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Unfortunately, many people who lose massive amounts of weight, whether through diet and exercise or bariatric surgery, are left with sagging skin and stubborn deposits of fat on various parts of their bodies, especially around the midsection. This can make it difficult for them to embrace their new bodies and find clothes that fit properly, as well as making them more vulnerable to skin infections and causing self-consciousness and general discomfort. Fortunately, plastic surgery offers a highly effective solution in the form of body lift surgery.
Depending on the location of the surplus skin, patients may choose to undergo either an upper, mid, or lower body lift
Body lift is an extremely effective plastic surgery procedure for patients with excess skin, fat, and other tissues that linger after substantial weight loss. Depending on the location of the surplus skin, patients may choose to undergo either an upper, mid, or lower body lift. For patients with significant amounts of excess skin throughout the midsection, lower body, and extremities, a combination of these techniques called full or total body lift may be the best option.
As is the case with most other plastic surgery procedures, body lift surgery is highly customizable to the unique needs and goals of the individual patient. If you believe that body lift surgery might be right for you, it is important that you entrust your procedure to a skilled, experienced plastic surgeon with a history or producing outstanding results for patients with similar cases.
Many patients who have experienced dramatic weight loss want to undergo body lift surgery to enjoy smoother, trimmer figures. However, body lift surgery is a complex procedure, so you must meet certain criteria to be eligible. You may be a good candidate for body lift surgery if you:
- Have lost between 30 and 50 percent of your peak weight.
- Suffer from drooping skin, fat, and tissue around your abdomen (although if this is mostly fat, you may need to lose more weight before pursuing a body lift).
- Have a stable weight, since fluctuations could interfere with the results of this procedure. Most plastic surgeons recommend waiting approximately two years after reaching your weight loss goals to pursue surgery, which gives your skin time to accommodate and helps to ensure that you will not regain weight after surgery.
- Be in good overall health, able to undergo general anesthesia and recover well from surgery.
- Do not plan to become pregnant after surgery, since this could reverse the outcomes of your body lift.
- Are committed to maintaining excellent nutrition and exercise so that you can heal properly and continue to enjoy the benefits of your procedure. Before and after surgery, it is particularly important that you eat a protein-rich diet to fuel your recovery.
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol to excess.
- Have realistic expectations for the results of the surgery. Although your surgeon will work to make them as subtle as possible, you will most likely have scars from your incisions, and your skin may begin to sag again with aging.
- Are in good mental and psychological health, since plastic surgery can be a long and emotional process for some patients.
- If you have lost weight due to bariatric surgery, your plastic surgeon will need your specialist's approval to perform surgery. He or she will also likely
collaborate with your general practitioner and nutritionist to keep you healthy and safe throughout this process.
To determine your candidacy, your plastic surgeon will review your medical records, conduct a physical examination, and consult with you about your needs and desired results.
Body lift surgery is a highly customized procedure, so its cost will vary based on each patient's unique circumstances and preferences. The cost factors for this procedure include:
- The type of body lift you choose. If you only struggle with sagging skin, fat, and tissue in a specific area of your body, you may opt for a less complicated lower, upper, or mid body lift, in which your surgeon will concentrate on removing skin from a smaller area. In contrast, a total body lift will involve removing unwanted skin, fat, and tissue from multiple areas of your body, typically including your midsection, arms, breasts, thighs, hips, and buttocks. Since they are less complex procedures, lower, upper, and mid body lift procedures generally cost between $6,000 to $8,000, while a full body lift typically costs $10,000 to $17,000 and can range up to $50,000 depending on the extent of treatment.
- Whether or not your surgeon performs multiple procedures at once. If you are undergoing a full body lift, your doctor may prefer to combine your procedures or break them up, depending on your needs. Completing your body lift in multiple surgical appointments could cost more since it requires additional anesthesia and post-operative care.
- The amount of fat you have. Patients with too much surplus fat in their sagging skin may need to undergo liposuction before body lift surgery, which will increase the cost of treatment.
- Your surgeon's qualifications. Doctors with more experience or superior expertise may be more expensive up-front, but working with a qualified surgeon can save you expense, time, and discomfort in the long-term by reducing your risk for complications.
- The area of the country in which you have the surgery performed. Based on varying incomes and costs of living around the United States, the prices for body lift surgery change slightly from region to region. Some patients travel to their surgeons for body lifts, either because they want to save money or to find a doctor with specific expertise. Obviously, if you travel to a different area for your body lift surgery, you will need to factor in travel expenses.
- Your medical background and general health. If you suffer from chronic conditions or diseases that affect your immune system, your body lift surgery may be more complicated to prepare for, perform, and recover from.
- The type of anesthesia and sedation used. Most surgeons use either general anesthesia or local anesthesia with intravenous sedation to perform body lift surgery. Your doctor will help you decide which anesthetic techniques are right for you. The kind and amount of anesthesia used will affect the cost of your surgery.
- Diagnostic testing and examination. Your surgeon will need to assess your health before surgery to determine if you are a candidate and plan for your treatment. Most surgeons do not include pre-operative testing in the cost breakdown for your surgery, so make sure you understand the expense for your blood tests and examinations.
- Post-operative medications. You will likely need painkillers and you may need antibiotic medications after your surgery to remain comfortable and healthy. While they are typically not very expensive, these drugs will add to the cost of your body lift.
- The compression garments and accessories you need. Most patients must wear special garments after plastic surgery to support their surgically altered skin and tissues as they heal. Depending on how specialized they are, compression garments can cost up to several hundred dollars. You may also need to purchase gauze or soap to care for your skin during recovery.
- Your insurance coverage. In most cases, health insurance does not cover body lift surgery, since it is considered an elective surgery. However, if sagging skin is causing skin irritation, infection, or other medical concerns, your provider may cover a portion of your surgical cost.
