Liposuction, Tummy Tuck, or CoolSculpting®: How Do I Know Which One is More Appropriate?

For most of us, stubborn fat and loose skin around the midsection is a problem that persists regardless of the healthiest diet or most intensive exercise regimen. Frustratingly, pockets of fat and loose skin frequently make what can feel like a permanent residence in the abdominal area, immune to reduction no matter how much weight is lost or how many crunches are done.

Fortunately, there are two surgical procedures offered by our board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Eric Okamoto, that can provide incredibly effective results and improved body contours, as well as a non-surgical procedure that may be the right option in certain cases: liposuction, tummy tuck surgery, and CoolSculpting®. These options are some of the most popular procedures to address and correct common problems associated with the abdominal area.

Let’s start with the two surgical options. While both are advanced ways to contour the body, tummy tuck surgery and liposuction are not designed to achieve the same results. One of patients’ most frequently asked questions involves the difference between the two and which operation would best serve which goals. Here, you can find a quick primer on what each procedure is designed to accomplish and their respective results:

A tummy tuck is designed to target imperfections in the abdominal fat, muscles, and skin. Often, significant weight loss, genetics, or having children can stretch out the abs and loosen skin beyond natural reparation. In these and similar cases, a tummy tuck can:

  • Bring together and tighten stretched out abdominal muscles
  • Remove excess skin and redrape the remaining skin for a firmer result
  • Reduce fat over the abdominal wall, particularly below the belly button
  • Give the abdomen a smoother, flatter appearance

On the other hand, liposuction is used to target and remove excess fat. While liposuction is not a substitute for weight loss treatments, those who are at or near their ideal weight and are struggling to get rid of isolated areas of fat generally find success in a liposuction procedure. Liposuction can typically:

  • Eliminate excess fat in a variety of areas around the body, including the abdominal region
  • Effectively recontour the body

If only excess fat is the issue at hand, liposuction might be the better choice, but if loose skin
and muscular laxity are also problems that need attention, a tummy tuck should be considered. Both procedures can also be made part of a comprehensive Mommy Makeover.

Finally, we come to the non-surgical treatment known as CoolSculpting®. This innovative procedure is designed to reduce excess fat without the need for surgical intervention. It can be performed for isolated fat pockets in a variety of body regions, and the abdominal area is one of the most commonly requested. CoolSculpting® involves the use of a special applicator that essentially “freezes” the fat cells and causes them to gradually break down. The body can then progressively filter the fat out via natural metabolic processes. While CoolSculpting® can be a good alternative to liposuction for some patients, it should be noted that CoolSculpting® is more ideal for individuals who have mild to moderate cases of excess fat, and it will not have the immediate results associated with liposuction.

To learn more about which procedure is ultimately suited to your specific goals, Dr. Okamoto can meet with you for an initial consultation to discuss your unique needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact our practice with any questions you may have, or to schedule a consultation.

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on May 9, 2017.