The lower body lift surgical procedure tightens loose, sagging skin in the buttocks, posterior thighs, hips, outer thighs, and anterior thighs. It utilizes incisions which pass from the back around the hips to the front of the thighs. The loose skin, as well as underlying fat tissue, is removed from below the incision to allow suspension of the remaining tissues to stretch and smooth the lower body, especially the buttocks and thighs. The surgery begins in the back and requires repositioning during the surgery to address the hips and outer thighs and front of the thighs. It can be combined with an abdominal skin tightening if needed. If a previous tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) has been performed or is not needed, the lower body lift can be extended to tighten the inner thighs.
The incisions are designed to be hidden by clothing and sportswear or to lie in normally occurring anatomic folds. Layered suture techniques are used to carefully close the area of incision in order to maintain the lift, tightening and smoothing the remaining skin.
Swelling, which is commonly seen after body lift surgery, is controlled by compression garments and the use of drains, sterile collection tubes used to evacuate excess fluid. Weekly follow up visits help to achieve an optimal outcome by allowing adjustments based on visible progress which varies among patients. Full healing of the circumferential incisions may take four weeks or even longer.
Lower Body Lift Standard Procedure Techniques
All lower body lift techniques tighten the buttocks/back of the thighs and hips/outer thighs. Loose sagging skin below the incision is removed. The remaining skin in the buttock and thighs is pulled upwards, and the skin is repaired, suspending the tissues and tightening them. This requires positioning the patient on their tummy or side during the procedure. Incision closure is performed in multiple layers over drains, to control stretching and swelling.
Once the back and sides of the patient have been addressed, the front of the patient is treated with the patient positioned on his/her back. Two options are available. These options should be discussed with you preoperatively and are chosen based upon your choice. One option is to combine the lower body lift with abdominal contouring, otherwise known as tummy tuck (abdominoplasty). The other option is to combine lower body lift with an inner thigh lift, if the abdomen does not require contouring, or if the patient has had previous abdominoplasty.
These techniques utilize the removal of skin, or excision of skin, to tighten loose, sagging tissue. It can include the removal of the fat layer under the excised skin to lessen fullness and padding in the lower body.
Candidates for body lift surgery all have extra skin which must be removed by excision. This differs from liposuction, in that liposuction removes only fat through small quarter inch incisions, but no skin. However, liposuction may be done in conjunction with body lifting techniques to smooth and contour areas separate from the effects of the body lift excisions. Again, a thorough discussion and examination are essential to determining a comprehensive surgical plan.
Lower Body Lift Benefits/Advantages/Options
- Multiple areas (buttocks, thighs, possibly abdomen) addressed in one single operation
- Tightening extends lower in the back, side and front of thighs than other circumferential excisional procedures
- Can be combined with breast surgery or arm contouring procedures
- Can be combined with liposuction in selected areas
Other Considerations of Lower Body Lift Surgery
Since the operation achieves tightening of the lower body by excising loose tissue (skin and fat), the lower body lift should be performed when the patient is as close to their desired or ideal body weight as possible. If, for example, the patient has tightening of their lower body and then loses weight, the tightened skin will loosen and become saggy. Conversely, post operative weight gain will either stretch the skin which has been tightened or undo the improvements of the body lift.
Because the lower body is lifted and suspended to the skin closure, excessive heaviness in the thighs and buttocks at the time of surgery may prevent a long lasting effect. In such cases, further weight loss may be recommended before performing body lifting procedures. If this is not feasible, liposuction may be an option to thin the thighs and buttocks before attempting excisional body lifting.
Lower Body Lift Surgery Risks/Complications/Patient Safety
- Seromas (collections of fluid below the skin) may require the use of drains
- Delayed healing from small separations in the incision closure in areas of high tension and stretch
- Numbness in areas adjacent to the incision
- Slight asymmetries may occur in spite of efforts to balance skin and fat removal
- Bleeding may lead to bruising, but it is very rare to require transfusions
- Blood clots to the lung (pulmonary emboli) are rare. Sequential compression devices (SCD’s) on the calves during surgery has significantly lessened the incidence in body contouring procedures
- Surgical operating time and duration may last six hours or more for the body lift. Measures are taken to warm the patient carefully during surgery. Medical conditions are addressed preoperatively to ensure the safety of the patient for such durations.
Lower Body Lift Recovery Process
Surgical drains are placed to remove fluid which accumulates within the incisions. The amount of fluid is measured by the patient on a daily basis. Once the output falls low enough arrangements are made for removal of the drain in an office outpatient setting. Drains typically remain in place two to three weeks, but may be left longer.
Sutures in the incision closure may require removal. This typically occurs around two weeks after surgery, and this, too, is done in an office as an outpatient treatment.
Compression garments may be placed on the patient to control swelling, to support the suspended tissues, and to smooth and flatten the skin. Placement can occur at the time of surgery, or later, at the surgeon’s discretion.
Activity is determined by the progress of the healing of the incision. Patients are encouraged to walk the day after surgery. Once the drains are removed, movement is easier.
As a patient you would be admitted to the hospital after surgery. You may stay a couple of days to learn care of their drains and feel comfortable in walking and moving. Once comfortable with oral pain medications, you would be discharged.
Usually resumption of normal activities can occur four to six weeks after surgery.
Lower Body Lift Frequently Asked Questions
Will lower body lift surgery be painful?
For the most part, pain is controlled by oral pain medications. The first day of surgery, you may require injections or intravenous pain medications, but usually pain pills satisfactorily relieve discomfort after that.
Will there be scarring from body lift surgery?
There will be a scar along the incision. It will be as thin as your surgeon can make it, using multiple layers of sutures to prevent spreading. However, there will always be some evidence of the surgical incision. Your surgeon may be able to show you pictures of the scar locations, as an example.
What are some typical short-term side effects from body contouring surgery?
Numbness or decreased sensation can occur in the upper buttocks or thighs and in the lower abdomen (if the abdomen is included in the body lift surgery) Seromas, collections of fluid (serum) under the skin may occur even after drain removal. These may require removal by aspiration in the office using a syringe. Swelling may require the use of compression garments around the waist and thighs for four to six weeks after surgery.
What type of anesthesia will be used for body lift surgery?
Body lift surgery is typically performed under a general anesthesia. In this type of surgery, you would be put to sleep with an intravenous sedative. After you are asleep, a breathing tube would be placed in your mouth to ensure that the airway is secure during the position changes necessary during the surgical body lift procedure.