- Whether you choose to combine your body lift with other cosmetic surgery procedures. Many patients who undergo body lift surgery wish to combine it with other treatments for excellent results. If you decide to include breast implants, facial plastic surgery, dermal fillers, or any other procedures with your body lift, this will increase the cost.
The only way to determine the exact cost of lower or upper body lift surgery is to contact a plastic surgeon in your area for a full consultation. DocShop can assist you by providing you with a list of doctors near you.
Typically, payment for your body lift surgery will be due on or before the day of your first procedure. Some plastic surgeons may offer independent or in-house financing options to make this surgery more affordable. However, you will have to qualify for financing and be prepared to pay interest.
If your health insurance policy will cover some or all of your body lift, you should make sure your plastic surgeon has all of the necessary information and paperwork to bill your insurance company. When you pay for your body lift, your plastic surgeon should give you an itemized receipt. This allows you to understand the costs involved in your procedure, check for any accounting errors, and keep records for health insurance reimbursement.
How to Choose a Surgeon
Your plastic surgeon will guide you through the entire body lift process, from determining your candidacy to helping you recover. Since a body lift is a major procedure, it is important to conduct research about potential plastic surgeons and find one you can feel confident in.
Finding Potential Surgeons
There are a few ways you can find prospective doctors for your body lift surgery, which include:
- Checking online medical and plastic surgery review sites to find highly-rated surgeons in your area. Reading other patients' testimonials can be very helpful in deciding if a doctor is a good fit for your needs.
- Discussing your surgery with family, friends, or acquaintances that have had a body lift or similar procedures. These people can provide insights about the process and make recommendations for specific surgeons.
- Asking your general practitioner, nutritionist, or bariatric surgeon for referrals. These medical professionals will likely be acquainted with some of the top plastic surgeons in the region and may have worked with them in the past.
What to Ask Your Prospective Surgeon
Once you've narrowed your options to a few different surgeons, there are certain questions you should ask them either in person or over the phone. These include:
- Are you a board-certified plastic surgeon? This may seem like an obvious question, but it is important to verify that your surgeon has the necessary credentials to safely and effectively perform your procedure. You can also confirm that your surgeon is properly trained and certified by checking the online database of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
- What organizations or associations are you a member of? Surgeons who are members of professional groups are typically held to higher standards for continuing education, training, and patient satisfaction. If your prospective surgeon is a fellow or member of prestigious plastic surgery organizations, this could be a good sign.
- What does the term "body lift" mean to you? Plastic surgeons use the phrase "body lift" to refer to different combinations of procedures. To make sure you and your prospective surgeon understand each other well, clarify how he or she defines this term.
- Do you often perform body lift plastic surgeries? Plastic surgeons have different specialties, so it's best to work with a doctor who frequently performs this type of procedure.
- Which techniques do you use? Since body lift procedures are customized and variable, using a surgeon who is practiced in various incision and treatment techniques benefits you. If you have learned about a specific technique you'd like to use, you should make sure to ask prospective surgeons about their opinions on and ability to perform it.
- Will you be performing my procedure? Many plastic surgeons work at clinics with several associates, so the doctor you speak to on the phone may not end up performing your surgery. It is best to speak with the person who is most likely to work with you directly.
- How do you create the surgical plan for body lifts? A body lift is a personalized procedure, so many patients feel more comfortable working with a surgeon who is willing to take their concerns into account. Deciding which surgeries and treatments you need should be a collaborative process. It's also a good idea for your plastic surgeon to communicate with your general practitioner, nutritionist, and bariatric surgeon to create a surgical plan that's right for you.
- Do you offer upper, lower, mid, and total body lifts? Ideally, your plastic surgeon will be well-versed in all types of body lift surgery. If you already know you are interested in a particular kind, such as a lower body lift, you should ask about it.
- What do you typically charge for body lift surgery? What is included in the price? As explained above, the costs for body lift surgery vary widely. However, getting an approximate price range or estimate can help you decide on a surgeon. In addition, asking what this cost estimate includes (compression garments, prescriptions, post-operative care, etc.) can help you budget and plan for your procedure.
- What are your candidacy requirements? This is an important question to ask potential surgeons for two reasons. First of all, you need to find out if you as a patient will qualify for body lift surgery at his or her office. Second, this is a good test of the surgeon's commitment to safety and medical ethics. If a prospective surgeon is willing to operate on a patient who currently smokes or whose weight has not yet stabilized, this could be a bad sign.
- What is the average recovery period for body lifts at your office? Of course, each patient's healing time will be different, but getting an approximate idea can help you prepare for your surgery and take enough time off of work.
- What are the risks associated with body lifts? A trustworthy plastic surgeon should be willing to discuss the risks and complications associated with body lifts while describing how he or she works to minimize these issues.
- What post-operative care do you provide? Recovering from body lift surgery can be a complex and delicate process, so it is important that your surgeon and his or her nursing staff remain available for follow-up appointments, questions, and any necessary treatments.
- What is your success rate for body lift surgery? If your potential plastic surgeon regularly performs this procedure, he or she should be able to tell you his or her office's success rate. While some complications are to be expected, the higher the success rate, the better.
- How do you handle complications or poor outcomes? No matter how experienced your doctor is, sometimes plastic surgery does not go entirely as planned. Your surgeon should have a specific method for handling unsatisfied clients or treating complications.
- Where do you perform surgeries? Depending on the clinic, your plastic surgeon may have operating rooms at his or her private practice or he or she may have privileges at a local hospital. The amenities where your plastic surgeon works can impact the techniques used, the quality of your care, and the cost of your procedure.
- Are there patient photographs or testimonials I can see? One of the best indicators of the quality of your surgeon's work is his or her past successes. Reading testimonials and seeing before and after photos will give you a sense of the type of results he or she usually provides.
