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The Difference Between Panniculectomy and a Tummy Tuck

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Page Updated on May 31, 2022 by Dr. Norman Rowe (Plastic Surgeon) of Rowe Plastic Surgery

The Difference Between Panniculectomy and a Tummy Tuck

Shedding your abdominal fat can be an uphill battle for both men and women. While all other areas of your body have trimmed down and look perfect, your stomach behaves like a petulant child, unwilling to comply. The belly pooch, an unsightly protrusion, is a normal occurrence that happens after childbirth, weight problems and advancing age.

Surgery is often the best option, and the results can be permanent if you continue your healthy living. Consulting the top surgeon from Rowe Plastic Surgery in New York City and New Jersey gives you insight into the different options available. The two most popular recommendations are a panniculectomy surgery or a tummy tuck. While both offer similar results, consider the differences.

What Are the Main Differences Between the Two Surgeries?

A big misconception is that surgeries like a panniculectomy, a skin removal surgery, and an abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck, help you lose weight. They don’t. That’s what bariatric surgery does, and even that takes time.

In contrast, a panniculectomy or abdominoplasty do what a breast lift or breast reduction do: reshape the way your body looks, through invasive surgery. The key differences between the two surgeries include:

  • The tummy tuck is among the top five cosmetic surgeries in America after breast augmentation.
  • The panniculectomy surgery is sometimes considered for medical reasons. When you lose a significant amount of weight, you may develop a pannus stomach, which is an overhanging apron of skin. The pannus can affect your quality of life.
  • An abdominoplasty tightens your abdomen, making the skin look taut, while simultaneously removing the excess skin and fat.
  • A panniculectomy surgery simply cuts the excess overhanging skin.

Do I Need a Panniculectomy or a Tummy Tuck?

Choosing which surgery you need requires careful examination of your abdomen. Your Rowe Plastic Surgery team has specialists who can help you make the right decision. In some circumstances, you may even opt to get both the surgeries together for the best results.

The reasons you may need panniculectomy surgery <Link to Everything You Need to Know about Panniculectomy Surgery> include:

  • You’ve recently lost a lot of weight, either by dieting and exercising or through bariatric surgery.
  • You only want to get rid of the unsightly apron belly of excess skin, fat and tissues that starts below your belly button and hangs over your waist or maybe even lower.
  • The overhanging apron makes it difficult to be active. Even simple things like walking, standing and sitting requires an effort as you have to shift your abdominal skin.
  • It’s not rare to have the overhanging apron of skin hang down to your thighs, which can make it difficult to find clothes to accommodate your body.

A tummy tuck may be the better choice because:

  • You want to get rid of the dreaded belly pooch.
  • You want to tighten weak abdominal muscles.
  • You want to get rid of excess skin or fat around your abdomen.
  • You want to ask your plastic surgeon to remove or lighten stretch marks due to pregnancy or drastic weight loss.
  • You’re planning a “mommy makeover” with liposuction, breast implants or breast reduction, and the tummy tuck.

Does Insurance Pay for These Surgeries?

Insurance can be a tricky subject, as most such procedures are labeled cosmetic in nature. You need to check your individual insurance policies for which surgeries are deemed medically necessary. In general, the surgery has to be proven to be necessary to provide a better quality of life. A panniculectomy is sometimes covered. The insurance criteria for covering the cost of a skin removal surgery include:

  • You need the panniculectomy because you’re having trouble maintaining a good hygiene routine due to the overhanging apron.
  • You get recurring skin problems like sores, rashes and infections, which can cause discomfort and pain. You’ve tried other treatments, but they aren’t long-lasting due to the way the overhanging apron folds.
  • You can request to get the panniculectomy after a weight loss program like bariatric surgery, but only if you meet the above requirements.

Insurance companies usually deny covering an abdominoplasty since the surgery is almost always considered cosmetic. The circumstances when insurance may pay the cost of your tummy tuck  involve whether you can prove:

  • You’ve been diagnosed with stress urinary incontinence (SUI) after childbirth. SUI causes you to leak urine when you cough, sneeze, exercise or laugh. Studies have shown that women, especially those who’ve not had a Caesarian, benefit from the tummy tuck surgery.
  • You need the tummy tuck to improve your weak abdominal muscles, which would help improve your posture and relieve chronic back pain.
  • Surgeries like C-section, appendectomies or drastic weight loss can cause a ventral hernia. Your surgeon may recommend getting a tummy tuck along with the hernia repair surgery to prevent future problems.

What Can I Expect from the Surgeries?

Panniculectomy surgery at Rowe Plastic Surgery in New Jersey and New York City is fairly straightforward. Choose your surgeon carefully, as the doctor’s skills matter. Precise incisions deliver the best results. In this surgery, you may get a horizontal or vertical incision, depending on how your excess skin is distributed. Once the excess skin is removed, the incision is closed using sutures.

If you opt for a tummy tuck, there are different types, depending on your requirements, such as:

  • Mini tummy tuck. This procedure is perfect if you want to correct a slight pooch after a pregnancy. It usually involves one incision at the bikini line.
  • Full tummy tuck. This surgery focuses on your abdomen’s midsection. It involves two incisions, one in the lower part of your stomach and another around your navel.
  • Extended tummy tuck. This type of procedure is recommended if you’ve had drastic weight loss. A long, single incision runs from your abdomen toward your hips. This allows the surgeon to tighten the skin evenly.

How Noticeable Is the Scar?

One of the most asked questions about these surgeries is how visible the scar will be. Both surgeries are invasive, so you must be prepared for some permanent scarring. With an expert surgeon from Rowe Plastic Surgery, the incisions are placed in areas where the scars are easy to hide.

Additionally, most scars lighten or fade over time, as long as you provide proper care. Your surgeon gives you post-operative instructions to reduce the appearance of the scars, such as:

  • Keep the scar out of direct sunlight.
  • Use a scar cream two weeks after the operation.
  • Use sunscreen every day, especially for the first few months, to protect the scar.
  • Expect it to take anywhere from a year to two years for the scars to completely fade.
  • If the scars bother you, your surgeon may offer laser therapy to reduce the scar’s appearance further.

When you’re ready to tone your abdomen and get rid of the excess skin and fat, contact the expert cosmetic surgeons at Rowe Plastic Surgery on the Upper East Side of New York City, in Plainview and Water Mill, NY and in Red Bank and Montclair, NJ. At your initial consultation, your doctor can determine whether you need a panniculectomy or a tummy tuck.

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