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Some people just can’t lose weight in their tummy area, no matter how hard they try. Others manage to rid themselves of unwanted pounds through diet and exercise but are frustrated with a few stubborn pockets of fat. For individuals who have lived with obesity, the decision to lose the weight may be a matter of life and death. The effort required to make the journey to wellness is challenging and often overwhelming.

Some of life’s most rewarding physical accomplishments wreak havoc on our bodies. A woman’s body goes through so many amazing changes throughout the process of pregnancy and childbirth. The same holds true for a morbidly obese person who undergoes gastric bypass surgery, or simply loses a great deal of weight in a short period of time. When the goal is reached, the feeling of accomplishment is priceless, but the trauma takes a toll.

However, the gift of a healthy baby and a leaner body often brings a new problem. Skin loses its elasticity and becomes saggy when a large amount of fat loss occurs in a short span of time. The result is excess loose skin and/or resistant areas of redistributed fat.

What is the difference between liposuction (lipo) and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)?

Liposuction, also known simply as lipo or lipoplasty, works well for individuals who are self-conscious about the appearance of their bodies due to unsightly bulges that won’t change by traditional efforts, such as diet and exercise.  This procedure is highly effective at eliminating fat deposits on the abs, hips, thighs, back and other areas. Liposuction eradicates fat cells only. The skin will contract and some tightening will result. However, only an abdominoplasty will get rid of excess skin completely.

How is liposuction performed?

Lipo is a cosmetic surgery procedure that slims and contours specific areas of the body by breaking up and sucking out unwanted fat. The hollow instrument used is called a cannula. This tool is inserted under the skin with a high powered pressure vacuum attached to it. Liposuction is the most frequently performed cosmetic procedure in the U.S. and the U.K. It is often a big part of post-pregnancy mommy makeovers, along with breast augmentation.  The process is fast and easy without the need for long-term recovery.

What is abdominoplasty and how is it performed?

A tummy tuck is an alternate term to describe abdominoplasty. This popular cosmetic surgery procedure was designed to rid the patient of loose or excess abdominal skin. Each case is very different, requiring varied levels of surgery. Several versions of this common procedure include the mini, traditional and extended tummy tuck.

·         A mini tummy tuck addresses a much smaller area than a standard abdominoplasty. Another term for this surgery is a scarless tummy tuck due to the small incision. The mini tuck is best suited for those with minimal belly fat that doesn’t respond to diet and exercise. It was created for patients who are basically in good physical shape but want to remove some stubborn bumps for a slimmer appearance. The surgery is performed through a small incision, the extra skin is removed and the abdominal muscles are tightened. The skin that remains is pulled taut and the incision is closed. In about seven days, the patient may return to a regular daily routine of reasonable activity.

·         The traditional tummy tuck procedure is also geared toward physically fit patients who have an abundance of sagging skin in their midsection. Traditional abdominoplasty is generally performed on women with excess skin and weak ab muscles as a result of pregnancy. It is also suitable for patients who have lost a great amount of weight. In addition, this option works for those individuals who can’t lose belly fat by increasing their activity and lowering the amount of calories they ingest.

With a traditional tummy tuck, a larger incision that runs from hip to hip is used. Liposuction will likely be included to remove extra fat to enable the surgeon to more easily tighten the muscles, and close the incision appropriately. There might be a brief hospital stay because standard abdominoplasty is more invasive than the mini version. Anticipated recovery time can take up to a month.

·         Extended tummy tuck cosmetic surgery is designed for patients with a great deal of extra, loose skin, specifically on their abs, hips, and lower back. A large amount of fat is usually removed in these sagging areas along with the skin. The surgeon will begin the abdominoplasty procedure by making an incision starting from the abdomen, moving around the hips, and down to the lower back.

Typically extended abdominoplasty always includes liposuction to drain extra fluid and to remove excess fat cells. The muscles of the abdomen, hip, and lower back are all tightened. The extra drooping skin is removed and the incision site is sutured. A two-day hospital stay should be expected along with a longer recovery time than the mini and the standard tummy tuck cosmetic surgeries. Reasonably light daily activities can resume about a month after surgery.

Your plastic surgeon will decide which tummy tuck is right for you after examining your upper and lower abdomen, and the belly button area. The amount of loose skin, and degree of muscle laxity will need to be determined to form the right treatment plan. The three techniques listed are the most widely used, but there are other surgical choices available.

Are there any other skin removal cosmetic surgeries available?

The least invasive is endoscopic abdominoplasty. This tummy tuck requires the tiniest incision and removes the smallest amount of skin, leaving hardly any scarring. On the contrary, a circumferential abdominoplasty involves the largest incision that covers the entire waistline. Also, a similar surgery to abdominoplasty is panniculectomy, or fat apron removal surgery. This procedure removes lower drooping abdominal skin or the overhanging apron.

Keep in mind that there are health requirements for patients seeking a tummy tuck. Also, candidates shouldn’t view surgery as a weight loss solution. If you want to remove cellulite, tummy tucks were not designed to address this issue. However, cellulite treatments are available and can be combined with abdominoplasty.

If you or someone you know is weighed down by excessive loose skin and ready to make a change, contact a reputable plastic surgeon in your area for a consultation.