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For many people, the upper legs become an increasingly problematic area as they age, while others find that the thighs remain stubbornly resistant to diet and exercise after massive weight loss. Fat cells, cellulite, and excess skin can accumulate on the thighs, making people look heavier, older, and less fit than they actually are. Sagging skin on the thighs can also make people feel self-conscious about their appearance. While some people achieve good results with vigorous exercise and a healthy diet, others find it difficult or even impossible to tone their thighs.
Fortunately, plastic surgery offers a potentially ideal solution in the form of thigh lift surgery. Thigh lift is an excellent way to achieve firmer and more attractive upper legs. This procedure is especially helpful for those who struggle with loose, excess skin as a result of weight loss. A thigh lift, or thighplasty, involves the removal excess skin, fat, and tissue to tone and refine the upper legs.
There are multiple techniques available to plastic surgeons which allow them to customize the thigh lift procedure to the precise needs of each individual patient. Your surgeon will work with you to create a personalized surgical plan that suits your unique needs and goals so you can enjoy sexier legs.
If your thighs sag, a thigh lift can help give you a trimmer, more youthful appearance. Many patients who wish to improve the appearance of their thighs are good candidates for thighplasty, but you will need to meet certain requirements to qualify for this surgery. These criteria help keep you safe during the procedure and maximize your chances for achieving your new look. Typically, you will be eligible for a thigh lift if you:
- Have unwanted skin and soft tissue along your thighs. Your plastic surgeon may be able to remove thin layers of stubborn fats during your procedure, but thighplasty is not designed for this purpose and is no replacement for proper exercise and nutrition.
- Maintain a stable weight. If you have not yet reached your weight loss goals, losing further weight could cause your thigh tissue to droop again. In addition, gaining significant weight after your procedure can also interfere with your results. Your surgeon may be able to work with you to determine a target weight for this procedure.
- Are in good general health. Chronic conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes could compromise your ability to recover well or safely go under the necessary anesthesia or sedation.
- Do not smoke , as this can disrupt the healing process and increase your risk for complications. If you do smoke, you may become a candidate for thighplasty if you agree to stop smoking for a prescribed period of time before and after your surgery.
- Do not drink heavily , since this can also impair your recovery and raise your risk of complications.
- Are psychologically healthy , since plastic surgery can be both physically and emotionally taxing.
- Have realistic expectations for your procedure. Your surgeon will give you more information about your potential results.
- Can commit to maintaining a healthy diet and exercising after your thigh lift to preserve your results.
Your plastic surgeon will be able to evaluate your candidacy for thighplasty by examining your body, reviewing your medical records, and discussing your goals with you during your initial consultation. If you are not a candidate for a thigh lift, your surgeon may be able to recommend an alternative treatment to help you enhance the appearance of your thighs.
A thigh lift is a personalized procedure planned and executed according to your specific preferences, medical needs, and the part of the thigh it addresses, so costs can vary widely. Thighplasty prices range from $2,000 to $10,000, with the average procedure costing about $4,500, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Understanding the factors that can affect the cost of surgery can help you budget and plan for your procedure. Factors that typically affect the cost of thigh lift surgery include:
- The amount and location of excess skin, fat, and tissue you have. This will impact the type of incision and surgical techniques used during your surgery, which affect its cost. Generally, shorter incisions with simpler tissue removal will cost less than extended incisions and more complex surgical processes.
- Any diagnostic testing required. If your plastic surgeon needs more information to determine your candidacy, he or she may order additional blood tests or have you see a specialist, which will raise the price.
- Your surgeon's qualifications. Experienced surgeons who specialize in this type of procedure are likely to be more expensive. However, working with a qualified doctor can help you save money, discomfort, and inconvenience in the long-term, since experienced surgeons are more likely to deliver excellent results without complications or the need for additional procedures.
- Your overall health. Any medical concerns that make using anesthesia, preparing for your surgery, performing your thigh lift, or recovering from this procedure more difficult can also increase your costs, since your plastic surgeon will need to accommodate your needs.
- Where it is performed. Due to general cost of living, average incomes, and taxes, the price of your thigh lift may vary between regions. In addition, plastic surgeons who operate out of hospitals tend to have higher facility fees than those who perform procedures in independent clinics or medical centers. You may be able to save in surgical costs by working with a plastic surgeon in a different area, but you will then have to consider travel expenses as a cost factor.
- The post-operative medications and supplies you require. You will probably need to take painkillers, antibiotics, and, in some cases, anticoagulant drugs (which prevent blood clotting) after surgery. In addition, most plastic surgeons require patients to wear compression garments, special pieces of clothing that help hold your thighs in place and reduce swelling. Purchasing medications, compression garments, and any other supplies, such as gauze or bandages, will add to its cost. Some plastic surgery clinics include these materials in the price of the procedure, so make sure you inquire about this.
- The type of anesthesia or sedation you use. Some surgeons may use general anesthesia, while others might administer local anesthesia in combination with intravenous sedation for thighplasty. The kind and amount of anesthesia or sedation you use will affect the cost of your procedure.
- Any other plastic surgery treatments you decide to combine with your thigh lift. Many patients combine liposuction with thigh lift surgery for improved results. You may also combine thighplasty with other body contouring procedures, such as abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), or nonsurgical treatments like dermal fillers.
- Your insurance provider's coverage. In most cases, your insurance provider will not cover any portion of your surgical costs, since thigh lift surgery is considered an elective procedure. However, if you have experienced significant weight loss and the sagging skin around your thighs is preventing you from moving properly or causing skin infections, you may be able to demonstrate a medical need for this surgery, in which case your insurance may cover a part or all of your expenses.
- Whether or not your post-operative care is included in the price. You will need to attend follow-up appointments after your thigh lift so that your plastic surgeon can assess your healing and handle any post-operative issues to ensure that you remain healthy and satisfied with your results. Some doctors include recovery care as part of the cost of surgery, while others do not, so you will need to ask your doctor what his or her specific policy is.
