University of Virginia Plastic Surgery
1300 Jefferson Park Avenue 4th Floor
Charlottesville, VA 22908
Phone: (434) 924-1234
Location Hours: Monday–Friday | 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Is CoolSculpting®, Liposuction, or a Tummy Tuck Right for You?

Abdomen of fit woman outdoors with grey tank top pulled up to expose tummy and hands forming a heart shape over her belly button

The introduction of effective, nonsurgical fat reduction procedures such as CoolSculpting is one of the most important advances in aesthetics in the past decade. These non-invasive body contouring treatments are increasingly popular, but it’s important that patients understand who is—and who is not—a good candidate for CoolSculpting. Our board-certified plastic surgeons that you consult with at our Charlottesville or Fishersville, VA, locations can explain why liposuction or even a tummy tuck may be a better choice.

In this blog post, we’ll examine the various body contouring procedures, including how they’re performed and who’s best-suited for nonsurgical or surgical fat reduction.


Even men and women who work out regularly and eat balanced diets can find it impossible to get rid of bulges in certain areas of the body. These stubborn pockets of fat can be frustrating for people who work hard and still feel self-conscious about their bodies. CoolSculpting is an excellent option in these cases. CoolSculpting works by “freezing” fat cells without damaging the skin or other tissues surrounding the cells. That’s because fat cells begin dying at temperatures that don’t pose a risk to other tissue.

Good CoolSculpting candidates have the following characteristics:

  • Want to avoid a surgical procedure such as liposuction
  • Don’t have the time to go through recovery
  • Have skin that’s retained most of its elasticity
  • Are within 10 pounds of their ideal weight
  • Don’t mind waiting for results to appear gradually or the possibility of needing more than one treatment to achieve their desired goals

The no-downtime procedure can treat most areas of the body, thanks to the platform’s specially designed applicators. We can use CoolSculpting to treat the abdominal area, love handles, inner and outer thighs, upper arms, back fat, and the area below the chin.


Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures performed in the U.S. and can remove stubborn fat from several areas of the body. Good candidates for liposuction have localized areas of fat without loose skin. Actually, many people who are good candidates for CoolSculpting are also good candidates for liposuction. The difference is that because liposuction is a surgical procedure, it can create more dramatic results that can be seen almost immediately after the surgery. Liposuction is done as one procedure typically under some type of anesthesia whereas, CoolSculpting is done over a couple treatment sessions without need for anesthesia.

At UVA Plastic Surgery, our surgeons offer 2 types of liposuction and customize the treatments based on the needs of each patient. The 2 forms of liposuction are:

  • Power assisted liposuction (PAL): The surgeon uses a vibrating cannula to break up fatty tissue before suctioning it away.
  • Ultrasonic liposuction: A special cannula inserted through a small incision emits ultrasound energy to break up the fat, making it easier to remove and resulting in tighter skin.
  • Standard liposuction: The surgeon uses a series of specialized very small caliber suctions cannulas to remove unwanted fatty tissue and sculpt the remaining soft tissue.

Liposuction is good for women and men who have good skin elasticity but troublesome pockets of fat that they want to remove. As with CoolSculpting, it’s a good idea to be within 10 pounds of your ideal weight before undergoing liposuction. Unlike CoolSculpting, liposuction involves some downtime to recover because it is a surgical procedure.

Tummy Tuck

Also called abdominoplasty, a tummy tuck is a surgical procedure that effectively removes sagging abdominal skin for people who have lost significant weight. A tummy tuck patient should have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or less to be considered a good surgical candidate. Also, the surgeons at UVA do not recommend having and abdominoplasty done on patients who are actively smoking as this can compromise the healing process, safety and final results.

A tummy tuck is not simply a fat reduction procedure but rather removes some fatty tissue, some loose skin and typically the surgeons at UVA perform tightening of the underlying fascia with is the layer over the muscles that helps shape the internal contour of the abdominal wall.  The plastic surgeons at UVA often combined abdominoplasty with liposuction, which does removes additional fat, to produce smooth, contoured results. Abdominoplasty can also help repair stretched or separated abdominal muscles, smooth out stretchmarks above the navel, or reshape a misshapen navel.

There are 3 distinct tummy tuck techniques:

  • Traditional tummy tuck: This involves making a horizontal incision from hip to hip, just above the pubic area, and removing excess skin. Most incisions are made low enough so they can be easily concealed by bikini bottoms. In some cases surgeons also repair abdominal muscles that can be stretched during pregnancy.
  • Mini tummy tuck: Patients whose loose skin is limited to the area below the belly button may be good candidates for a mini tummy tuck, which involves a much shorter incision than a full tummy tuck.
  • Extended tummy tuck: This procedure is often used for patients after massive weight loss. It is very similar to a traditional tummy tuck but removes skin that drapes around the body’s entire midsection. This can involve a longer incision that might go all the way around the waist line or have the addition of an incision that runs up and down on the middle portion of the abdominal wall.

It’s important to remember that none of the procedures above is designed to reduce your overall weight.

If you’ve been considering a fat reduction procedure or tummy tuck, you can check out the types of results our surgeons produce by reviewing our before-and-after photo gallery. You can also schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons by using the online form or calling us at (434) 924-1234.

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