The skin around our body loses volume as we age due to time and gravity.
While this is likely reminiscent of cellulite (particularly in the buttocks area), Board-certified plastic surgeon Alexis Parcells, MD says that “skin wrinkles and loss of tone can occur all over the body, and particularly in the chest, torso and leg areas.”
Because of this, interest in body contouring techniques has increased. These cosmetic procedures are better known as Lower Body Lifting.
Parcells told Healthline, “Lower body lifts are the process of removing excess skin and lifting your chest, torso and extremities (arms and legs). It can be divided into an upper body lift, which includes a breast lift and an arm lift, and a lower body lift, which includes a tummy tuck (tummy tuck), thigh lift, and buttock lift.
If you’re interested in a lower body lift, Parcells and another plastic surgery specialist explain everything you need to know about this procedure, including eligibility, downtime, benefits, and more.
A 2016 study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open defines a lower body lift as an elective surgery that treats skin imperfections in the following areas:
- Pubic area
- lateral thighs
While this is generally considered cosmetic surgery, it is often used after someone has experienced dramatic weight loss.
From a procedural point of view, a lower body lift usually involves the removal of the skin as well as the draping and resuspension of the body’s own tissue. This can result in a more youthful look and tone, according to Parcells.
“In addition to tightening the abdominal wall muscles and removing excess skin from the abdomen, thighs and buttocks, the procedure often includes liposuction to achieve some balance between the torso and thighs,” Parcells said.
A lower body lift involves removing excess skin, fat, and tissue in the lower abdomen, as well as reshaping and tightening your thighs, buttocks, and flanks, according to Parcells. If this is something you want to accomplish, it can be benefits of this procedure.
In addition to removing excess skin, lower body lifts have been linked to psychological benefits, including improved body image.
A 2017 study found that lower body lifts significantly reduced repellent body ratings and increased long-term feelings of attractiveness and self-worth in study participants, and significantly reduced discomfort associated with excess skin.
Similarly, research has shown that lower body lifts can also improve the quality of life for patients who have had bariatric surgery. More specifically, a small clinical study from 2013 found that lower torso lifting surgery after weight loss improved both quality of life and body image.
Lower body lift procedures can come with some risks.
A 2016 study suggests the surgery has an overall complication rate of 78 percent. And while 56 percent of these complications were minor, they should nonetheless be considered when considering this surgery.
Some possible risks of a lower body lift are:
- Appearance doesn’t look what you expected
- internal bleeding
- Blood clots
- Death of fatty tissue under the skin
- Fluid build-up in the surgical site (edema)
- Loss of sensation in the skin
- Leg swelling
- Skin remains loose or slack
- permanent scarring
Here are before and after photos of a lower body lift.
Remember that every body is different. Not everyone will have the same results. Factors that can affect results include:
- how much work you have chosen
- how exactly do you follow the care instructions after
- the skill and experience of your surgeon
- Your overall health
While a lower body lift can be helpful in removing excess skin after a major weight loss, Parcells explains that it is a single operation that can have a dramatic impact on a person’s body.
Because of this, she says, “This procedure should only be performed by a certified plastic surgeon who has experience in body contouring.”
In addition to having a plastic surgeon’s expertise, Parcells recommends that it is best to see a doctor before your procedure so they can do a full medical history and physical exam to make sure you are not at high risk for complications such as wound healing delays or blood clots.
Parcells explains that “an ideal candidate for a lower body lift is someone with excess skin on the lower abdomen and relaxed abdominal wall muscles who also have cellulite or loose and wrinkled skin on their thighs and buttocks.”
In addition to tightening sagging skin, those who have experienced mass weight loss are other great candidates for this procedure, according to Board-certified plastic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgeon Ben Lee, MD, FACS.
“Lower body lift procedures involve a 360 degree excision of the excess skin [around the trunk], often in conjunction with automatic gluteal augmentation, ”Lee told Healthline. “This basically means that a tummy tuck is performed, in which excess skin on the back is removed in the circumferential direction. Instead of removing all of the excess tissue on the back, some can be left in place to enlarge the buttocks. Sometimes a medial thigh lift is included to improve the sagging inner thighs. ”
But Lee warns that there are people who are not good candidates for this trial. This includes people with conditions such as heart and severe respiratory diseases, as well as kidney and liver failure. Lee mentions that diabetics are eligible if their condition is treated well.
According to Lee, preparation for any operation begins with a consultation with a reputable and experienced surgeon.
“They can help you with your research and help you dig through the often confusing and contradicting information that can be found online,” explains Lee. “It is important to make sure that you are in the best of health, so a consultation with your GP is extremely helpful.”
Maintaining a balanced diet is also essential for healing after surgery, says Lee.
“You are asked not to smoke or drink in the weeks prior to your procedure, as this can have negative effects on wound healing. You should stop taking things that make you bleed more, like aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, and fish oil, ”he adds.
“A lower body lift takes several hours,” Lee told Healthline. Although the procedure can vary from person to person, below are some general steps that Lee said a surgeon will follow to perform this procedure.
- On the day of the operation, you will be prepared in the preoperative area. The surgeon and anesthetist will take one final look at your laboratory and medical history.
- Once step one is complete, Lee says, “special attention will be paid to preventing blood clots so you may be given an anticoagulant and anti-embolism devices placed on your lower legs.”
- The surgeon then makes preliminary surgical marks on the skin to be excised. Your surgical team will then take you to the operating room and induce the anesthesia.
- Your team will attach monitoring equipment and prepare and cover you for the operation. The surgeon then proceeds to remove the excess skin, being careful to minimize blood loss.
- According to Lee, the bulk of the surgery is to close the wound in multiple layers and drains are used to remove excess tissue fluid. Your surgeon can use surgical staples. After the wound has been closed, bandages are applied.
- After the operation, you will be extubated and taken to the recovery room. “If your procedure was extensive, you may need an overnight stay for monitoring and pain control,” adds Lee.
“You should prepare your home for a safe recovery,” says Lee. He advises the following:
- Let someone drive you home and help you through the first days of recovery.
- Since the surgery will affect your mobility, try to have supplies, food and water, clothing, and medicines handy.
- Although you should avoid strenuous activity while healing, you should still move around to avoid blood clots.
- Most importantly, always follow your surgeon’s instructions. This includes taking care of wounds, taking medication, and performing follow-up examinations.
When done properly, a lower body lift can remove the excess skin that results from massive weight loss, whether through diet and exercise or through bariatric weight loss surgery. Recovery is difficult and wound healing problems can arise because of the extensive incisions. ”
You will leave visible scars, Parcells says.
But she explains that “the scar required for the procedure is placed very low on the abdomen, usually in the pubic area, higher up the thighs to maintain the aesthetics of the thigh, and down the lower back to just above the buttocks continues. “
Parcells adds that the scar usually heals well and can be covered up by most modern day underwear and swimwear.
When it comes to insurance coverage, Lee says lower body lifts are typically elective that aren’t covered by insurance. However, some insurance carriers can cover the cost of the surgery, especially if they covered the original weight loss surgery, he explains.
You can use the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ Find a Surgeon tool to find a surgeon in your area who specializes in this procedure.
While a lower body lift can remove the excess skin caused by weight loss due to diet and exercise or bariatric weight loss surgery, it is best to approach this surgery under the guidance of a trained surgeon.
Be sure to follow all professional directions and maintain a balanced diet for the best possible results.