Relatively recently the importance of skin laxity and collapse of the outer hip, thigh and buttock regions has been recognized. In such cases, just as removing the excess skin and fat from the front of the body (abdominoplasty) makes sense, so does removal of excess skin and fat from the sides and back of the body. This is the concept of the “body lift.”
The Body Lift is an extension of the “abdominoplasty” principle to reverse collapse of the whole flabby mid body, including abdomen, hips, thighs and buttocks. Because skin tightening and lifting occurs to all these areas, an entire body lift can be achieved with effective results and a return to a youthful figure. The operation is quite involved and takes around 6 to 8 hours of surgery. A hospitalization of 5 days is usually required with a recovery period of 3 to 4 weeks. The results achieved, for those who are willing to invest the extra time and effort, are, however, dramatic.
Suitability will depend on formal consultation where fitness for surgery will also be assessed and it will be decided if liposuction alone, abdominoplasty with liposuction or the body lift is more appropriate for the individual patient.
Questions & Answers
What is a body lift?
A body lift improves the shape and tone of the underlying tissue that supports fat and skin.
Excess sagging fat and skin are removed and the procedure(s) can improve a dimpled, irregular skin surface, which is commonly known as cellulite.
A body lift may include these areas:
- Abdominal area – locally or extending around the sides and into the lower back area
- Buttocks that may be low, flat or shaped unevenly
- Groin that may sag into inner thigh
- Thigh – the inner, outer, or posterior thigh, or the thigh’s circumference
Aging, sun damage, pregnancy, significant fluctuations in weight, and genetic factors may contribute to poor tissue elasticity that can result in sagging of the abdomen, buttocks and thighs.
What a body lift won’t do
Body lifts are not intended strictly for the removal of excess fat. Liposuction alone can remove excess fat deposits where skin has good elasticity and is able to naturally conform to new body contours.
In cases where skin elasticity is poor, a combination of liposuction and body lift techniques may be recommended.
Body lift surgery cost
Your cost will be based on your individual plan and procedure.
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Body lift surgery cost may include:
- Anesthesia fees
- Hospital or surgical facility costs
- Medical tests
- Post-surgery garments
- Prescriptions for medication
- Surgeon’s fee
When choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon for a body lift, remember that the surgeon’s experience and your comfort with him or her are just as important as the final cost of the surgery.
Body lift candidates
In general, body lift candidates include:
- Individuals with significant soft tissue looseness in one or multiple body areas
- Healthy individuals without medical conditions that impair healing or increase risk of surgery
- Individuals with a positive outlook and realistic goals for what body lift surgery can accomplish
- Individuals committed to leading a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and fitness
Body lift recovery
During your body lift surgery recovery, dressings or bandages will be applied to the incisions after the procedure is complete. Small, thin tubes may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood that may collect.
You will be given specific instructions that may include how to care for your surgical site(s) following surgery, medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the risk of infection, specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health, how to care for your drains, and when to follow up with your plastic surgeon.
Be sure to ask your body lift surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period:
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery?
- When will they be removed?
- How should I bathe after surgery?
- Are stitches removed? When?
- When will the drains be removed?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
Body lift surgery recovery at home
If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, or unusual heart beats, seek medical attention immediately. Should any of these complications occur, you may require hospitalization and additional treatment.
Body lift surgery before and after results
The results of body lift surgery are visible almost immediately. However, it may take two years or more for the final results of the body lift procedures to fully develop.
Some visible scars will remain, but the overall results are long lasting, provided that you maintain a stable weight and general fitness. As your body ages, it is natural to lose some firmness.
However, most of your initial improvement should be relatively permanent.
Although good results are expected from your body lift surgery, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.
Following your physician’s instructions is essential to the success of your surgery.
It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
Body lift procedural steps
Body lift procedures are surgical procedures and they require extensive incisions. Incision length and pattern depend on the amount and location of excess skin to be removed, as well as surgical judgment.
Advanced techniques usually allow incisions to be placed in strategic locations where they can be hidden by most types of clothing and swimsuits.
Step 1 – Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.
