Chances are, you’ve heard of a tummy tuck. But did you know there’s another surgery that many people confuse with a tummy tuck? It’s called a panniculectomy. Here we’ll go into detail about what a panniculectomy is, and the differences between a panniculectomy vs tummy tuck.
What is a panniculectomy?
A panniculectomy is an operation that removes excess skin, as well as fat, from the lower tummy area. This surgery is often performed on people who have lost a significant amount of weight - for instance, patients who have had a surgical or non-surgical weight loss procedure - and find that their abdominal area has extra hanging skin. This “apron” of skin is called a pannus or panniculus. In the most simple way of thinking about it, and panniculectomy is the removal of the pannus or panniculus.
How is a panniculectomy different from a tummy tuck?
While a panniculectomy is strictly focused on removing the excess hanging skin from the abdomen, a tummy tuck is generally a more comprehensive surgery. A tummy tuck often includes tightening of the abdominal muscles, as well as detailed contouring of the abdomen. A tummy tuck sometimes involves liposuction and includes the upper and side abdominal areas, whereas a panniculectomy is just the surgical removal of the fat apron.
What is the goal of a panniculectomy vs tummy tuck?
One goal of a panniculectomy is cosmetic. This surgery smoothens your silhouette and gives a more flat, contoured abdomen. People often have a much easier time finding clothes that fit, and feel better about their physical appearance after a panniculectomy. Another primary goal of a panniculectomy is the relief of physical symptoms that come from having excess skin in the abdomen area. Many patients with a large pannus have recurring rashes or infections in the area under the excess skin. Some patients even find that a large pannus interferes with their ability to walk well. The goal of a tummy tuck is almost always cosmetic, and is often requested after pregnancy.
Who is a good candidate for a panniculectomy?
Someone may be a good candidate for a panniculectomy if they have a significant flap of skin that hangs from their lower abdomen. For some people, a panniculectomy is strictly for cosmetic reasons, and for others they are good candidates for a panniculectomy because of medical reasons like chronic skin irritation.
The best way to find out if you’re a good candidate for a panniculectomy is to come in for a private consultation, but here are some factors we consider important:
- At a relatively stable weight (if you still want to lose a substantial amount of weight, it is best to wait on a panniculectomy until you are closer to that goal weight).
- In good overall health and a non-smoker
- Has realistic expectations of what a panniculectomy will and will not be able to help with
Will insurance cover a panniculectomy or a tummy tuck?
Sometimes insurance will cover the cost of a panniculectomy. This is generally in the case that the surgery is for medical reasons, such as a rash that will not go away. Patients often need documentation that they have tried non-surgical methods like creams or medication, without success. If a panniculectomy is only for cosmetic reasons, insurance will generally not pay for it. Because a tummy tuck is generally for cosmetic reasons, it is not covered by insurance in most cases.
How should I choose between a panniculectomy vs tummy tuck?
Although there are exceptions, a panniculectomy is a popular surgery for people who have lost a significant amount of weight. A tummy tuck is more popular for people trying to tighten their abdomen after pregnancy or to improve tone and contour to achieve a flat abdomen. Choosing a panniculectomy vs tummy tuck is a decision that should be made based on your goals. If you have a significant amount of hanging fat and skin that covers your groin area, a panniculectomy is most likely the better option. If you have excess skin in your middle abdomen, or want tightening of separated stomach muscles, a tummy tuck is probably going to be the better fit.
Is it possible to have both a panniculectomy and a tummy tuck?
Yes, some people do choose to have both a panniculectomy and a tummy tuck. In many cases we can customize a combination of the two procedures to help you reach your goals. For instance, while a patient’s primary concern may be the hanging apron of fat in their lower abdominal area, they may also want tightening of the upper abdominal area, muscles, and elect to have detailed contouring work. In this case, the patient may want a combination of a panniculectomy and a tummy tuck.
What are the scars like after a panniculectomy operation?
You can expect to have a long scar across your low to mid abdomen following a panniculectomy. This is unavoidable because of the skin we remove, but the scar will fade somewhat with time. A tummy tuck also leaves a scar across the abdomen. Most patients find that the results of the surgery far outweigh the appearance of the scar.
How is the recovery different after a panniculectomy vs tummy tuck?
The recovery from a panniculectomy vs tummy tuck are relatively similar. Right after your panniculectomy you will not be able to stand upright all the way. It can take 1 - 2 weeks before you can stand straight. After either surgery we’ll ask you to refrain from exercise for at least a month, although walking is highly recommended. Taking short, slow walks as soon as possible after surgery will help with healing. Here are some recovery tips for after a panniculectomy:
- Plan to have help around the house for at least the first week
- Stock your freezer with healthy, nourishing meals so you will not have to cook while you recover
- Have comfortable clothes available, that are easy to put on and don’t require your arms to stretch up.
- Set up a recovery area so that everything you need is close by. It’s important to be able to rest, as well as get in a few short walks. You do not want to be running errands or spending time searching for things you need for your recovery.
Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which surgery will give you the results you’re looking for. If you think a panniculectomy may be a good choice for you, give us a call. Our expert, compassionate surgeons can help you understand the difference between a panniculectomy vs tummy tuck, and which is the best choice for your goals.