- Are there certain procedures you often perform in conjunction with body lifts? This is an especially important question to ask if you are already interested in combining your body lift surgery with other cosmetic treatments, but it can also give you ideas for how to further enhance your appearance. Some plastic surgeons may also offer reduced prices for combined procedures.
The answers to these questions should provide you with the information you need to make your decision. In addition, conducting this interview gives you the opportunity to get a sense of your potential plastic surgeon's personality and willingness to communicate with patients, both of which can be important factors in choosing a doctor.
The Initial Consultation
Body lift surgery is a highly customizable and involved procedure, so your initial consultation is an important step in the process. It gives you the opportunity to ask any pertinent questions, affirm your candidacy, determine what type of procedure you need, plan your treatment, and discuss your recovery.
Preparing For Your Appointment
Most plastic surgeons are very busy, so your initial consultation will probably be your best chance to speak to your doctor one-on-one about your preferences and concerns. Your consultation is also an important step in ensuring your treatment is as safe and successful as possible, so preparing for all necessary examinations is also key. Before your initial consultation, you should:
- Obtain any relevant medical records from your general practitioner, bariatric surgeon, nutritionist, or any other medical professional with whom you have worked. This is especially important if you have undergone previous surgeries.
- Follow any instructions to prepare your body for testing, such as fasting for a certain number of hours if a blood test is part of your assessment.
- Ensure that your weight has been stable for at least three months, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.
- Discuss your health insurance coverage for a body lift with your provider so you can understand how to budget accordingly and ask your plastic surgeon any relevant questions relating to your medical needs.
- Make a list of any questions you have about body lifts and look them up online. In the midst of your appointment, you may forget to ask all of your questions. In addition, researching information online before your appointment allows you to avoid wasting your doctor's time with simpler questions.
- Find a celebrity image or old picture of yourself that shows what you would like your body to look like after surgery. While these results may or may not be attainable, this will give your surgeon a clearer idea of your desired outcome.
- Note down the current medications and vitamins you take, as these may affect your surgical plan.
Taking these steps to prepare for your initial consultation allows you to use your plastic surgeon's time wisely so you can feel comfortable and confident going into your body lift procedure.
During Your Initial Consultation
Your initial consultation will determine the surgical plan you and your doctor create together for your body lift. During your appointment, your surgeon may:
- Perform a thorough physical exam, during which he or she will check your vital signs, perform any necessary diagnostic tests, and assess the condition of your skin, fat, and tissue. It is particularly important that your excess skin does not have too much fat and is pliable enough to recover well from surgery.
- Take a photograph of your body, which will serve as the baseline or "before" picture for your surgery. Some surgeons also have imaging programs that can simulate your surgical outcomes.
- Explain, based on your physical exam, why you do or do not qualify for the surgery. If you are not a good candidate at the time of your initial consultation, your surgeon may be able to help you take steps to become eligible for this procedure. For example, patients who are not qualified for surgery because they smoke may be able to have a body lift if they stop smoking for a specified period of time.
- Go over your desired results and expectations for surgery. Your doctor should be clear about what your skin, fat, and tissue will likely look like after a body lift. He or she should also explain the risks and complications associated with body lift surgery and how they relate to your unique medical condition.
- Discuss the surgical techniques and types of procedures he or she would perform to provide you with your desired results, answering any questions you may have about the process.
- Inquire about your preferences as to anesthesia.
Once you have finished discussing your body lift plan with your surgeon, you may also speak to a surgical nurse about how to prepare for your surgery and talk with an administrator about how to pay for your procedure.
Creating the Customized Treatment Plan
During and after your initial consultation, your plastic surgeon will develop a customized treatment plan for your body lift surgery.
Treatment Areas and Body Lift Types
This comprehensive procedure can involve removing excess skin, fat, and tissue in your:
- Lower back
The type of body lift surgery you choose will greatly depend upon the location of the excess skin on your body, as well as your overall aesthetic goals. Your plastic surgeon can focus on a specific part of your body, as is done in an arm lift or a thigh lift, or take a more inclusive approach and treat a larger area all at once. These "full-scale" kinds of body lift surgery serve to eliminate excess skin over large areas of the body. Even more complete are the body lifts that create an entirely new figure. These procedures are commonly referred to as total body lift surgery.
Although recovery from total body lift surgery is more involved than that of smaller-scale body lift techniques, doctors are often able to achieve the best results with this kind of treatment. To perform body contouring, your surgeon may use liposuction to remove excess fat cells before trimming away skin and tissue with an incision.
Factors in Planning Your Surgery
Your surgeon will use the data you provided to him or her during your initial consultation to personalize a treatment plan for you. He or she will take into account the following factors:
- Your overall wellbeing and any particular health risks involved.
- The type of anesthesia with which you are most comfortable.
- Where you live, especially if you are traveling for surgery.
- The amount of time you are able to take off of work for recovery.
- Your expectations and wishes, based on your conversation and any photographs you brought in.
- Your budget for surgery, including financing and insurance options.
- The areas of your body you would like to improve and thus the type of body lift surgery you would prefer to have.
Your surgeon will go over your customized treatment plan with you either at your initial consultation or at an appointment before your surgical date. Of course, if you have any questions about or objections to this plan, do not hesitate to discuss them with your doctor. It is much better to address your concerns before your surgery than deal with discomfort or dissatisfaction afterward.
Lower Body Lift
Technically called a belt lipectomy, a lower body lift is one of the most popular types. Many patients find that the majority of weight loss occurs in areas such as the buttocks, hips, and thighs. Extreme weight loss can leave large folds of skin that cause chafing and discomfort.