Your plastic surgeon will discuss the cost factors relevant to your specific case with you during your initial consultation.
Most thigh lift patients feel that the cost of their surgery is a worthy investment in their health, comfort, attractiveness, and confidence. To make your thigh lift more affordable, many plastic surgeons offer financing, either through their own clinic or with an outside lender. This allows you to spread your payments out, generally over a period between six months and five years, but the interest accrued will increase the overall cost of your procedure. If you do not opt for financing, the full payment for your thighplasty will typically be due on or before the day of your surgery. Some offices provide discounts for patients who pay up-front.
Before you make your payment, your plastic surgeon's front office staff should explain the costs of your thigh lift so you understand your bill. Most cosmetic surgeons' offices accept cash, check, and credit cards for this payment. To check for any accounting errors, confirm what is involved in your costs, and update your records, ask for an itemized receipt once you have paid.
How to Choose a Surgeon
Finding an excellent doctor to work with is an essential part of achieving your desired results with thigh lift surgery. Your plastic surgeon will lead you through every step of the thighplasty process, from assessing your candidacy to monitoring your recovery, so it is important that you feel confident in his or her expertise. You should also feel comfortable discussing your concerns and questions with your surgeon. Finding a doctor with the right personality and skills can help your thigh lift go smoothly so you can experience tighter, more attractive legs.
Searching for Surgeons
You might find an appealing plastic surgeon right away, but it is important to research multiple doctors so that you can choose the best fit for your needs and wishes. The first step to picking a cosmetic surgeon is compiling a list of possible doctors in your area (or in others, if you are willing to travel for your procedure). There are several ways to look for plastic surgeons, including:
- Researching plastic surgery boards' and professional organizations' databases. These groups often post lists of qualified doctors online, broken down by city, which could be a good place to begin.
- Asking for recommendations from your friends, family, and acquaintances that have had cosmetic surgeries or treatments. Obviously, the most informative recommendations will come from people who have had thigh lift or body contouring procedures. If someone you know has had a good experience with a plastic surgeon, you may, too.
- Looking at online review sites like Google Plus Local, Yelp, or Yellow Pages can be very informative, since prior patients post reviews and provide ratings there. You can also check more cosmetic surgery-specific review sites such as DocShop.
- Soliciting referrals from your general physician or any specialists you see (if you are pursuing thigh lift surgery after massive weight loss, you may have a nutritionist or bariatric surgeon who can refer you). Many patients feel more comfortable working with a doctor recommended by their current trusted medical practitioners.
Using all of these methods should give you a list of potential surgeons to narrow down so you can make your choice.
Questions to Ask Your Prospective Surgeon
Once you have found several prospective plastic surgeons that seem to suit your needs, you'll need to learn more about them. You may be able to get some information from their websites, patient testimonials, or brochures, but the best way to get a sense of their personalities and expertise is by speaking with them directly. When you email, call, or meet with your potential surgeon, we recommend that you ask some or all of these important questions:
- Are you a certified cosmetic surgeon? Is your clinic accredited? These are basic but important questions to ensure your safety when working with a prospective surgeon. The American Board of Plastic Surgeons should have certified your surgeon, and, if he or she operates out of a clinic rather than a hospital, the facility should be accredited by a reputable plastic surgery organization. These groups set standards for quality of care, cleanliness, and patient satisfaction.
- How long have you been practicing? Typically, more established surgeons have greater expertise and may have performed more thigh lifts.
- Do you belong to any plastic surgery organizations? In addition to board certification, some cosmetic surgeons are members or fellows of professional groups, which call for even higher standards of care and leadership in the field.
- Do you have a surgical specialty? While many doctors may technically be able to perform thigh lift surgery, they might specialize in a different area, such as breast surgery or nonsurgical facial treatments. Ideally, your chosen surgeon would be a specialist in body contouring procedures like thigh lifts.
- How often do you perform thighplasty surgery? The more often your prospective surgeon performs thigh lifts, the more practiced he or she will be in this procedure, increasing your chances for success. In addition, if your surgeon regularly performs thighplasty, this is likely because he or she has a good reputation for this procedure.
- What types of thigh lift incisions do you offer? Which type would you suggest for me? There are several types of thigh lifts, designed to tighten different areas of the upper leg. Working with a surgeon who provides all types can give you greater versatility and options for your procedure. If you are already certain about which type of thigh lift you need, be sure to ask about this kind specifically. You should also ask which type of thigh lift the surgeon would recommend for you specifically, since this can help you understand his or her surgical style and see if it aligns with your preferences.
- Will you be performing my thigh lift? Some plastic surgery clinics employ multiple doctors, so it's a good idea to make sure the person you are speaking with will actually be the surgeon performing your thigh lift. You can gather basic information from a colleague, but it is best to speak to your prospective surgeon directly to learn more about his or her specific skills and begin to establish rapport.
- What happens if I'm unsatisfied with my thigh lift results? Even an experienced doctor can make mistakes or run into problems during plastic surgery. For this reason, it is vital that your cosmetic surgeon has clear plans and policies for handling unsatisfied patients' concerns. Some doctors offer revisional surgery at no additional charge, while others do not have this provision in place. Many patients feel more comfortable working with a plastic surgeon that is willing to correct errors and help them achieve their desired results.
- Would I be a candidate for thigh lift surgery at your office? Asking this question helps you decide if you will qualify for this procedure at your potential surgeon's practice. In addition, your surgeon's answer can give you important information about his or her dedication to medical ethics and safety. He or she should not be willing to operate on patients who currently smoke or who have not lost sufficient weight for this surgery.
- What is the average cost of a thigh lift at your practice? Prices vary based on patients' individual needs and preferences, but a cost estimate can help you make your choice. However, price should not be the primary consideration in your choice of plastic surgeon, especially since working with an established doctor can minimize your risk for expensive complications or revisional surgery.
