This website is intended to provide you with general information only. This information is not a substitute for advice from your Specialist Plastic Surgeon and does not contain all the known facts about this procedure or every possible side effect of surgery. It is important that you speak to your surgeon before deciding to undergo surgery. If you are not sure about the benefits, risks and limitations of treatment, or anything else relating to your procedure, ask your surgeon to explain. Patient information provided as part of this website is evidence-based, and sourced from a range of reputable information providers including the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Better Health Channel and Mi-tec medical publishing.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
A body lift is a surgical procedure that removes large skin folds and fat from the hips, outer upper thighs, lower abdomen, and upper buttocks. The procedure is a form of body contouring surgery and is designed to improve the lower body’s appearance by modifying its size or shape.
The aim of a body lift is to remove and tighten excess skin, usually after massive or significant weight loss. It is also used to tighten saggy skin due to childbirth or ageing. Areas of treatment include the hips, outer upper thighs, lower abdomen, and upper buttocks. The lower abdomen is reduced using techniques similar to those of a tummy tuck. The navel is preserved and repositioned, with the excess skin from the lower abdomen removed and the skin from the upper abdomen drawn down to be stitched along the lower fold. Skin and fat can also be removed and tightened around the thighs, hips and buttocks.
The type of body lift surgery that you have and the amount of skin removed will depend on your individual needs. Your Specialist Plastic Surgeon will advise and guide you within safe limits.
As well as being uncomfortable and heavy, excess skin can cause:
- Difficulty in walking and exercising
- Poor posture
- Aching of the back and shoulders
- Chronic rashes and infections in the folds
- Personal hygiene issues due to the accumulation of sweat and problems with through cleaning of affected areas
- Low or poor self-esteem
A body lift may be effective in assisting with a normal clothing size, easier walking and physical activities, improved hygiene and comfort.
Body lift surgery is a highly individualised procedure and may not be suitable for everyone. Always talk to your Specialist Plastic Surgeon before making a decision. Your surgeon will assess your condition and general health, and plan the treatment that is best suited to you.
Body Lift surgery is not suitable for people who are:
- Not able to have an anaesthetic
- Prone to bleeding tendencies or have poor healing ability
- Too high risk of having surgical complications
Body lift surgery may be a good option for you if:
- You have significant soft tissue looseness in one or multiple body areas
- You are physically healthy and you do not have medical conditions that can impair healing or increase risk of surgery
- You have realistic expectations of what body lift surgery can accomplish
- You are a non-smoker or have stopped smoking
You should be mindful that, even following good healing and good surgical results, visible and prominent scarring can develop. Your surgeon will limit scar length and try to position each scar in the least conspicuous position. Nonetheless, scars may be more noticeable than you anticipated. It is important that you have realistic expectations of the surgery and that you discuss potential outcomes with your surgeon.
Body lift surgery is not intended strictly for the removal of excess fat. Liposuction
alone can remove excess fat deposits where skin has good elasticity and is able to naturally conform to new body contours. In cases where skin elasticity is poor, a combination of liposuction and body lift techniques may be recommended. Talk to your surgeon about your options.
General anaesthesia is required for body lift surgery. Modern anaesthesia is safe and effective, but does have some risks. Ask your Specialist Plastic Surgeon and anaesthetist for more information.
Your surgeon and/or anaesthetist will ask you about all the medications you are taking or have taken, and any allergies you may have. Make sure you have an up to date list before the surgery.
Modern surgery is generally safe but does have the potential for risks and complications to occur. Some general risks of surgery include:
- Heavy bleeding from an operated site. This may require a blood transfusion
- Infection that may require treatment with antibiotics or further surgery in some cases
- Allergic reaction to sutures, dressings or antiseptic solutions
- The formation of a large blood clot (haematoma) beneath an incision site may require further surgery
- Complications such as heart attack, pulmonary embolism or stroke may be caused by a blood clot, which can be life threatening
- Pain, bruising and swelling around the operated site(s)
- Slow healing, often related to smoking or diabetes
- Short-term nausea following general anaesthesia and other risks related to anaesthesia
Specific risks and complications associated with body lift surgery include:
- Visible and prominent scars including keloid and hypertrophic scars. These are raised, red and thickened scars that may form over the healed incisions. They may be itchy, annoying and unsightly but are not a threat to health
- Numbness around operated sites. In most cases this is temporary and will improve over many months
- Areas of skin that do not heal and may require a skin graft
- Difficulty in bending forward due to the tightened skin. Other movements may also feel constrained
- Excess fluid accumulation under the skin (known as a seroma) around an operated site that may require one or more drainage procedures with a needle
- The need for at least one blood transfusion for patients who require the removal of a large amount of skin
- Fat that has a poor blood supply may result in a discharge from the surgical wounds or palpable lumps
Body lifts are usually performed in hospitals and involve a short stay.
