage. So is this enough to replace the need for a tummy tuck? Not even close.
The best advice is to consult with a plastic surgeon who is experienced in liposuction and tummy tucks, so they can give you an informed assessment of your best options. If you go to a clinic where lipo is all they do, expect to be sold on lipo – whether it’s truly the best for you or not.