Fat Reduction: Which Surgical Option Is Right?

It may be that you have lost a significant amount of weight and want your smaller clothes and bathing suit to fit better. Or maybe you are childless and ready to get back to your pre-pregnancy figure.

Whatever the reason, there is a suitable fat reduction treatment to meet your individual needs.

Is Liposuction For You?

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, localized areas of fat deposits persist, preventing you from achieving greater definition or a sleeker body contour.

Patients who are relatively young, have good skin tone in the abdomen, but show signs of excess subcutaneous fat, are perfect candidates for liposuction.

In other words, if you’re working out at the gym and eating a healthy diet but still have stubborn pockets of fat, liposuction is right for you . Your skin is also more likely to naturally tighten after the procedure if you are at a healthy weight and have good muscle tone.

Liposuction recovery is quick and requires very little downtime. Another advantage is that it causes very little scarring, since the incisions are very small. The surgeon may even hide some of the incisions in less visible places like the belly button.

Disadvantages of Liposuction

It is important to consult an experienced plastic surgeon to perform liposuction. Otherwise, the risk of less than ideal results (for example, uneven skin texture) is high.

Liposuction is not a weight loss solution, nor is it a good option for people who want to remove excess loose skin. It’s also important to remember that weight gain, aging, and pregnancy can affect your results over time.

Liposuction is often used in conjunction with other forms of abdominal fat removal surgery. For example, plastic surgeons frequently combine abdominoplasty and liposuction.

It is important to note that abdominoplasty is not a suitable option for women who intend to have more children. The muscles that are repaired during a tummy tuck can separate during future pregnancies, so it’s best to wait until the gestational years are over.

A tummy tuck can offer similar benefits to people who have lost a significant amount of weight by removing excess skin and reshaping the navel.

Specific techniques are used to treat different areas: a full tummy tuck is best suited for the areas above and below the navel. If you have small amounts of fat and skin below your belly button that need to be removed, or if you feel like your abdomen sticks out a little too much for your liking, a mini tummy tuck may be preferable.

Disadvantages of Abdominoplasty

Abdominoplasty is not a solution to lose weight. The procedure is best suited for those who have achieved a stable weight but maintain a moderate amount of excess skin and subcutaneous fat on the abdominal wall.

While a mini tummy tuck causes little scarring, a full tummy tuck leaves a longer scar that stretches from hip to hip.

Another negative is the recovery time. You may only feel ready to return to work and other daily activities 10 to 14 days after the procedure. Generally, patients must also keep surgical drains for several days. These drains are reviewed and removed by the surgeon during follow-up appointments.

In addition to that, patients will be restricted from most physical activity for approximately six weeks to allow the incisions and damaged tissues to heal properly.

Pros and Cons of Panniculectomy

A panniculectomy may be right for you if you have lost a significant amount of weight, either naturally or after bariatric surgery.

As a result of weight loss, you may be left with an unsightly flap of excess skin that hangs from your abdominal region and extends over your genitals or thighs. This excess skin is called “pannus” or “abdominal apron.” Accompanying this uncomfortable bulging of the skin, you may experience irritation and frequent infections (known as intertrigo).

A panniculectomy is a suitable reconstructive procedure for patients suffering from multiple episodes of fungal skin infections as a result of significant excess skin folds that are difficult to maintain.

During this operation, an incision similar to a tummy tuck is made, but the abdominal wall tissues are not raised to the xiphoid process (bilateral breast bone) to re-cover them, and no adjustment of the abdominal wall is performed. This procedure simply involves the removal of a ‘pannus’ of fat and skin and direct closure.

Disadvantages of Panniculectomy

Expect a hospital stay of one to three days. Once patients leave the hospital, they may have to deal with surgical drains and return later to have them removed by a doctor.

In most cases, patients will need to wear compression garments and exercise will be off limits for approximately six weeks to allow for proper healing.

Additional Options for Fat Removal

Laser Liposuction

Laser liposuction consists of passing a very thin fiber optic cable under the skin, which carries a laser beam that heats the tissues to 900 degrees, thus melting the fat.

With this procedure, however, it is best to proceed with caution. A study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology suggests that doctors have been reluctant to accept the treatment as it carries significant risks of adverse reactions.

Also, there are no proven benefits beyond a traditional liposuction procedure, which is considered a very safe and effective option for belly fat removal.

CoolSculpting

One of the most effective non-surgical options available for belly fat removal is cryolipolysis, best exemplified by CoolSculpting. During this procedure, a patient simply sits in a room while a machine is applied to areas of excess fat in an attempt to “freeze” the fat cells, which then die and are absorbed into the body.

The advantage of this procedure is that it involves very little downtime. The downside is that multiple treatment sessions are often required, making it quite expensive and inconvenient for patients. The results are also more subtle than any of the surgical procedures available for belly fat removal.

Vanquish

Vanquish is a radiofrequency device designed to eradicate fat cells without ever coming into contact with the body. On average, patients report losing one to two inches from their waist with a fat loss equivalent to two to three pounds.

This non-surgical method of fat reduction is suitable for people who have reached a healthy weight but still have stubborn fat deposits that don’t seem to budge, no matter how much they exercise or how strictly they stick to their diets. The downside, however, is that the results of the treatment are only temporary.

Zerona

Zerona uses cold, low-level laser technology to directly target the cellular content of fat cells. It claims to liquefy and shrink fat cells while also tightening the skin.

Clinical trials indicate that Zerona can reduce waist circumference by an average of 1.8 inches and upper abdomen by 1.3 inches. However, some researchers who have tested the technology warn that it does not deliver on its promises. They suggest that the technology does not have the ability to reach the fat layers successfully and produces little or no results.

CandleShape

VelaShape is a non-surgical treatment that uses radio frequency combined with infrared light energy and mechanical suction massage to melt away fat. The average fat reduction in the belly region is half an inch. Velashape can also treat other problem areas like love handles, thighs, and buttocks.

The advantage of the treatment is that relatively no downtime is required. The downside is that the treatment is only temporary and must be repeated every one to two months. The procedure is also more suitable for people who are closer to their ideal body weight and who are looking to reduce small fat deposits.