A lower body lift can not only remove this excess skin, but also lift the buttocks and add flattering contours to the patient's body. It is a less invasive procedure than a full body lift and can help patients who have experienced massive weight loss as well as those whose lower body skin has begun to sag due to pregnancy or aging.
To begin your lower body lift, your surgeon will make an incision around the belt-line of your waist, across your lower abdomen, and down your inner thighs. The particular patterns for your incisions will depend on your specific needs and your surgeon's expertise. Your surgeon will work to place your incisions such that your scars can be hidden by underwear or clothing. He or she will then use these incisions to access and remove excess fat and tissue before pulling your skin taut and trimming it. The incisions will then be sutured closed and covered with bandages and compression garments.
Because it is difficult to effectively tighten the lower body and not the abdomen, many patients choose to combine lower body lift surgery with a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) or a mid body lift. After surgery, most patients are able to return to work within two to three weeks.
Mid Body Lift
Mid body lift, also called torsoplasty, treats the abdominal region in addition to the body parts addressed by a lower body lift (thighs, hips, buttocks). Many patients prefer this method of body lift surgery to a lower body lift alone because the surgeon is able to create smooth, continuous contours from the abdomen all the way down to the thighs.
To complete your torsoplasty, your surgeon will remove excess skin via incisions similar to those used in lower body lift. He or she will then use the incision around the waist to access the abdominal muscles. Your surgeon will pull them together and stitch them into place to create a trimmer waistline and a flatter stomach. This process can also repair any existing tears or damage to these muscles.
Once he or she has finished reshaping your muscles, removing surplus fat, and trimming excess skin, your surgeon will close and bandage your incisions. Your scars from a mid body lift will be very similar to those of a lower body lift, but this procedure may require a longer healing time due to the adjustments made to your muscles. Typically, patients can resume working in about three to four weeks.
Total Body Lift
Total body lift surgery is helpful for patients who have lost skin elasticity all over their body. Excess skin can cause severe chafing and discomfort, as well as prevent patients from wearing clothes in a smaller size or exercising properly. Total body lifts address every part of the body that commonly accumulates fat and surplus skin. Your arms, breasts, abdomen, hips, thighs, and buttocks can all be contoured to achieve a smooth, trim, and lifted appearance. Some surgeons refer to a full body lift as an upper and lower body lift. In an upper body lift,the arms are treated with an arm lift and the breasts are contoured with a breast lift. These two surgeries can be performed separately or during a mid or lower body lift.
Though a total body lift is the most comprehensive way to rejuvenate your figure after massive weight loss, you will need to take into account the extended recovery period required for such complex surgery. You should be prepared to remain at home for up to six weeks after your total body lift surgery and to follow all instructions given to you by your plastic surgeon. Once the swelling has gone down and the scars begin to fade, most patients are extremely satisfied with their new appearance.
A total body lift is a much more intensive procedure than an upper, lower, or mid body lift. Many plastic surgeons perform it in stages, as the full surgery can take between four and seven hours to complete. During total body lift surgery, your doctor will begin by completing a mid body lift, making an incision into your abdomen, around your waist, and down to your upper thighs. Once he or she has firmed your underlying muscles, removed unwanted fat, trimmed away excess skin, and pulled it smooth, your surgeon will close and bandage your incisions.
Next, he or she will perform an upper body lift, which may be done on the same day or at a separate appointment. During this part of the procedure, he or she will address sagging skin, fat, and tissue on your arms, back, and breasts according to your wishes. Your surgeon will make an incision into your underarms to tighten your muscles, remove excess fat, and trim the skin for a fitter look. He or she will do the same for your back by creating either a horizontal incision across it or two vertical incisions on either side.
For women, a total body lift can involve a breast lift, during which your surgeon will create an incision around your areola, down to the bottom of your breast, and across your breast crease to remove drooping skin and fat. If you wish, this procedure can also be combined with a breast augmentation, in which case your surgeon will also use these incisions to insert silicone or saline implants.
Some plastic surgeons may also be able to enhance your breasts with a fat transfer, using your own liposucted, purified fat cells from another part of your body to augment your breasts. Once he or she has finished modifying your breast size, your plastic surgeon will most likely need to reposition your nipple and areola for a natural look to complete your lift.
Men undergoing a total body lift may also remove surplus breast tissue with male breast reduction or gynecomastia surgery. If you simply suffer from small fat deposits in this area, this can typically be remedied with liposuction alone, which requires only a very small incision to insert the tube for suction. However, if you have too much fat or excess skin, your plastic surgeon may need to make an incision on either side of your chest. In more severe cases, your doctor will also need to move your nipple and areola.
Before the Procedure
Once you have found a plastic surgeon, attended your initial consultation, and received your customized treatment plan, you will need to prepare your body for surgery. Following the surgeon's instructions for pre-operative care can decrease your risk of complications and help to ensure that you are satisfied with your results.
Long-Term Preparations for Body Lift Surgery
In the weeks or months before your body lift surgery, you should:
- Continue to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Even if you've already been approved for body lift surgery, it is important to stay as fit and healthy as possible leading up to your surgery. This will help your body heal better and ensure that your weight does not fluctuate too much before your surgery, as this could interfere with its results.
- Stop smoking. Plastic surgeons generally do not perform procedures on patients who currently smoke, as this decreases your body's ability to recover properly and heightens your risk for complications. If you smoke, your doctor will discuss how long you need to have stopped smoking prior to and after your surgery at your initial consultation.
- Avoid drinking. Heavy drinking can also interfere with your general health, so it is best to drink only in moderation as you prepare for this major surgery.
- Cease taking certain drugs and supplements. Certain medications and vitamins can cause excessive bleeding during surgery, so speak with your doctor about what you currently take and how you should modify it.