Step 2 – The incision
One common technique of complete lower body lift uses incisions similar to a bikini pattern to tighten the abdomen, groin, waist, thigh and buttock in one procedure.
A circumferential incision around the body removes an apron of excess skin and fat and repositions and tightens tissues.
A combination of liposuction and surgical body lifts may be necessary to achieve an improved contour.
Step 3 – Closing the incisions
Deep support sutures within underlying tissues help to form the newly shaped contours. Sutures, skin adhesives, tapes, or clips close the skin incisions.
Step 4 – See the results
The results of a body lift are visible almost immediately. It may take as long as one to two years for the final results to fully develop. Get more information on body lift results.
Body lift surgery risks and safety information
The decision to have plastic surgery is extremely personal. You will have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications of body lift surgery are acceptable.
Your plastic surgeon and/or staff will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks or potential complications.
Possible body lift surgery risks include:
- Anesthesia risks
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Poor wound healing
- Fluid accumulation (blood or serum)
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Pain, which may persist
- Recurrent looseness of skin
- Persistent swelling in the legs
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Possible need for revisional surgery
- Skin loss
- Sutures may spontaneously surface through the skin, become visible or produce irritation and require removal
- Unfavorable scarring
These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It is important that you address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon.
Your body lift surgery consultation
During your body lift surgery consultation be prepared to discuss:
- Your surgical goals
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and previous medical treatments
- Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drug use
- Previous surgeries
Your body lift surgeon will also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Examine and measure your body, this may include detailed body measurements
- Take photographs
- Discuss your body lift options
- Recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes of body lift surgery and any risks or potential complications
Be sure to ask questions. To help, we have prepared a checklist of questions to ask your body lift surgeon that you can take with you to your consultation (see tab titled “Questions to ask your Body Lift Surgeon”).
It’s very important to understand all aspects of your body lift procedure. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether it’s excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.
Preparing for body lift surgery
In preparing for body lift surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get a lab test or a medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Stop smoking
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
Body lift surgery may be performed in an accredited office-based surgical facility, ambulatory surgical center, or a hospital.
Body lift words to know
- Abdominoplasty: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.
- Circumferential incision: A surgical incision around the body to remove the “belt” of excess skin and fat and additional incisions that may resemble a bikini bottom pattern.
- Circumferential thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the outer and mid-thigh.
- General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
- Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
- Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
- Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness.
- Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
- Lower body lift: Surgical procedure to correct sagging of the abdomen, buttocks, groin and outer thighs.
- Macerated skin: Excess skin that hangs and becomes wet or infected underneath.
- Medial thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the inner thigh.
- Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
- Tummy tuck: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.
Questions to ask your body lift surgeon
Use this checklist as a guide during your body lift surgery consultation:
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Were you specifically trained in the field of plastic surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
- Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? If so, at which hospitals?
- Is the office-based surgical facility accredited by a nationally- or state-recognized accrediting agency, or is it state-licensed or Medicare-certified?
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- What will be expected of me to get the best results?
- Where and how will you perform my procedure?
- What surgical technique is recommended for me?
- How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- How are complications handled?
- How can I expect my body to look over time? After pregnancy?
- What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my body lift?
- Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure and what results are reasonable for me?
Choose a body lift surgeon you can trust
Body lift surgery involves many choices. The first and most important is selecting a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) surgeon you can trust.
- ASPS member surgeons meet rigorous standards:
- Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery® (ABPS) or in Canada by The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®
- Complete at least six years of surgical training following medical school with a minimum of three years of plastic surgery residency training
- Pass comprehensive oral and written exams
- Graduate from an accredited medical school
- Complete continuing medical education, including patient safety, each year
- Perform surgery in accredited, state-licensed, or Medicare-certified surgical facilities
Do not be confused by other official sounding boards and certifications.
The ABPS is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), which has approved medical specialty boards since 1934. There is no ABMS recognized certifying board with “cosmetic surgery” in its name.
By choosing a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, you can be assured that you are choosing a qualified, highlytrained plastic surgeon who is board-certified by the ABPS or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
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