Finding a woman who is happy with her thighs is difficult. Nature and basic female anatomy have given women bulges of fat and tissue on their outer thighs, hips, and buttocks that rarely respond to dieting or even vigorous exercise programs. Liposuction treats these areas very effectively by suctioning out the fat and re-contouring the lower body profile. But for many, liposuction is not enough if there is also an excess of sagging skin and tissue.
For the best results, excess skin and tissue of the thighs, hips, and buttocks can be removed and the area lifted to a higher position. Not only does this produce a trimmer and tighter contour, but it is also the most effective and long-lasting way to improve cellulite caused by skin laxity.
Most women have some degree of cellulite by the time they are 35, even those who are not overweight. As we age, gravity disrupts the tight bonds between skin and its underlying supportive tissues, and fat cells grow into the lower layers of the skin. This process creates the dimpled appearance known as cellulite. In women of normal weight, cellulite can worsen because of skin and tissue laxity. For those bothered by cellulite of the thighs and buttocks, a lift of these areas may be the best solution.
As with most areas of the body, sagging of the thighs and buttocks results from the natural aging process or weight loss. Treating sagging skin and its underlying supportive tissues on the outer and back areas of the thigh typically involves also lifting the skin overlying the buttocks.
Most patients who would benefit from a thigh and buttock lift choose to have a circumferential body lift instead because it also treats the abdomen. However, if you have already had a tummy tuck and no additional re-contouring is needed, a thigh and buttock lift can be performed separately. Other body contouring procedures can be incorporated as well, including an inner thigh lift. If there is a large amount of excess fat to be removed, liposuction also may be needed.
Some patients who have a thigh and buttock lift also have a buttocks enlargement. In some cases, the removal and tightening of skin and tissue can give the buttocks a flat appearance and some loss of projection. To counteract this effect, augmentation of the buttocks can be performed at the same time as the lift.
A thigh and buttock lift is performed under general anesthesia in the hospital and takes about 3 hours. No incision is needed on the outer or back portion of the thigh itself. Instead, the incision is placed across the buttocks, slightly lower than what is called the bikini line. (Visualize where a standard bikini would fit across your bottom.) This incision extends around the sides of the body to about the place where the protrusions of the hip bones can be felt on the sides of the abdomen.
After the incision is made, the skin and underlying tissues (including fat) of the thighs are raised. The skin flap below the incision is pulled upward several inches to lift the outer and posterior thighs and the buttocks into a new position. The skin and tissues above the incision are pulled downward to re-contour and smooth the waist and flank area (roughly that region over the kidneys). The excess skin and fat are trimmed off from the upper and lower flaps, and the underlying tissues are secured in the new position with permanent sutures.
The skin above and below the incision is stitched together and sealed with DermaBond (the medical equivalent of superglue) to keep the wound clean, dry, and secure. Although this sounds straightforward, the art of plastic surgery plays a major role as the surgeon basically sculpts the hips and buttocks into a pleasing contour.
What To Expect After A Thigh and Buttock Lift
Most patients spend at least 1 night in the hospital after a thigh and buttock lift, though the stay may be longer if another body contouring procedure has been performed in the same surgery. A drainage tube on each side will be placed to prevent fluid from collecting beneath the skin flaps that were repositioned during surgery. You will probably also have a urinary catheter at least through the first night after surgery so you don’t have to worry about going to the bathroom.
Because the incision runs across your lower back, you will find it difficult to get comfortable for a few days, but you will receive pain medication in the hospital and to take home with you. Even though you will have pain and some trouble moving, you must start walking the morning after surgery to help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs, which is the most serious potential complication that can occur.
Healing will take some time, and you must avoid bending, straining, lifting, or doing anything that will put stress on your incision for several days. Plastic surgeon Dr. Boswell will give you detailed instructions for what you may and may not do until you have healed.
Incision stitches are usually removed within 7 to 14 days, depending on how you heal, though the majority of sutures are beneath the skin and do not have to be removed. You should be able to return to work and light, normal activities within 2 or 3 weeks, as long as you do not engage in heavy lifting or vigorous exercise.
Even though you will be swollen and bruised for several weeks, your new thigh and buttock contour will be immediately apparent. However, the final result may take several months to emerge completely as the swelling gradually subsides and your skin and tissues settle into their new positions. You will likely have some numbness in areas of your skin, which will also feel unusually firm, but this will diminish over time. It may take a year or more for your scar to fade and refine, though it will never be invisible.
Length Of Surgery
Inpatient, with a 1-night hospital stay, or longer if other body contouring procedures are also performed.
Temporary pain and discomfort. Difficulty moving for several days. Temporary swelling, soreness, bruising, and numbness of skin. Tiredness for several weeks.
Blood clots. Infection. Bleeding under the skin flaps. Poor wound healing resulting in a conspicuous scar or skin loss.
Back to work: 2 to 4 weeks.
More strenuous activity: 4 to 6 weeks or more.
Fading and flattening of scars: 6 to 18 months.
Duration of Results
Considered permanent, unless weight gain or pregnancy occurs. Some skin and muscle tone is lost with aging.