- Reach and remain at your goal weight for a minimum of three months. Ideally, your weight will already have stabilized for some time before surgery. If your weight is still fluctuating or your plastic surgeon informs you at your initial consultation that you need to lose more weight to become eligible for surgery, you will need to have maintained a stable weight for at least three months before your procedure. Small changes of a few pounds in weight usually will not affect your surgery.
- Find someone to drive you home from the hospital. After your surgery, you may be drowsy or disoriented from the anesthesia and sedation used. You may also be uncomfortable, since body lift surgery often requires large incisions. Most patients remain in the hospital for two to three days following body lift surgery and are not able to drive for several weeks.
- Pick up any necessary prescriptions and compression garments. When you come out of surgery, you probably won't want to have to wait for someone to fill your painkiller prescription or buy your compression garments. Having these items well in advance can help ensure that your post-operative care goes smoothly.
- Arrange your home and schedule to suit your recovery. Basic activities like walking around your house, preparing food, or taking your kids to school may be difficult for several weeks after your body lift. To improve your comfort and shorten your healing time, make any necessary arrangements for your children, spouse, or professional obligations ahead of time.
- Ask any remaining questions you have about your treatment or healing process. As your surgical date nears, you may think of more questions about the procedure or how to take care of yourself afterward. Be sure to ask all of these questions, no matter how small, so that you can feel confident going into surgery and recover well.
- Avoid becoming sick. If you become ill before your surgery, it will have to be rescheduled, which could be a hassle, especially if you've already planned to take time off of work. Take every precaution possible to avoid becoming sick, including getting enough sleep, washing your hands regularly, and getting proper nutrition.
- Clean your skin regularly to prevent infection. Your surgery will also have to be postponed if you suffer from a skin infection. Excess skin can harbor harmful bacteria, so make sure you wash it regularly to keep it sterile and healthy.
Following these suggestions can help give you the best chances for excellent results from body lift surgery.
Directly Before Your Procedure
The day before your body lift, you should:
- Fast for 12 hours before your appointment. Food can interfere with the anesthesia used during surgery, so make sure not to eat or drink anything except for water the night before your appointment.
- Do not drink alcohol. This can also disrupt the medications used during surgery, so abstain from drinking alcohol.
- Get restful sleep. Having a good night's sleep before your surgery can help your body heal better. In addition, sleeping well may be difficult after your surgery, since you will have to deal with bandages and compression garments, so make sure to get good rest while you can.
- Wash your skin thoroughly. Your nurses will likely clean your skin directly before surgery when you arrive, but it is also a good idea to wash yourself, especially in the treatment areas.
- Drink lots of water. Proper hydration is vital to your body functioning and recovering well from surgery.
- Make sure you have all the necessary supplies for when you return home. Although you should have already filled your prescriptions, arranged your schedule, and purchased your compression garments, it's a good idea to run through a checklist of these items the day before your surgery so you can make sure you haven't forgotten anything.
- Ensure that your caretaker understands your needs. You will probably need a friend or family member to care for you for a few weeks when you return from the hospital. You can ask your plastic surgeon's office to provide this person with post-operative care instructions so he or she understands how to best help you.
- Stay in touch with your surgeon's office. Your plastic surgeon may see you the day before surgery to confirm that you are ready and conduct a final physical examination for treatment planning. Even if this is not the case, stay in touch with your doctor about how you are feeling and any concerns you have about your procedure. This is especially important if you feel you may be coming down with a cold or skin infection.
In addition to these recommendations, check with your plastic surgeon for more specific pre-operative instructions personalized to your specific treatment plan and medical needs.
As a customized surgery, each patient's body lift procedure will be different. On the day of your appointment, you will need to have a friend or family member drive you to the clinic or hospital where you will undergo surgery. Once you have checked in, your plastic surgeon will go over your unique surgical plan with you one final time for your upper, lower, mid, or total body lift. He or she may make marks on your skin to show you where the incisions will fall and provide a guide during surgery.
Then, nurses will prepare you for your procedure by cleaning your skin and dressing you in a medical gown. Next, your surgeon or anesthesiologist will administer general anesthesia or local anesthesia and sedation, at which point you will become very relaxed and will typically not remember anything about your surgery after this point.
During your procedure, your plastic surgeon will perform liposuction if necessary, then make the incisions you discussed to remove remaining fat deposits, tighten your muscles, and trim excess skin before suturing it closed so it lays smooth. He or she will then place bandages, compression garments, and drains over your incisions as needed. This process often takes between two and seven hours, depending on the extent of your procedure.
It may take between two weeks and two months for you to return to work after your body lift surgery, and you will likely need to avoid strenuous activity for several months. It is important to follow your surgeon's post-operative care instructions so your skin and underlying tissue can heal properly for beautiful, healthy results.
You may return home on the same day, provided you have sufficient caretaking and nursing
Directly After Surgery
After your surgery, you will most likely spend two to three days in the hospital. This will allow your surgeon and his or her nurses to monitor your recovery carefully, keep your incisions clean, and minimize any risk of complications. If you prefer to return home immediately after surgery or your body lift treatment plan can be performed as an outpatient procedure, you may return home on the same day, provided you have sufficient caretaking and nursing. You may feel some discomfort after surgery, but prescription painkillers can usually minimize this. You will probably take a short walk the day after your surgery, since this kind of gentle exercise can help you heal.
When You Return Home
It is important to get plenty of rest when you return home after surgery. You may need to sleep with a particular arrangement of pillows to remain comfortable and keep your body in the correct position for healing. It may be frustrating to need help to eat, bathe, and care for your home, but it is important not to strain yourself, especially during the first few weeks after your procedure. This process will be simpler and easier if you have made proper preparations before your surgery.
You will likely experience some swelling and bruising at your surgical sites. You will need to empty and measure your drainage fluids daily and report them to your surgeon's office. You will also need to wear your compression garments as directed and may need to follow special dietary instructions for several weeks. Most patients are able to shower within three days of surgery, but you must be very careful to wash gently and immediately redress your wounds. You should take short walks, but do not attempt any strenuous activity until your surgeon tells you this is appropriate for you.
