In our modern society, a smooth, toned body is the ideal. Not only is it considered the most attractive, but it also makes things like finding clothes and simply moving around much easier. Unfortunately, diet and exercise alone can’t create that body for everybody. Loose skin can be a problem for anyone with poor skin elasticity, but it is especially problematic for those whose skin has been stretched by significant weight loss or pregnancy. The resulting loose skin is not only embarrassing but also uncomfortable. In extreme cases, it can hinder movement and even lead to rashes and infections.
A body lift is the name for a combination of procedures that can correct this problem. Typically, it consists of a tummy tuck, thigh lift, and buttock lift, but it will be tailored to your own specific needs. These procedures remove excess skin and some fat to create sleeker contours, a slimmer appearance, and great increases in both comfort and confidence.
Am I a Candidate?
A body lift can benefit anyone with loose, hanging skin on their stomach, lower back, thighs, or buttocks. It can also help with low, flat, or unevenly shaped buttocks as well as sagging in the groin. While it cannot remove large amounts of fat, it can be an appropriate treatment for people with smaller, localized deposits of stubborn fat. Since a body lift is a major surgery, candidates should be in good health and should not smoke.
All cosmetic surgeries begin with a consultation, but it is especially important in this case since a body lift is tailored specifically to your situation. During your consultation, you’ll first detail your problems and explain your desires for the surgery. Dr. Masri will then examine you before discussing which approaches he thinks will be most useful for your case.
Nearly all body lifts will involve a tummy tuck. Depending on your needs, this could be a standard, mini, or extended tummy tuck. The standard version involves a horizontal incision from hip bone to hip bone. There is also an incision around the navel to allow removal of skin and fat above the belly button as well as below. A mini tuck uses a smaller horizontal incision and has no navel incision, so it only permits skin removal below the navel.
If you have loose skin on the lower back, an extended tummy tuck may be appropriate. This extends the horizontal incision past the hip bones around the back to allow removal of skin on the flanks and lower back. If you are getting a buttock lift as well, the incision can be placed lower on your back just above your buttocks to allow skin from the buttocks to be pulled up and tightened.
If a thigh lift will be part of your body lift, there are two types of incisions. A medial thigh lift requires an incision in the groin and allows skin removal on the inner thigh. In extreme cases, a wedge of skin can be taken from the groin to the knee to allow maximum recontouring. For the lateral, or outer, thigh lift, the procedure is slightly more complex and must be tailored to your specific situation. Ideally, the incision can be incorporated with the incision for your buttock lift or hidden in the creases below the buttocks.
Many patients also get liposuction as part of their body lift. The location and extent of this will depend on your needs, but the procedure is relatively simple. It involves a number of tiny incisions and a suction tool to remove localized deposits of fat. In some cases, a laser or ultrasound device will also be used to help break up more stubborn deposits. Dr. Masri can advise you if that will be helpful in your situation.
Since a full body lift is a major undertaking, Dr. Masri will carefully go over your medical history as well as the precautions that you should take to minimize the risks of the procedure. In a few cases, the surgery may need to be broken up into two sessions with a healing period in between for safety reasons.
Your body lift will begin with sedation, which could be either general anesthesia or local anesthesia with intravenous sedation. After you are sedated, the exact order of events will vary, since the procedure is tailored specifically for you.
In most cases, buttock and lateral thigh lifts will be performed first with you positioned on your belly or side. After the incisions are made, excess fat will be removed, and the skin will be pulled up to tighten it before the excess is trimmed off. You will then be moved to your back so that the front can be addressed with a tummy tuck and inner thigh lift.
If you are getting an inner thigh lift, an incision will be made in the groin to allow excess skin to be removed. Then an incision will be made across the hip bones for the tummy tuck. The abdominal skin will be pulled down and the muscles sutured together to tighten them. Your belly button will be repositioned and sutured into place, and excess skin will be trimmed off before the incisions are carefully closed in layers to hold things tight and minimize scarring. Finally, dressings and drains will be placed before you are moved to the recovery room.
Possible Risks and Complications
Like any major surgery, a body lift has the risks of bleeding, infection, hematoma, and reactions to anesthesia. Some patients also experience changes in sensation like numbness or tingling. These normally go away over the first few months, but in some cases they can persist for up to a year or even longer. Poor healing and scarring are also risks of the surgery, but they can be minimized by proper wound care and avoidance of sun-tanning, smoking, and other skin-damaging habits.
After your surgery, you can expect to experience significant swelling and bruising. The bruising will fade in 3-4 weeks, but the swelling may take up to 3-4 months to go away. There will be moderate discomfort, but it will be manageable with prescribed medications. Movement will be difficult at first, and standing up may be impossible for several days. However, it is important to try to move around starting the day after surgery in order to minimize blood clotting. You’ll need to wear a compression garment to support your healing tissues for a few weeks, and you’ll receive specific instructions on minimizing the stress on your incisions and caring for any surgical drains.
You’ll need help at home for several weeks after surgery, since it will take at least two weeks before you can move around well, and you won’t be able to lift anything or do strenuous activity for 4-6 weeks. Most patients will be ready to return to a desk job in 3-4 weeks, but it will take six months or more before you are fully healed.
Body Lift Surgery FAQs
I’m not quite done losing weight. Can I get my body lift now or should I wait until the last few pounds are done?
You should wait. Losing more weight after your body lift may cause your freshly-tightened skin to sag again. In addition, your skin may tighten somewhat on its own after you finish losing weight. Most patients will have best results if they wait to have surgery for about a year after achieving their goal weight to be sure that their weight is stable and make sure their skin will not shrink on its own.
Is it safe to get pregnant after having a body lift?
Yes, absolutely. A body lift will not cause any additional risks to your pregnancy. Pregnancy can undo some of the results from the body lift, though, by stretching out the abdominal skin again. This could lead to needing a revision tummy tuck a year or so after having the baby. If you’re planning to have a baby soon, it might be better to wait until afterwards to have your body lift.
Can a body lift be covered by insurance?
Insurance companies will normally pay for the parts of a body lift that they consider to be medically necessary, which you can demonstrate by documenting skin issues like rashes, ulcers, and recurrent infections. Most also require that you’ve lost a specific amount of weight and kept it off for at least six months to qualify for help paying.
Will a body lift help with stretch marks and cellulite?
While it won’t get rid of stretch marks and cellulite completely, a body lift will remove these texture issues completely on the parts of skin that are removed and tighten the rest of the skin, which makes them less visible.
Is there any way to minimize the scars from a body lift?
While Dr. Masri will take all possible care with the placement and closing of the incisions, much of the final appearance of the scar is up to the patient. Topical or injectable treatments like corticosteroids can help to diminish scarring, as can scar massage. Avoiding unprotected sun exposure will also go a long way toward minimizing scar pigmentation.