Liposuction and Tummy Tuck Improve Quality of Life, Reports Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Study is first of its kind to assess patient-reported outcomes of procedures to reduce abdominal fat

Patients undergoing cosmetic liposuction and/or abdominoplasty (“tummy tuck”) procedures report significant improvements in self-esteem and quality of life, according to a study in the April issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Outcomes are especially good with liposuction plus “tummy tuck,” although they include somewhat higher pain scores and longer recovery times, reports the new study by ASPS Member Surgeon Dr. Eric Swanson, MD, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Leawood, Kan.

Study Shows Improved Quality of Life and Other Benefits

Dr. Swanson formally evaluated quality of life and other outcomes in 360 patients undergoing liposuction and/or abdominoplasty to remove excess abdominal fat. About 60 percent of patients underwent liposuction alone, while 35 percent underwent a combination of liposuction and abdominoplasty. The rest underwent abdominoplasty alone.

The patients’ average age was 42 years; 85 percent were women. Thirty percent of patients underwent other cosmetic plastic surgery procedures (such as face lift or breast augmentation) at the same time. Outcomes were assessed an average of four months after surgery.

Patients undergoing liposuction alone had shorter recovery times: average time off work was about six days, compared to 16 days with abdominoplasty (with or without liposuction). The liposuction-only patients also had less discomfort: average pain score 6 out of 10, compared to 7.5 for those undergoing abdominoplasty.

Combined Procedure Yields Best Results

Patients undergoing abdominoplasty rated their cosmetic outcomes higher than others: average score 9 out of 10, compared to 8 out of 10 with liposuction only. Liposuction plus abdominoplasty produced the highest patient satisfaction rate-over 99 percent-with no increase in pain compared to abdominoplasty alone.

Ninety-eight percent of patients undergoing liposuction plus abdominoplasty said they would undergo the procedure again and 99 percent that they would recommend it to others.

Overall, 86 percent of patients reported an improved sense of self-esteem after surgery. About 70 percent reported improved quality of life, more commonly after liposuction plus abdominoplasty.

Quality of life is an increasingly important focus measure of effectiveness for all types of medical and surgical treatments. Even though liposuction and abdominoplasty are among the most frequently performed cosmetic surgery procedures, few studies have formally evaluated their impact on quality of life and other patient-reported outcomes.

“Liposuction and abdominoplasty, individually and in combination, produce high rates of patient satisfaction and reliably improve self-esteem,” Dr. Swanson writes. By formally assessing these important outcomes in a large number of patients, he hopes his study will provide a clearer picture of the expected results and recovery times associated with these widely performed cosmetic surgery procedures.