Your plastic surgeon will generally see you every week for post-operative care appointments until you can return to normal activity. This gives him or her the opportunity to examine your incisions, conduct any necessary tests, and make any modifications to your medications, bandages, or compression garments. Approximately two weeks after surgery, most patients are able to have their sutures and drains taken out.
After four to eight weeks, you may only need to attend follow-up visits every few months so that your surgeon can monitor how your tissue is healing and scars are fading. Make sure to bring up any concerns that arise during the healing process at your appointments or over the phone between visits. Following your surgeon's directions and attending regular post-operative appointments can maximize your chances for successful body lift results.
A body lift can repair sagging or drooping skin, stubborn fat deposits, and weakened underlying muscles. In general, patients are pleased with their firmer, smoother skin, improved figures, and alleviated discomfort. While scars from body lift surgery do diminish over time and can be placed such that they are less noticeable, they are permanent. Body lift surgery can greatly improve your appearance and self-confidence, but having realistic expectations for your results is important. Your skin will likely look and feel much better, but it may not have the same appearance as before your weight gain and will still be susceptible to the affects of aging, any future weight gain, or other types of damage.
Body lift surgery provides many medical and cosmetic benefits to patients. These include:
- Ability to wear a wider variety of clothing. Patients who have worked hard to lose significant weight typically want to show off their success with new clothes, but dealing with loose folds of skin can severely restrict your clothing options. Body lift surgery can allow you to finally wear that beautiful dress or pair of skinny jeans you have worked hard to fit into.
- More comfortable daily activity and exercise. Sagging skin can weigh you down and cause rashes or even infection, making daily life more difficult. In addition, it can prevent you from exercising properly to become even more fit and healthy. Removing your excess skin, fat, and tissue can allow you to move more freely.
- A younger, trimmer appearance. The body contouring procedures involved in a body lift can both repair the effects of significant weight loss and positively improve your shape, allowing you to better display the muscle tone you've built.
- Completing multiple cosmetic procedures at once. A body lift is a comprehensive, personalized treatment. Performing procedures on multiple areas of your body at once can save you time, money, and discomfort. In addition, your body lift surgery may be a good time to undergo any other cosmetic treatments you've always wanted, such as a facelift or breast augmentation.
- Improved personal hygiene. Sagging skin in your midsection, chest, back, thighs, hips, legs, and arms can make keeping your body clean much more difficult, so removing the excess tissue allows you to take care of youdr hygiene properly, reducing your risk for irritation and infection. This can also improve your confidence and comfort.
- Additional weight loss. While body lift surgery is no substitute for proper diet and exercise, and often must be performed after you've reached a goal weight, eliminating extra skin, tissue, and fat can also provide additional weight loss.
Your plastic surgeon can discuss the distinctive benefits of your body lift with you at your initial consultation.
As a comprehensive and intensive procedure, body lift surgery carries some risks. These can include:
- Excessive bleeding. If your incisions do not close or heal improperly, you may experience excessive bleeding or even hematoma, blood clot formation. Most body lift patients do not suffer from excessive bleeding, but premature or overly intensive activity can increase your risk. Call your plastic surgeon immediately if you notice a large amount of blood on your bandages. You may need to undergo corrective surgery or even receive a blood transfusion to protect your health.
- Unsatisfactory results. Most patients are pleased with the results of their body lift surgery, but there are many factors involved in this complicated procedure. Your scars may become very noticeable due to poor placement or the development of certain conditions such as keloid, bunched, or hypertrophic scarring. Depending on your surgeon's expertise and your body's reaction to the procedure, you may also suffer from asymmetrical results. If your surgeon did not remove enough excess skin or if you regain weight, your skin may become loose again. If you are unhappy with your results, your plastic surgeon may need to perform a revisional body lift to correct any issues.
- Fat necrosis. Sometimes, body lift surgery can disrupt the fat cells deep within your skin and tissue, cutting off their blood supply and destroying them. These cells can become stiff or irregularly shaped, interfering with the cosmetic results of your surgery. Depending on the severity of your fat necrosis, additional surgery may be required to resolve this condition.
- Skin necrosis. Similar to fat necrosis, the skin cells at your surgical sites may become deformed and discolored if they lose proper nutrients. Contact your plastic surgeon if you notice your skin blistering, peeling, or turning black. Typically, if you suffer from skin necrosis, you will simply have to wait for the affected cells to slough off so new, healthy ones can regenerate. Skin necrosis is linked to smoking, which is one of the reasons plastic surgeons do not perform body lift surgery on patients who currently smoke.
- Phlebitis. If any anesthesia or medications are delivered into your vein through an injection, you have a very low risk of developing phlebitis, in which your vein swells. While uncomfortable, you can typically alleviate this condition by walking around and taking anti-inflammatory medications.
- Infection. Body lift surgery involves the creation of multiple large incisions, so if your plastic surgeon's tools and operating room are not perfectly sterile during every step of your procedure, you may develop an infection. You can also suffer from this condition if you fail to follow your surgeon's instructions for cleaning and bandaging your wounds after your body lift. Properly sterilizing and placing drains in your incisions can also reduce your risk of infection. If you begin to experience any symptoms of infection, such as foul odors from your incisions, redness, consistent discomfort, or fever, contact your plastic surgeon for recommendations. You will likely need to take antibiotics.
- Deep vein thrombosis. Large blood clots can form in your legs and put your heart, brain, or lungs in jeopardy if they travel to this area of your body. While very serious, deep vein thrombosis is an extremely rare complication from body lift surgery. Your surgeon will assess your risks for this condition during your initial consultation.