- Does the price include medications, supplies, and follow-up visits? Painkillers, antibiotics, compression garments, gauze, and post-operative care can add to your surgical expenses. Finding out which services and materials are included in your estimated cost can help you better understand what you'll need to spend so you can compare prices with other surgeons.
- Where do you operate? Some plastic surgeons perform procedures at local hospitals, while others use operating rooms at independent clinics or medical centers. The location of your surgery can affect the amenities available and the price.
- What is your success rate for thigh lift surgery? If your potential cosmetic surgeon has performed many thigh lifts, he or she should be able to provide his or her success rate for this procedure. While it is unreasonable to expect a perfect 100 percent success rate, you might not want to work with a doctor who has a relatively low number. Asking this question can also lead to a discussion of what types of issues you may run into during surgery and how your doctor would address them.
- What are the risks of this procedure? Your surgeon should be forthcoming about the risks of thigh lift surgery, as well as provide information about what he or she does to lower them.
- What will you do if I develop one of these complications? Some complications, such as infection, are relatively easy to treat, but others may require additional surgery. Your prospective surgeon should have a plan in place for quickly and effectively handling any possible complication.
- Do you have patient testimonials I can read or "before and after" photographs I can see? One of the best ways to find out more about a surgeon's abilities and potential results is learning about other patients' experiences. "Before and after" photos can be particularly helpful as you begin to envision your new thighs. Conversely, a surgeon who can't provide any "before and after" photos or testimonials might not be as trustworthy or reliable.
- How long will I need to recover? Each patient's healing time is different, but getting an approximate recovery timeline from your prospective surgeon can help you prepare. You should also be wary of surgeons who promise unreasonably short recovery times.
- What type of thigh lift results can I expect? Your potential plastic surgeon may not be able to fully answer this question without examining you and reviewing your medical records, but he or she should be able to provide a general sense of how your thighs may change in shape, weight, texture, size, and overall appearance.
- What alternatives to thigh lift surgery do you provide? At your initial consultation, you may find out that you are not a suitable candidate for thigh lift surgery, or you may decide that you would rather pursue an alternative treatment. Working with a surgeon who offers several alternatives could help you keep your options open so you can decide what will truly suit your needs.
- Do you have any financing programs? Most surgical clinics provide payment plans, but some do not. Rather than assuming you can finance your procedure and being blindsided if you can't, it's a good idea to ask.
- Does your clinic take my insurance? In the uncommon circumstance that your health insurance will cover some or all of your thigh lift costs, you'll need to choose a plastic surgeon that works with your provider to take advantage of this.
Obtaining the answers to these questions can help you learn more about your potential surgeon, weigh your options, and make your decision so that you can proceed with your thigh lift confidently.
The Initial Consultation
Once you've chosen your plastic surgeon, you'll schedule your initial consultation. This is typically an hour-long appointment during which you and your surgeon will go over your candidacy, plan your treatment, and discuss your desired outcomes.
Preparing for Your Consultation
Before your initial consultation, you should make certain preparations so that this appointment is as productive as it can possibly be. These could include:
- Ensuring that your other medical practitioners have sent your records to the plastic surgeon's office.
- Communicating with your health insurance provider to find out if your surgery may be covered. If so, you'll need to bring the proper paperwork to the office.
- Writing down or typing up a list of your top questions so that you don't forget any. Your initial consultation can be overwhelming, but it's important to use this valuable time to address all of your concerns.
- Saving or printing out a photograph of what you would like your thighs to look like. Your plastic surgeon may not be able to give you this exact appearance, but bringing an image will help you communicate your desired results and expectations.
- Find out how much time you may be able to get off of work so you can be more informed when discussing your recovery timeline with your surgeon.
- Write down any medications, vitamins, and supplements you regularly take. Some of these might interfere with your surgery, so you will need to stop taking them for a specified amount of time before your procedure, as directed by your surgeon.
Following these recommendations and planning ahead can help you make the most of your time with the plastic surgeon.
During Your Initial Consultation
This first appointment will lay the groundwork for the rest of your thigh lift surgery process. Your plastic surgeon will assess your candidacy, go over your preferences, examine your thighs, and work with you to plan your procedure. It is important to be open and honest with your surgeon during your consultation so that you can enjoy the thighs you want. During your initial consultation, your cosmetic surgeon will probably:
- Clearly explain the general mechanics of thigh lift surgery so you understand what the procedure entails.
- Go over your treatment options and the results you can expect from thighplasty, helping you to determine what, if any, type of thigh lift surgery is right for you.
- Discuss your desired results, reviewing the images you brought and perhaps marking your thighs to show you where tissue may be removed or tightened.
- Examine your body, with special attention paid to your thighs, to evaluate your candidacy for this surgery.
- Read and evaluate your medical records, which may affect your candidacy and the surgical techniques your doctor uses.
- Describe the risks of surgery to you and how you can work to minimize them. For example, you may need to quit smoking or drinking heavily before and after your thigh lift surgery. You may also be able to maximize your chances for a successful procedure by eating a protein-rich diet and getting plenty of rest.
- Answer your questions and discuss your concerns, helping to educate you about thigh lifts and put you at ease.
- Take a photograph of your thighs, which will serve as a baseline for your treatment plan and as a "before" picture to show alongside your "after" picture, taken once you have healed from surgery.
You may also speak with other staff members at your initial consultation. If you are using financing, you should discuss your payment plans and interest rates with an administrator. A surgical nurse may also give you more detailed directions about how to prepare for your procedure. Once you are finished with your initial consultation, you should feel confident about your thigh lift and have a clear understanding of what you will need to do to prepare for and recover from this surgery. If you feel comfortable, you will most likely schedule your surgery at the end of your initial consultation.
