Body Lift: The Final Frontier in Figure Shaping
If you have been the unfortunate victim of unkind genetics and have an abundance of loose skin of the abdomen or thighs, or have lost a great deal of weight that has left a slimmer, but looser body, then body lift just might be the procedure for you. Profiled on ABC News 20/20, the body lift procedure is designed to help people who have sagging of the inner thighs, the buttocks, and the outer (or lateral) portion of the thigh. Dr. Jason Pozner, a Boca Raton, Florida board certified plastic surgeon, performs this procedure frequently, and with great success.
As he explains, "There are some people who have sagging due to age, as well as an abundance of loose cellulite in the outer part of the thigh and buttocks, causing the buttocks to hang below the fold." Many people think they need a body lift when they pull up on their thighs and see that a better shape results. Some of these people can best be served with liposuction because of their good skin tone. Dr. Pozner adds that, "in patients who have poor skin tone, where little transverse creases are evident across the skin, (along with laxity) then the ideal operation is a lift."
One of the most common complaints with people who have lost a significant amount of weight is that they weigh less and look slimmer overall, but because of skin stretching (with weight gain) and shrinking with weight loss, unattractive laxity often results. Many times, the problem is too severe to be combated by an exercise regimen. Dr. Pozner states that, "After weight loss, body lift is the most indicated procedure for patients as it will remove the redundant skin, and is the only procedure that can give them a pleasing aesthetic look."
The body lift procedure is always performed in tandem with liposuction. As Dr. Pozner explains, "There are really three body lifts. There is the tummy tuck (or abdominoplasty), which has been around for years and is very popular. The inner thigh lift, which lifts literally from the inner thigh all the way down to the front of the knee; and finally, the lateral thigh and buttock lift, which is designed to lift the front and lateral thigh and buttocks." In patients who have had significant weight loss, surgeons try to have patients do the procedures together as a total body lift, as this can accomplish more than the individual procedures. Dr. Pozner likens this to taking in a size 44 jacket on a person who wears a size 40; if you only do the sleeves the jacket still does not fit.
What does the procedure entail surgically? "It is a facelift for the body," says Dr. Pozner. "A facelift does not remove wrinkles in the skin, but instead, lifts the fat and skin that has sagged. With the body lift procedure, a large portion of the excess skin is removed and then the hanging skin is elevated and tacked much higher, thus removing the wrinkles and tightening the skin." So how does the skin remain tacked? The body lift does not lift and tighten by actually lifting the skin. There are a series of fibers underneath the skin in the fat called the Superficial Facial System(SFS), and the SFS is very strong. The excess skin and fat is removed, then the excess fat is undermined, lifted off the muscle, and further lifted and elevated. Stitches are placed in several layers of the SFS from below and attached to the SFS above. This acts as a scaffolding, or foundation, beneath the skin that holds the fat and skin onto the body. When that is tacked up the tissues stay in position. The good news for patients is that it is designed so that the incisions are completely hidden in all natural skin creases and are not visible in a bathing suit.
The body lift procedure has been used in a far less advanced form since the 1930s. This modern day procedure has been in use since 1989.
The concept behind body lift is to first use liposuction to contour the underlying fat, smooth it out, and then lift the looseness around it. If a patient is having the entire body lift done, he/she wears a body girdle post operatively for about two weeks. What does recovery entail? Dr. Pozner states that, "Lateral thigh and buttock lift hurts much less than an abdominoplasty because the muscle is not being tightened. The abdominoplasty hurts mostly because the underlying muscle has been tightened. The inner thigh lift hurts quite a bit because the incisions are located where a patient is sitting. There is not significant bleeding following body lift." Dr. Pozner places permanent sutures underneath the skin. With body lift, the scars tended to be wider than with an abdominoplasty. Dr. Pozner found that by putting permanent sutures in the skin the scar does not spread; and this discovery is a key component to a good aesthetic result.
Who is not a candidate? Dr. Pozner explains that, "a young person who has what they view as a little bit of looseness in the skin'' would be adequately treated by liposuction. An ideal candidate is a person who can lift up on their thigh and see a significant improvement in the shape and contour. It is also good for someone at a stable weight for which the lifting procedure will show benefit. It is not a quick fix procedure for an obese person. " Whereas liposuction produces a significant drop in clothing size, body lift generally does not. The patient is usually at his/her final size and just looking to tighten skin."
For those people who have shunned bathing suits even after weight loss, plastic surgery now offers a technique with a decade of proven efficacy to tighten loose skin and make almost every body bathing suit ready.