- Rectus Diastasis. Modifying the muscle, fat, tissue, and skin around your midsection could weaken your abdominal muscles, which may sag or separate. The majority of patients who suffer from rectus diastasis can prevent muscle drooping and damage with exercise, but more extreme cases may require additional surgery to repair.
- Umbilical complications. Modifying your abdomen may involve repositioning your navel to achieve a more natural appearance, a process that carries its own particular risks. Aesthetically, your plastic surgeon may move your navel too high, too low, or off center. While very rare, umbilical repositioning may also create skin or fat necrosis that can result in the loss of your navel.
- Seroma. Necrosis and damaged blood cells can release fluids that build up in pockets of tissue along your incisions. Most often, this does not cause fluid accumulation, or seroma, because your surgical drains and compression garments allow this fluid to escape. If you suffer from seroma, the fluid may need to be surgically removed with suction or drained by your surgeon during an additional procedure.
- Improper suture healing. Generally, your plastic surgeon will take your sutures out at a follow-up appointment about two weeks after your surgery. However, individual sutures may occasionally come up through your skin at the incision line. If this occurs, see your plastic surgeon so that he or she can remove them without disturbing your incision or interfering with your healing process.
Most of these risks are minimal, but you can further decrease them by working with a qualified, experienced plastic surgeon and following all of his or her directions for pre- and post-operative care. You can also lower your risks by openly discussing your concerns and providing full, accurate information to your plastic surgeon about your medical history and conditions.
Temporary Side Effects
Removing large amounts of surplus skin, fat, and tissue is an involved process requiring multiple surgical techniques and various medications. Body lift surgery is a relatively major procedure, so you can expect certain temporary side effects, especially directly after your surgery. These may include:
- General discomfort. Once your anesthesia wears off, you may feel mild to moderate discomfort. Most patients can manage this with prescription painkillers and adequate rest. Your nurses and caretakers can also help you stay comfortable in the days and weeks after your body lift.
- Inflammation and bruising. As a response to the trauma of removing excess skin, tissue, and fat, the areas the plastic surgeon operated on often become bruised and swollen. Bruises generally fade within a few weeks, but swelling can last for between a few days and several months, depending on the scope of your body lift surgery and your medical condition. Compression garments help to counteract this inflammation and keep your skin in the appropriate position while it heals.
- Numbness or decreased skin sensitivity. Tissue modification can temporarily decrease sensitivity in the skin around your incisions, even completely numbing it. While this condition is rarely permanent, some patients require a long recovery time, even spanning years, to fully restore complete sensation.
- Grogginess, disorientation, and nausea. Directly after surgery, you will likely feel drowsy, disoriented, and nauseated due to the anesthesia, sedation, and other drugs administered during your procedure.
- Allergic reactions. Some patients may experience allergic reactions, including rashes, itchiness, dizziness, redness, nausea, vomiting, coughing, itchiness, or congestion, to anesthesia, gauze, tape, or any other materials used during the surgery. Your plastic surgeon and nurses will monitor you for signs of allergic reaction during your procedure and help you avoid contact with the offending material if possible. In addition, you can mitigate your risk of a temporary allergic reaction by discussing your known allergies with your surgeon at your initial consultation.
- Wound separation. Large incisions can sometimes pull apart after surgery if they were not sutured or cared for properly. This does not pose a serious health risk, but it can lengthen your recovery time and require additional bandaging procedures to close the wound.
- Changes to the mons pubis. Stretching, inflammation, and bruising from other areas may distort the shape of your mons pubis, causing it to protrude. Since this is most likely to due to fluid buildup or swelling, changes to the mons pubis are typically temporary. However, if your pubic tissue is protruding due to fat accumulation (which can occur when removing fat cells from nearby areas), an additional procedure like liposuction may be necessary.
Your plastic surgeon and nurses will discuss the temporary side effects you may experience at your initial consultation and on the day of your body lift surgery.
Body lift surgery involves extensive modification of tissue in various regions. You should understand the techniques, possible temporary side effects, and risks involved with this procedure before having a body lift. You will need to sign an official consent form before undergoing this surgery to affirm that you understand the procedure. You should not sign any paperwork from your plastic surgeon until you fully comprehend every aspect of your treatment and have had all of your questions answered fully.
Many patients feel that body lift surgery is safe and its benefits outweigh its risks, but you should make this decision for yourself based on your specific circumstances and customized treatment plan. You should not undergo this serious surgery due to pressure from any of your friends and family members.
National Average Surgeon/Physician Fee for body lift surgery was $8,144
One of the best ways to learn more about a plastic surgery procedure and determine if it may be appropriate for you is to understand its statistics. Here are the basic numbers for body lift surgery for 2013 from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons:
- With 7,821 body lift procedures performed in the United States, this surgery is quite common. It has increased in popularity by over 3,000 percent since the year 2000, indicating how its techniques have become more sophisticated, appealing, and widespread, especially for patients who have experienced significant weight loss.
- Less than ten percent of body lift surgery clients were male in 2013.
- Making up 44 percent of body lift surgeries, patients between 40 and 54 years of age were the most common candidates for this procedure.
- The National Average Surgeon/Physician Fee for body lift surgery was $8,144.
- Body lift surgery was the fifth most common body contouring procedure for patients who had lost significant amounts of weight, behind abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), mastopexy (breast lift), brachioplasty (arm lift), and thigh lift surgeries. A body lift often includes one or several of these more popular procedures.
To decide whether a body lift is right for you, choose a plastic surgeon, or better understand your risk of complications, ask your doctor for more information on the statistics concerning body lift surgery.