Thigh Lift Techniques
There are many types of thigh lifts, differentiated by the size and shape of the incision used to remove excess skin, fat, and tissue. Your plastic surgeon will evaluate your candidacy for each of these types of thigh lifts and recommend which may suit your needs and preferences. While these techniques provide a general guide for surgery, your doctor may make modifications to accommodate your unique shape and desired results. In general, patients with more skin, tissue, and fat to remove will require longer or more complex incisions, regardless of the technique used.
Inner Thigh Lift
As indicated by its name, this type of thigh lift targets the inner thigh. This procedure helps people who have trouble eliminating excess fat from this area of the body through diet and exercise. An inner thigh lift may also be used to address reduced skin elasticity caused by the aging process or extreme weight loss. During an inner thigh lift, your plastic surgeon will make an incision at the junction where the thigh meets the pubic area. This allows him or her to access the underlying tissues while making the most discreet incision possible, since the resulting scar can easily be hidden by underwear. Your plastic surgeon will then remove a wedge of skin and possibly fat from the region and tighten the remaining skin to provide improved leg contours.
Mini Thigh Lift
If you only experience sagging tissue in the upper third of the leg, your may qualify for a mini thigh lift, a modification of the inner thigh lift technique that involves only a short scar in the groin area. While this technique offers less dramatic results, it produces only minimal scarring and typically requires a shorter recovery period.
Bilateral Thigh Lift
The bilateral thigh lift procedure, sometimes referred to as an "outer thigh lift," is designed to tighten skin on the front and outside of the leg. During a bilateral thigh lift, your surgeon will make an incision at the top of the leg where the lower edge of a bikini bottom or pair of underwear would be, creating a "V" shape. Depending on your needs, this incision may wrap around to your hip or buttocks area. Your surgeon will then remove a certain amount of skin, depending on your needs and preferences, before pulling the remaining skin up and attaching it to the same area so that it is smooth. In this way, a bilateral thigh lift serves to tighten skin along both the right and left side of the leg. This procedure is especially helpful to those who have excess skin after extreme weight loss, since it can be used to remove larger amounts of tissue than other techniques. This technique can also help to lift your buttocks along with your thighs.
Medial Thigh Lift
A medial thigh lift reduces excess skin and fat on the upper portion of the inner thigh. It is designed for patients who are dissatisfied with the shape of their legs or who would like to remove excess skin after extreme weight loss. During a medial thigh lift procedure, your plastic surgeon will make an incision in the groin, similar to the inner thigh lift, extending to the back of the crease of the buttock or, in some cases, to the hip region. A medial thigh lift might also include vertical scars extending down the legs from the groin for greater access to underlying tissue. He or she will then lift the skin, removing excess skin and fat to improve the shape of the leg and tighten the thigh.
You and your doctor will discuss which of the above techniques would work best for your particular medical needs, body shape, and desired results, customizing your thigh lift according to your preferences.
Before the Procedure
Taking care of your body and planning for your recovery period in the weeks before your procedure can maximize your chances for excellent results and reduce your risk for complications. There are certain steps you need to take to prepare yourself this procedure. These include:
- Stopping smoking and drinking for a specific time period before your procedure.
- Avoiding taking certain drugs and supplements that could interfere with your surgery or healing process.
- Thoroughly cleaning your thighs to make sure your skin stays sterile and healthy before your procedure. Your plastic surgeon will not be able to perform thigh lift surgery if your skin is infected, which is more likely to occur with drooping tissue.
- Staying hydrated and taking supplements such as vitamin C and iron to help your body undergo and heal from a thigh lift.
- Sleeping properly. Your body will recover more quickly if you get enough rest, and it may be more difficult for you to sleep after your surgery.
- Continuing to exercise and eat a healthy diet. Your weight will need to be stable to undergo thigh lift surgery. You will also need to continue maintaining this healthy lifestyle after the procedure to preserve your results.
- Having any additional testing or lab work your plastic surgeon orders. If your candidacy is in question, your plastic surgeon may require additional assessment before performing your thigh lift.
- Ask your spouse, a friend, or a family member to help take care of you for a few days after your surgery. This person will need to learn how to help you empty the drains from your incisions, give you your medications, and assist you as you move around the house.
- Plan for a friend or family member to care for your home, children, and other responsibilities for at least one week after your thigh lift procedure.
- Purchase any supplies you need to care for your incisions, such as gauze and bandages, as well as your compression garments.
- Fill prescriptions for painkillers, antibiotics, anticoagulants, and any other drugs you may need to undergo and recover from surgery. It will be much more challenging to get your medications after your surgery, and you will not want to wait for your painkiller if you are uncomfortable. You will not need to worry about this preparatory step if your plastic surgeon provides medications at the clinic as part of your surgical package.
- Arrange with your boss to take at least two weeks off of work. You will not be able to sit or engage in much activity for the first several weeks after your thigh lift.
- Get detailed post-operative instructions from your cosmetic surgeon or nurses. You should make sure you understand every aspect of these directions before you undergo your procedure.
- Ask any remaining questions you have about your thigh lift surgery. Addressing all of your confusions or concerns before your procedure will allow you to be more confident and comfortable.
- Refrain from eating for at least 12 hours before your surgical appointment time. Having food in your stomach can make going under anesthesia more complicated or dangerous.
On the day of your surgery, someone should drive you to the clinic, since you will probably be disoriented and groggy as a result of anesthesia, sedation, and painkillers after your thigh lift. Preparing your body and lifestyle for surgery can help this process go smoothly so you can focus on recovering quickly and enjoying your new body.
Directly before your thigh lift, your plastic surgeon will assess your thighs one final time to ensure you are eligible for surgery
Directly before your thigh lift, your plastic surgeon will assess your thighs one final time to ensure you are eligible for surgery (you should be free from infection and show no signs of weight fluctuation between your initial consultation and surgical date). Then, he or she may make marks on your thighs to serve as a surgical guide and help you understand what to expect for your incisions and results. Next, the surgical nurses will clean your thighs and prepare you for surgery. To keep you calm and comfortable, an anesthesiologist will administer either local anesthesia combined with intravenous sedation or general anesthesia. At this point, you will likely not remember the rest of your surgery or feel any sensation, since you will be partially or completely unconscious. Your surgeon, nurses, and anesthesiologists will monitor your vital signs throughout your thigh lift to make sure you remain safe and healthy.
