Tummy Tuck vs Liposuction vs Noninvasive fat removal (SculpSure/Coolsculpting) vs Exercise and Diet
Ok, so you don’t like your belly and you want to know what you can do about it. The answer to that question depends on several things.
- Do you have just excess fat and no extra skin? Or Just loose skin but no excess fat, or do you have some of both?
- What kind of time do you have to recover if you have a procedure?
- Are you considering becoming pregnant in the future?
- Are your rectus muscles (stomach muscles) separated?
- What kind of result would you be satisfied with getting? Do you want to be as flat and tight and smooth as possible, or would you be happy with mild improvement?
- What is your budget?
- Do you want something with no scar or minimal scar, or are you willing to trade a better result for a long scar?
- Do you want your belly button to look better?
- Are you healthy enough to have a surgical procedure?
In some cases, the answer is very clear.
For instance, a woman who:
- is through having children
- is at her normal body weight (minimal excess fat)
- has stretch marks and loose saggy skin on her tummy
- has a big gap between her abdominal muscles
- can take a couple of weeks off work
- is ok with a long scar that will be hidden in a bathing suit
- wants the best result possible including a better shape to her belly button
- has $7000 to $8000 to spend (price can be more if liposuction of the back is done with the tummy tuck)
She is a perfect candidate for a tummy tuck. Liposuction, non invasive fat removal (SculpSure), diet and exercise will not be helpful at all and would be a major disappointment if someone talked her into trying any of these.
A young woman who:
- does not have children but plans to in the future
- has some fat that can be pinched on her belly that she would like to get rid of
- has great skin with no looseness or sagginess
- would be satisfied with a mild to moderate improvement
- has no time for recovery
- has $1800 to $3600
- wants no scar
- not concerned about belly button improvement
This patient is a good candidate for SculpSure (non invasive fat removal). This is a laser procedure that is done over 25-50 minutes depending on how many applicators are needed (we treat with 4 applicators at a time and the applicators are about the size of a deck of cards). There is no down time. We treat each patient at least two times 6 weeks apart. It takes 12 weeks after your last treatment to see the final results.
If this same person has a few days to recover, wants more dramatic results, has $3900 to $4200 to spend, is ok with 2 small scars (1/4 inch) in the lower abdomen and 1 in the belly button and is healthy enough to undergo a light anesthetic, she is a great candidate for liposuction of the abdomen.
If you have a wide separation of the stomach muscles, a tummy tuck will pull those together and restore your “internal” girdle. Neither liposuction or noninvasive fat removal will do that.
A tummy tuck takes 10-14 days of recovery before you can return to a desk job and 6 weeks before you can lift more than 10 pounds. Most patients can return to work after liposuction of the tummy within 4-7 days. You can return to work immediately after having SculpSure. You would not do a tummy tuck until after you are through having children. Well, you could, and it would not interfere with the pregnancy, but you would undo the tummy tuck by going through another pregnancy. Liposuction and SculpSure can be done even if you may have more children.
A tummy tuck can improve the shape of the belly button. Neither liposuction or SculpSure will change the belly button shape. Exercise and diet can reduce overall fat, but cannot spot reduce. Exercise will not improve skin looseness and it can not pull the muscles back together.
There are some patients who would really benefit from a tummy tuck, but they do not have the recovery time or finances to do one. If they have excess fat, and are ok with still having loose skin, they can have liposuction as long as they understand what the results will be. You can’t get tummy tuck results doing liposuction!
And similarly, you cannot get liposuction results with noninvasive fat removal. Even the person with the smallest amount of excess fat can get better results with liposuction than they can with SculpsSure or Coolsculpting. But many patients are ok with getting mild improvement if they don’t have the recovery time to put into liposuction, don’t want to deal with the bruising and swelling that goes along with liposuction, don’t want to be put under anesthesia or have health issues that make anesthesia not safe for them. SculpSure can be a good option in those cases. You just cannot expect WOW liposuction results, and you will need at least 2 treatments.
My goal is to make sure my patients have realistic expectations. I hope this has answered some of your questions about these procedures.