Significant quantities of excess skin, fat, and tissue typically require surgical intervention to remove. However, certain non-surgical treatments may be effective for patients with less sagging or as a complement to body lift surgery. These procedures include:
- Light treatments. To help break apart fat deposits, your plastic surgeon can move a small handheld device that emits laser, infrared or LED light over affected areas, liquefying fat cells with heat over multiple sessions. The results of this procedure are typically much more subtle than those of liposuction or body lift surgery.
- Ultrasound cavitation. Similar to light treatments, ultrasound cavitation uses specific frequencies of sound waves to disrupt stubborn fat cells, diminishing deposits.
- Laser skin resurfacing. If your primary concern is with skin damage and not fat deposits or sagging, your plastic surgeon or dermatologist can use a precise laser to remove dead skin cells to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, lines, scars, and other skin irregularities.
- Lipomassage. Also called endermologie, this is a massage technique using a small tool to break down fats, stimulate the production of compounds (such as collagen) that improve skin elasticity, and help your body naturally drain accumulated fluids. As with light treatments and ultrasound cavitation, lipomassage requires multiple treatments and usually provides gradual results.
- Topical creams and lotions to firm skin. Many companies now produce topical creams and lotions that promise to improve skin elasticity and firmness. While the ingredients in these products can help your skin look and feel younger, these results are temporary. Patients who are dealing with large folds of excess skin will most likely need more than a topical treatment to correct this condition.
- Fat-dissolving injections. Your plastic surgeon may be able to inject your fat deposits with special chemicals to help dissolve them. However, this treatment is still in development and, thus far, has produced only temporary outcomes.
- BOTOX® and dermal fillers. For smaller areas of sagging skin or folds, your plastic surgeon may be able to use BOTOX®, which smoothens your skin by preventing your muscles from contracting, or dermal fillers, which plump your skin to diminish wrinkles.
If drooping skin, fat, and tissue are less pronounced or in a smaller area, you may be able to treat your condition with one of the above procedures and avoid the risks of surgery. However, most patients who are pursuing body lift surgery will not be able to fully resolve their cosmetic and medical concerns with only non-surgical procedures. Make sure to discuss all of your surgical and non-surgical options with your doctor before making the decision to undergo body lift surgery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below, we've compiled some of the most common questions about body lift surgery and their answers.
Do I have to have experienced massive weight loss to qualify for a body lift?
You do not need to have lost significant weight to qualify for a body lift, but most patients who pursue body lifts have, given that this surgery combines multiple procedures to remove large amounts of skin, fat, and tissue. If you have developed loose skin on a particular area of your body due to a smaller amount of weight loss, aging, or a genetic condition, a plastic surgeon can perform a more targeted procedure such as an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) or brachioplasty (arm lift).
Can I combine this procedure with bariatric surgery?
Yes, many patients who have undergone bariatric surgery have body lift surgery after their weight has stabilized. If you have had bariatric surgery, you will need to meet the same candidacy requirements as any other patient (listed above) and your plastic surgeon should communicate with your bariatric surgeon when planning your customized procedure.
Why can't I just use liposuction?
Liposuction can be used to remove stubborn fat cells and subtly tighten skin in the process, but it does not address large folds of excess skin, fat, and tissue, so it is typically not a suitable alternative to body lift surgery. It also cannot address cellulite, a particular type of fat that changes the appearance of your skin. Liposuction may be used for patients with less severe conditions and is often used as one step in a body lift.
Do I have to have lost a certain amount of weight to be eligible?
There are not specific weight loss standards for body lift surgery, but you will need to have sustained your goal weight for at least three months and not have very large fat deposits within the folds of tissue you wish to remove. If he or she finds that you are ineligible for body lift surgery based on your tissue composition or weight loss goals at your initial consultation, your plastic surgeon may provide you with a certain amount of weight to lose before your surgery.
When will I be able to start exercising again?
Your recovery timeline depends on the type of body lift surgery you underwent, your medical history, and any complications that arise, but patients can typically start exercising after about six weeks after surgery. You will need to begin with gentle activity and gradually work up to your standard exercise routine according to your surgeon's instructions.
Is body lift surgery safe?
Provided that you meet the candidacy requirements for this procedure, work with a qualified plastic surgeon, and follow his or her instructions to prepare for and recover from surgery, undergoing a body lift is generally very safe.
Will my insurance cover my body lift surgery?
In most cases, health insurance providers do not cover body lift surgery because it is seen as an elective cosmetic procedure. However, if you are suffering from skin infection or other medical issues as a result of hanging skin, your insurance may help to pay for your surgery. Your plastic surgeon can help you determine if your insurance may be able to cover a portion of your costs.
Does body lift surgery provide permanent results?
Yes, the skin removed and contours made in body lift surgery are usually permanent. However, if your weight fluctuates or you become pregnant, this can undo some of the benefits of body lift surgery. In addition, the aging process, sun damage, and other factors will still affect the elasticity and appearance of your skin after a body lift.
What happens if I regain weight after body lift surgery?
If you begin to gain weight again after your procedure, your skin will once again need to stretch to accommodate this, so you may develop sagging folds of skin, fat, and tissue once again if you lose weight. Since you will already have scars from incisions and modified tissue, body lift surgery may be much more complex to perform a second time. If you are considering body lift surgery, ensure that you have systems in place to help you remain at a stable, healthy weight.
Can I continue to lose weight after a body lift?
Losing too much additional weight after body lift surgery can compromise your results, as it may cause new folds of sagging skin to develop. Losing a few more pounds should not dramatically affect your tissue, but any substantial weight loss can. If you have not hit your true target weight before surgery, discuss your options with your plastic surgeon.
How much weight will I lose during body lift surgery?
Folds of skin, fat, and tissue can weigh many pounds, so you will likely lose some weight as a result of removing them. The exact amount depends on your unique circumstances, but can be up to one tenth of the weight you lost before surgery. However, body lift surgery is not a replacement for weight loss from diet and exercise.
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