To begin modifying your tissue, your cosmetic surgeon will make an incision into your thigh, according to the type of thigh lift you have chosen and your agreed-upon custom surgical plan. Using this incision, he or she will remove small amounts of stubborn fat deposits, as well as soft tissue. If you have more significant unwanted fat in your thighs, your surgeon may need to first perform liposuction, during which he or she will make a tiny incision into your thigh and use a cannula (small tube) to dissolve fats with motion, vibration, air, lasers, or sound waves so they can be removed. Once your plastic surgeon has finished removing fat and soft tissue, he or she will pull your skin taut and trim it for a smooth, svelte appearance. Your surgeon may also tighten the thigh muscles for a firmer, fitter look. He or she will then close your incisions with sutures, placing drains to prevent fluid accumulation and infection.
Your recovery from thigh lift surgery will go well if you follow your plastic surgeon's post-operative directions, have a caretaker help you with daily activities, attend follow-up appointments, get plenty of rest, and make sure your incisions remain clean. Taking care of yourself after surgery is vital to achieving your desired results. Your thighs will be delicate and need to heal properly so they can look great.
Directly After Surgery
When you wake up from your thigh lift, your incisions will be bandaged and will most likely have drains to prevent blood and fluid from accumulating. Your plastic surgeon will also have put on your compression garment to hold your incisions in place. Your surgical nurses will monitor you and provide instructions about how to take your medications and position your body so as not to disrupt your incisions. You will not be permitted to sit, as this can put pressure on your incisions and compromise healing. They should also talk to you about how to look for signs of complications so that they can be treated efficiently. For example, seeing yellow or green fluid in your drains could be a symptom of infection.
When your anesthesia wears off completely, you may feel sore, but your prescribed painkillers should help you manage any discomfort. You may not take aspirin or ibuprofen for at least two days, since these can increase bleeding risks. If your caretaker came with you to your surgery, he or she should talk to the nurses about how to help you change your drains and clean your incisions. Before you leave the hospital or surgical clinic, you should be able to walk around comfortably and have all of your necessary medications and supplies. Due to the disorienting effects of anesthesia, sedation, and painkillers, a friend or family member will need to drive you home from surgery.
Recovering from thigh lift surgery is a gradual process. Each patient's healing is unique, but the general recovery timeline is as follows:
- During the first 24 hours after your surgery , you will need assistance performing regular activities like making food (you should follow a liquid diet for the first few hours after your surgery, since anesthesia can cause nausea) and going to the bathroom. Your thighs will likely be swollen and bruised, so it may help to apply ice. You will need to rest, positioning your body so that you do not stretch your thigh tissue. Many patients use pillows to take pressure off of the legs during healing. Sleeping can help your body recover from surgery, but you will need to wake up at regular intervals to take your medications. While you should not climb stairs, squat, or perform any more strenuous activities, you should take short walks around your home to keep your blood circulating.
- Two days after your thigh lift , you may shower, carefully removing your compression garment and bandages to gently wash your thighs.
- One week after your procedure , you will return to your plastic surgeon's office for a follow-up appointment, during which he or she will examine your thighs and discuss any questions you have. He or she may also remove your sutures and drains at this point, if your incisions are sufficiently healed. At this point, you may no longer need a friend or family member to stay with you and care for you, although you will likely still need help taking care of children. Some patients feel anxious and doubtful during this period of time, but this feeling should subside as you regain your strength and begin to see the results of your surgery.
- Two to three weeks after thigh lift surgery , most patients are able to return to work and can begin carefully sitting on their thighs, often with the help of pillows. Your scars may appear more pronounced or red at this point, but they will begin to fade over the following weeks and months. You should still be wearing your compression garment at all times, except to wash and change your bandages. If your plastic surgeon has not previously removed your drains and sutures, he or she will likely do so at this point. At this point in your recovery, you should be able to resume gentle exercise and driving.
- Approximately one month after your thigh lift , you may stop wearing your compression garment, with your plastic surgeon's approval. Your swelling and bruising should subside at this point. If you continue to experience discomfort and inflammation, contact your plastic surgeon, as this may be a symptom of a complication.
- Six to eight weeks after surgery, you should be able to resume your regular exercise regimen, as long as your plastic surgeon clears you for this level of activity. You can also begin lifting items over five pounds at this time.
- Two to three months after your procedure, your scars should have faded, although they may continue to diminish in appearance for several more months. At this point, you may begin exposing your thighs to sunlight, if you wear at least SPF 15 sunscreen. Sun exposure before this point can exacerbate scarring or damage your thigh tissue.
- Six to twelve months after your thigh lift surgery, your recovery process should be complete, allowing you to fully enjoy your beautiful results. You should continue to attend follow-up appointments with your plastic surgeon during this period of time.
Not every patient will follow this particular recovery timeline after thigh lift surgery. If you have had a more extensive procedure, it may take longer before you can stop wearing your compression garment, remove your drains, and resume exercise, while mini thigh lift patients may be able to return to normal activities sooner. Regardless of your unique healing process, stay in touch with your plastic surgeon about any questions or concerns you have during recovery. He or she will be able to diagnose and treat any complications, as well as provide recommendations to help you improve your comfort and experience excellent results.
You may not be able to see the results of your thigh lift immediately, since your legs will most likely be swollen, bruised, and covered by compression garments. As inflammation diminishes and your scars begin to fade, you should notice slimmer, younger-looking thighs with more attractive contours. It may take up to a year for your thighs to completely recover so you can see your full results. If you are concerned about your results during any part of the recovery process, speak with your plastic surgeon. He or she will be able to explain what you can expect and how to maximize your chances of reaching your goals.