Before undergoing surgery, it is important that you:
- Be as fit as possible to help the recovery process
- Reach your optimal weight
- Check with your surgeon about your medications as some may need to be stopped
- Stop smoking
You will also be asked to provide a complete medical history for your Specialist Plastic Surgeon including any health problems you have had, any medication you are taking or have taken, and any allergies you may have.
You may be advised to stop taking certain medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, and medicines that contain aspirin. You may also be asked to stop taking naturopathic substances such as garlic, ginkgo, ginseng and St John’s Wort as they may affect clotting and anaesthesia. Always tell your surgeon EVERYTHING you are taking.
You may be given medicines to take before the surgery, such as antibiotics.
Your surgeon will also advise you if any other tests are required, such as blood tests, X-ray examinations or an Electrocardiograph (ECG) to assess your heart.
Prepare a “recovery area” in your home. This may include pillows, ice packs, a thermometer and a telephone within easy reach. Make sure you arrange for a relative or friend to drive you to and from the hospital or clinic. Someone should also stay with you for at least 24 hours after you return home.
Your surgeon should give detailed preoperative instructions. Follow them carefully.
Most patients stay in hospital for several days. While you are healing, you may experience some pain, bruising, swelling and numbness around the operated site. This is normal. Your Specialist Plastic Surgeon will prescribe pain relief as needed. Nurses and your surgeon will check on you in hospital at regular periods. If you have any problems or concerns, be sure to tell your surgeon.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, notify your surgeon immediately:
- Temperature higher than 38°C or chills
- Nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath or diarrhea
- Bleeding from the incisions
- Pus or fluids weeping from the incisions
- Worsening redness around the incision sites
- Increasing pain or tenderness, or other problems that appear to be worsening
- Calf pain, tenderness or swelling
- Pain or difficulty in breathing
Should any of these complications occur, you may require hospitalization and additional treatment.
Patients are encouraged to get up and walk during the day after surgery. You may be required to wear a compression garment to support the operated site(s). You may also need to wear calf or leg stockings, and have heparin injections. Make sure you wear loose, comfortable clothing that is easy to remove.
Avoid heavy lifting, strenuous exercise, swimming and strenuous sports until advised by your surgeon.
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on post-operative care. These instructions may include:
- How to care for your surgical site(s) following surgery
- Medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the risk of infection
- Specific concerns to look for at the surgical site(s) or in your general health
- When to follow-up with your surgeon
Be sure to ask your surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period, such as:
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery? If so, when will they be removed?
- Are stitches removed? When will they be removed?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
Yes, body lift surgery will result in visible scars. Your surgeon will limit scar length and try to position each scar in the least conspicuous position. Nonetheless, scars may be more noticeable than you anticipated. It is important that you have realistic expectations of the surgery and that you discuss potential outcomes with your surgeon.
Depending on the amount of excess skin, some patients may require one or more additional procedures to attain their desired body shape.
Cost is always a consideration in elective surgery. Prices for individual procedures can vary widely between Specialist Plastic Surgeons. Some factors that may influence the cost include the surgeon’s experience, the type of procedure used and the geographic location of the office. Costs associated with the procedure may include:
- Surgeon’s fee
- Hospital or surgical facility costs
- Anaesthesia fees
- Prescriptions for medication
- Post-surgery garments
- Medical tests
Your surgeon should welcome any questions you may have regarding fees.
- Abdominoplasty: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen
- Circumferential incision: A surgical incision around the body to remove the “belt” of excess skin and fat and additional incisions that may resemble a bikini bottom pattern
- Circumferential thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the outer and mid-thigh
- General anaesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness
- Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin
- Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to achieve relaxation
- Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness
- Local anaesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain
- Lower body lift: Surgical procedure to correct sagging of the abdomen, buttocks, groin and outer thighs
- Macerated skin: Excess skin that hangs and becomes wet or infected underneath
- Medial thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the inner thigh
- Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together
- Tummy tuck: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen
Visit the Plastic Surgery Glossary for more medical terms.