While working with an experienced cosmetic surgeon can help you achieve your desired results, remember that your cooperation is also part of this process. Ensuring you remain healthy before your procedure can make you an optimal candidate, and following your doctor's instructions for post-operative care can ensure that you do not compromise your potential results during the healing process.
Thigh lift surgery is a customized procedure and each patient's body is different, so your results may be different from others'. The results of different thigh lift types and techniques are also different, so the outcome of an inner thigh lift will probably look different from that of a bilateral procedure. What matters most is that you remain safe throughout the surgical process and are happy with your new thighs.
Talk to your plastic surgeon to learn more about the results you can expect from your personalized surgical plan. You can also visit the DocShop gallery to view thigh lift before and after photos.
Thigh lift surgery is a popular procedure for patients who want to have tighter, leaner, shapelier legs. The many benefits of this surgery may include:
- More clothing options for patients who have trouble finding garments that fit due to sagging, drooping thigh skin.
- Decreased risk of skin irritation or infection from chafing folds of skin.
- Long-lasting results for patients who maintain a healthy weight and follow their plastic surgeon's instructions for post-operative care.
- A small amount of weight loss from the removal of heavy excess skin.
- More comfortable daily activity for an improved overall quality of life.
- Easier exercising with greater options, helping patients to stay in shape.
- Simpler personal hygiene. Keeping folds of thigh skin, tissue, and fat clean can be difficult.
- The ability to combine this procedure with other plastic surgery treatments such as liposuction to experience even better results.
- A fitter, younger appearance that shows off patients' weight loss achievements.
- Greater confidence and self-esteem, which can improve every area of patients' lives, from personal relationships to professional advancement.
- Versatile surgical options and a customized treatment plan to suit patients' distinct needs and wishes.
Your cosmetic surgeon will discuss the potential benefits of your thighplasty with you at your initial consultation. Many patients feel that the advantages of thigh lift surgery outweigh its risks and costs.
While a thigh lift is generally a safe procedure and most complications that arise can be easily resolved, this surgery does carry some risks. Your plastic surgeon should discuss the possibility for various complications and any negative aspects of this procedure with you before your thigh lift so that you can make an informed decision and learn how to avoid them. Risks from thigh lift surgery can include:
- Scarring. Thigh lifts do leave scars. However, thigh lift scars are usually located in a relatively inconspicuous location and, in the minds of many patients, pale in comparison to the benefits provided by the procedure. In many cases, thigh lift scars can be easily concealed by underwear or bathing suits. You can minimize the visibility of your scars by avoiding sun exposure to your thighs for several months after your surgery and cleaning your incisions properly.
- Dehiscence. In some cases, your incisions from thigh lift surgery may reopen in the first few weeks after your surgery. While this can be alarming, it is a relatively common complication and your plastic surgeon should be able to clean and close your wounds at his or her office.
- Seroma. Fluid and blood can accumulate at your incision sites, worsening inflammation and raising your risk for infection. Drains in your incisions should prevent this from occurring, but if it does, your plastic surgeon can perform a simple procedure to draw the fluid out of your tissue.
- Hematoma. Small blood clots can form after surgery, creating hard spots near your incisions. These typically dissolve naturally, but your plastic surgeon can assess them to determine if they require treatment.
- Deep vein thrombosis. This is a rare but serious complication in which a large blood clot forms in your leg and can move to your lungs, brain, or heart, causing potentially lethal damage. If you notice increased swelling or a bump in your leg, contact your plastic surgeon immediately. You may need to take certain drugs or undergo additional surgery to remove the clot. Taking preventive anticoagulant medications can help reduce your risk of both hematoma and deep vein thrombosis.
- Infection. Any procedure requiring incisions carries some risk of infection. If your surgical supplies are not completely sterile or you do not properly sanitize your incisions when changing your bandages, emptying your drains, or bathing, your tissue may become infected. Most cosmetic surgeons prescribe prophylactic antibiotics to reduce this risk. If you notice any yellow or green discharge from your drains, this could be a sign of infection, so you should contact your surgeon for advice. While uncomfortable, infection can be handled by sterilizing your incisions and taking antibiotics.
- Bleeding. Some bleeding is normal after thigh lift surgery, but prolonged, excessive bleeding could be dangerous for your general health. If you notice a lot of blood in your drains or on your bandages several days or weeks after surgery, your plastic surgeon may need to modify your incisions or, in extreme situations, refer you to a specialist who can perform a blood transfusion to keep you healthy. While they lower your risk of clotting, anticoagulant drugs can raise your risk for excessive bleeding, as can aspirin and ibuprofen.
- Necrosis. In the process of modifying your thigh tissue, your surgeon may cut off the blood and nutrient supply to your fat cells, destroying them. These dead cells can create skin irregularities and may cause discomfort. Small areas of necrotic cells may require no treatment, but significant necrosis will require surgical removal of the affected tissues. Patients who smoke are at a higher risk for necrosis, which is why your cosmetic surgeon will require you to stop smoking during your surgical preparation and recovery.
- Continued sagging. Although removing excess skin, fat, and tissue often resolves the drooping of the thighs, it may not. In this case, you will have less thigh tissue, but it may still sag. Revisional surgery or alternative treatments may be able to resolve this issue.
- Asymmetry. Your plastic surgeon will work to make sure your thighs are proportional, even, and symmetrical. However, poor planning or unforeseen medical conditions may mean that your thighs are asymmetrical after your surgery. A slight amount of asymmetry is to be expected, but drastically disproportionate thighs may prompt you to pursue revisional thighplasty.
- Loss of sensation. Mild temporary loss of sensation in the thighs is typical after this type of surgery, but prolonged lack of sensitivity is not. Some patients who experience this complication gradually regain sensation, but others never do. While uncommon, there is unfortunately no treatment for this condition at this time.
- Unsatisfactory outcomes. Given the many factors involved in thigh lift surgery and the fact that what makes thighs attractive is subjective, you may not be happy with your results. You can improve your chances of achieving the look you want by working with an experienced plastic surgeon and clearly communicating your wishes to him or her, ideally with pictures. It is unreasonable to expect that your thighs will look exactly like the images you've brought in, but if you are very unhappy with your results or they differ drastically from what you and your surgeon discussed prior to your thigh lift, you may require revisional procedures to adjust your appearance. Some plastic surgeons provide revisional surgery at no cost to unsatisfied patients, but many do not.
- Prolonged discomfort . As a result of any of the above conditions, you may experience prolonged discomfort. This may impact your ability to work, exercise, or care for your children, as well as affecting your mental state. If you are still very uncomfortable more than a month after your thigh lift, you should seek assistance from your plastic surgeon. In addition, your discomfort could be a symptom of a complication, so you should be forthcoming about how you are feeling with your doctor. Prolonged discomfort can be managed with painkillers and should resolve over time or with the treatment of the root cause.
- Risks associated with anesthesia and sedation. Anesthesia and sedation are usually very safe, especially when administered by a licensed anesthesiologist and supervised by an experienced surgeon. While rare, serious risks of anesthesia and sedation include stroke, lung infection, heart attack, or even death. Your plastic surgeon will review your medical records and work with your other doctors to determine if anesthesia and sedation are safe for you.
Talk to your cosmetic surgeon to learn more about the risks of thigh lift procedures and what you can do to minimize yours.
Temporary Side Effects
As a result of the surgical techniques and drugs used in thigh lift surgery, you may experience some temporary side effects. These can be irritating or uncomfortable, but usually resolve quickly with further treatment from your plastic surgeon. You can lower your risk for side effects by following your doctor's instructions, avoiding overexerting yourself after your procedure, and clearly communicating about your medical history with your surgeon before your thigh lift so that he or she can accommodate your unique needs. The temporary side effects of thigh lift surgery can include:
- Suture complications. Sometimes, in the weeks following thigh lift surgery, stray sutures erupt out of the incision before your surgeon removes them. This can be disconcerting, but poses no danger to your health. If this happens, your doctor can safely remove the suture and sterilize your incisions. Some surgeons use dissolvable sutures, in which case this will not be a risk.
- Allergic reactions. If you are allergic to any of the medications or materials used during your thigh lift surgery, you may develop an allergic reaction, which could cause inflammation, itching, redness, or fever. Previous allergic reactions should be clearly documented in your medical records so that your plastic surgeon can avoid these substances. If you do experience an allergic reaction, this condition is uncomfortable but short-lived, and can often be managed by painkillers or topical treatments.
- Swelling. Inflammation of the surgical sites is to be expected after thigh lift surgery, and should diminish within three to five weeks after your procedure.
- Bruising. Modifying your thigh tissue can cause bruising, which should go down after a few weeks. Contact your plastic surgeon for advice if your bruises persist.
- Overall discomfort, soreness, and aching. Cosmetic surgery can be traumatic for your body, and you may feel uncomfortable as you heal. You should begin to feel better after a few weeks, and painkillers can help you handle any soreness, aching, or other discomfort. Longer-lasting symptoms could be a sign of more serious complications, so you should make sure to frequently update your surgeon as to your condition and symptoms following thighplasty.
- Numbness in your thighs. Local anesthesia will cause a temporary loss of sensation in your thighs. In addition, surgery may damage the nerves in this region, causing more prolonged numbness. You should regain sensation over the months following your procedure as your nerves recover.
- Grogginess, nausea, disorientation, and impaired judgment. Anesthesia, sedation, and painkillers can cause all of these symptoms, which should subside once you stop taking these drugs.
- Vein inflammation. More likely than not, your plastic surgeon or anesthesiologist will provide your medications intravenously. As a result, the affected vein and those surrounding it may temporarily swell up. While unnerving and uncomfortable, vein inflammation, also called phlebitis, typically resolves with short walks and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Your plastic surgeon and nurses will discuss the temporary side effects you can expect after thigh lift surgery with you at your initial consultation and directly before your surgery.
Thighplasty is typically a safe procedure, with most complications easily and quickly treated by your plastic surgeon. To improve your safety, choose a plastic surgeon whose expertise you trust and diligently follow his or her instructions. If you at any time experience shortness of breath or chest pain after your surgery, contact your doctor immediately, as these could be signs of potentially life-threatening complications. Remaining aware of and speaking with your plastic surgeon about your post-operative symptoms can also decrease your risks, allowing your doctor to catch and treat any complications before they become more serious. You should not use heating pads on your legs for at least six months after surgery, since your thighs may not be able to sense heat well and could be badly burned as a result.
You will need to sign a form providing your consent for thighplasty before your surgery. You should not do so unless you fully understand all of the safety information and risks associated with this procedure. Even after you have provided your consent, you should continue to address any questions and concerns you have about your thigh lift with your plastic surgeon.
Most insurance providers will not cover thigh lift surgery, nor will they help pay for any required treatments resulting from this procedure, so being proactive about ensuring your safety is important to maintain your health, appearance, and finances.
While a thigh lift is an individualized and personal procedure, understanding some basic statistics about this surgery can help you understand if it might benefit you. Below are some numbers relating to thigh lift surgery:
- 97.5 percent: the proportion of thigh lift patients who are women, according to a 2013 report by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
- 8,709 American patients underwent thigh lift surgery in 2013, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- 58 percent of thigh lift patients are over 40 years old, suggesting that many patients use this procedure to rejuvenate their appearances. However, a thigh lift can help qualified patients at any age-seven percent of patients are between 20 and 29 years old, and 30 percent are between 30 and 39 years old, according to 2009 data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- 64 percent: the increase in number of thigh lift procedures performed in the United States between 2000 and 2013, as measured by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
- Thigh lift surgery is most popular in the east coast, with New England and the Middle Atlantic states accounting for 26 percent of procedures. The Pacific coast and southwestern states come in at 25 percent of thigh lift surgeries for a close second.
- 68 percent: the proportion of thigh lift patients who experience a complication after surgery, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. However, the most common complications measured were fluid accumulation (seroma) and improper incision closure (dehiscence), both of which can be easily and quickly remedied. Complication rates are higher (74 percent) for more extensive vertical incisions and lower (64 percent) for less involved techniques like the mini thigh lift.
These statistics indicate that thigh lift surgery is an increasingly popular procedure most often used by women to combat the effects of aging. Contact your plastic surgeon to learn more about his or her particular thigh lift statistics and how these numbers may relate to your results.
The decision to undergo any form of surgery is a serious one, so you should be aware of potential non-surgical alternatives to thighplasty before you make your choice. While no non-surgical procedure can completely remove excess folds of skin on your legs, alternative treatments can help dissolve fats and tighten muscles for leaner looking thighs. We have detailed some of these procedures and techniques below.
Diet and Exercise
Proper nutrition and exercise are vital to having sculpted, beautiful thighs. Dieting and maintaining an exercise program can help you lose weight, improve your skin elasticity, and strengthen your thigh muscles. Many fitness instructors or personal trainers provide specific exercise routines to tone the thighs for good results. However, most patients who are pursuing thighplasty have already lost weight through diet and exercise.
Unfortunately, after significant weight loss, you may be left with stubborn fats and drooping skin that no amount of activity or healthy eating can remedy. If you suffer from only mild drooping, diet and exercise may be a suitable alternative to thigh lift surgery, but for most candidates, it is not. Thighplasty patients should continue to get proper nutrition and exercise regularly to maintain a stable weight before and after surgery.
Laser Skin Tightening
Some cosmetic surgeons use lasers to encourage collagen production in the thighs, thereby tightening them. These treatments can include just a handheld infrared laser or a laser device along with other techniques, such as massage or bursts of air. Laser skin tightening is noninvasive and requires virtually no recovery time, but its results are subtle and gradual. You will need to undergo at least a few treatments over months of time to begin to see the firming results. This technique can improve the tightness of your thigh muscles and skin, but will not eliminate drooping folds.
Spas and cosmetic surgeons have recently begun using the FDA-approved Arasys system, which uses special waves of energy to stimulate the thigh muscles to contract, enhancing tone while burning fats. As with laser skin tightening, you can benefit from this treatment if you have mild sagging in your thighs, but if you've experienced massive weight loss, Arasys won't be enough to remove excess skin, fat, and tissue. However, it could be used as a complement to thigh lift surgery, enhancing its results or improving your thighs such that you require less extensive surgery.
If your primary concern is cellulite, a particular type of fat that causes ripples and dimples in your skin, certain combinations of materials, which typically include vitamins, pharmaceutical drugs, and homeopathic treatments, can be injected into your tissue to help your fat cells dissolve. While this may help patients diminish stubborn fats (along with diet and exercise), it must be repeated to continue being effective and it will not eliminate moderate to severe sagging.
Topical Creams and Lotions
If you only have slightly drooping thighs or are primarily concerned with the texture of your thigh skin, certain topical creams and lotions may be able to slightly improve your thighs' firmness. These treatments provide only mild results, if any, but they are inexpensive and minimally invasive. Since they are so affordable, they can easily be combined with thighplasty or other procedures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many patients who are considering thigh lift surgery have questions about the procedure. Below, we've compiled some of the most common ones, as well as their answers. Contact your plastic surgeon for the answers to more personal, detailed, or specific queries.
What are my surgical alternatives to thighplasty?
Other body contouring procedures can also help lift and tighten your thigh region. For example, a buttock lift could enhance the appearance of your upper thighs, or thighplasty could be part of a more comprehensive lower body lift. If your primacy concern is excess fat rather than drooping skin, liposuction alone may be sufficient to satisfactorily sculpt your legs. Your plastic surgeon can more completely explain applicable alternative body contouring surgeries to you at your initial consultation.
Can I combine a thigh lift with other surgical procedures?
Yes. Thighplasty is often one part of body lift surgery for patients who have experienced massive weight loss, and many plastic surgeons perform liposuction before beginning the thigh lift process. You can also combine thighplasty with plastic surgery for other areas of the body. For example, you might simultaneously undergo an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) along with your thigh lift.
How long will my results last?
Provided that you maintain your overall health and avoid weight fluctuation, the results of your thigh lift could last for 20 years or more. However, you will still be susceptible the effects of aging and damage from sun exposure. Your cosmetic surgeon can give you suggestions to help you maintain your new thighs.
How long does thigh lift surgery take?
Thigh lift surgery typically takes between two and three hours to complete, but you will be sedated or unconscious for this period and probably will not remember it.
Do I have to meet specific weight requirements to be eligible?
No. However, your weight must be stable before thigh lift surgery and you must not have too much fat in your thighs, since this surgery primarily targets skin and soft tissue. You will need to be within 30 percent of your desired weight to be a good candidate for liposuction, if you want to combine this treatment with thighplasty (as many patients do).
Are thigh lifts only for people who have experienced massive weight loss?
No. This surgery is especially helpful for patients who have large folds of excess thigh tissue due to massive weight loss, but anyone who wants to reduce the skin, fat, and tissue in their thighs for a tighter, fitter look can benefit from a thigh lift, as long as they meet the candidacy requirements.
Will I be able to sit and walk after surgery?
Your plastic surgeon will most likely encourage you to take short walks after surgery, as this helps your blood circulate to promote tissue regeneration and reduce swelling, but you will not be permitted to sit on your thighs for several weeks, since this can put undue pressure on them and may interfere with your incisions.
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