All plastic surgery procedures called “lifts” basically reposition and tighten skin and underlying tissue to the location where it used to be when we were younger. Lifts reverse what gravity and time have done, so a facelift or a breast lift produces a younger-looking contour. A body lift is no different.
Sometimes, more than one part of the body has irregular contours, excess fat, and loose, sagging skin. The solution may be a full lower body lift that re-contours multiple body regions at once. This becomes an option if there is loose skin and tissue that liposuction alone cannot treat, or an abdominoplasty will not meet a patient’s goals because it cannot correct the contour of the buttocks, hips, flanks, and thighs.
A circumferential body lift basically combines several procedures to treat the complete circumference of the body-front, back, and sides. It is also called a lower body lift because it has the greatest impact on the contour of the abdomen, waist, hips, buttocks, and thighs. A circumferential body lift produces a firmer, more youthful-looking contour by addressing many areas at once:
- The abdomen, lower back area, and flanks
- The buttocks, which may be sagging, flat or unevenly shaped
- The front, back, and outer thighs
A full body lift is a lengthy procedure but it can produce remarkable body contouring results. St Louis plastic surgeon Dr. CB Boswell is nationally recognized as a leader in this type of body lift and has developed innovative body contouring techniques to achieve excellent results for his St Louis body lift patients.
In a circumferential body lift, excess fat and sagging skin are removed and the remaining tissue is repositioned. Although sometimes performed in combination with liposuction, a body lift differs from liposuction because it tightens and lifts the skin and underlying tissue. For some patients, a body lift is needed after large-volume liposuction to remove (excise) loose skin that no longer has the elasticity to retract and re-form to the post-liposuction contour. A body lift also improves a dimpled, irregular skin surface, commonly known as cellulite, by tightening the skin.
Body lift surgery may be appropriate for people who have "loose" tissue in multiple body areas but are of stable weight that is reasonably proportionate to their height and body frame. It is also the best option for massive weight loss patients who have large excesses of loose, sagging skin.
A lower body lift can be performed on any healthy adult who has realistic expectations and is willing to accept the fact that a scar will extend around the body circumference. Even though this is a large scar, it is acceptable to most patients because its location is hidden by clothing, even most bathing suits.
Some patients receive sufficient benefit from a less than circumferential body lift, in which the abdominoplasty component of the surgery is continued around the flanks but not across the whole width of the lower back. Other patients desire that the lifting effect be extended to their hips, buttocks, and thighs. The posterior portion of a circumferential body lift, called a thigh and buttock lift, is the most effective and long-lasting way to improve cellulite caused by skin laxity.
Your surgeon will explain all the options and help you decide how much "lifting" will best meet your body contouring goals. Because the extent of a body lift depends on each patient’s anatomy and preferences, no two body lifts are exactly alike.
The greatest advantage of a circumferential body lift is that multiple areas are re-contoured in a single surgery, though this surgery is lengthy and recovery is not quick. It is appropriate for people who have lost a lot of weight, those who have suffered sun damage that contributes to premature aging and sagging of the skin, and people showing signs of the natural aging process or results of pregnancy, which cause skin and tissue to lose its tone and elasticity over time.
Other body contouring procedures may be performed separately or in the same surgical session as a body lift, such as liposuction, a breast lift, male or female breast reduction, brachioplasty (arm lift) or inner thigh lift. Not all patients are good candidates for combined procedures and safety may dictate that liposuction or re-contouring lifts in areas other than the lower body be staged, or performed in a separate surgery. Your surgeon will explain your options based on your general health, medical history, and lifestyle.
A circumferential body lift takes between 3 to 5 hours. If additional procedures are performed in the same surgery, the operative time will increase. For example, a breast lift or breast reduction will add approximately another 1-1/2 to 3 hours to the time of a lower body lift.
Body lifts are performed in the hospital under general anesthesia, and patients are admitted to spend 2 to 3 days in the hospital, depending on the extent of the surgery, a patient’s health status, the need for pain medication, and the amount of assistance a patient needs for moving around.
In a complete lower body lift, the front, back, and sides of the body are re-contoured. On the front, the incision is made just above the pubic bone and extended toward the back in a curved fashion below the protrusions of the hip bones. The skin and tissue above and below the incision are elevated (raised) as tissue flaps, which are pulled downward or upward into a new position. The excess skin and fat of the flaps are then excised. The deeper tissues that have been elevated and repositioned are tacked down to provide support and prevent them from moving.
If the skin around the navel has been removed, a new navel is created in a procedure called an umbilicoplasty. The skin and underlying tissues around the navel and above the waist are pulled downward to contour the waist and upper part of the tummy. When the skin and tissues below the incision are pulled upward, the front of the thighs and sagging in the groin area are "lifted."
To treat the back, the incision is carried around the hips and across the back and buttocks below the waist. This incision is placed slightly lower than what is called the bikini line. When the skin flaps are raised, the tissue above the incision is pulled downward to re-contour and smooth the waist and flank area (roughly that region over the kidneys). The skin and tissue below the incision are pulled upward to lift the outer and posterior thighs and the buttocks into a new position. The excess skin is trimmed off from the upper and lower flaps, and the underlying tissues are secured in the new position.
The skin above and below the incision in front and in back is stitched together and sealed with DermaBond (the medical equivalent of superglue) to keep the wound clean, dry, and secure.
View results from previous patients by visiting our bodylift before and after photo gallery.
What To Expect After A Circumferential Body Lift
Body lift patients usually have 4 drainage tubes that exit in the pubic area to prevent fluid from collecting beneath the skin flaps that were repositioned during surgery. You will also probably have a urinary catheter at least through the first night after surgery so you don’t have to worry about going to the bathroom. In addition, you will receive fluids through an IV tube in your arm. This means you will have more tubes coming out of your body than you’ve probably ever had before, but they are there to make you more comfortable and prevent complications–and they won’t remain for long.
With an incision that encircles your lower torso, you will find it difficult to get comfortable for a few days, and you will be unable to stand up straight. You will receive pain medication in the hospital and to take home with you. Even though you will be in pain and have trouble moving, you must get out of bed and walk, starting the morning after surgery, to help prevent blood clots from forming in the legs, which is the most serious potential complication that can occur after a full body lift.
Such a large incision will take some time to heal. Bending, straining, lifting, standing fully upright, or doing anything that will put stress on the incision must be avoided for several days. Basically, you need to protect the internal sutures that are supporting your new contour as well as the incision you can see. Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions for what you may and may not do until you have healed.
Incision stitches are usually removed in 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 for a few months and bruised for a few weeks, your new body 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.
Even though a circumferential body lift is a lengthy surgery and the first few weeks may be difficult and uncomfortable, patients who have this surgery are extremely satisfied with the final results. Their new smoother, smaller, and lifted body contour makes a remarkable difference in how patients feel about themselves, activities they can engage in, and clothing they can wear.
Length Of Surgery
3 to 5 hours
Inpatient, with a hospital stay ranging from 2 to 3 days or longer if other body contouring procedures are also performed.
Temporary pain and discomfort. Difficulty moving for several days. Swelling, soreness, bruising, and numbness of skin. Tiredness for several weeks.
Blood clots. Infection. Bleeding under the skin flaps. Poor wound healing resulting in conspicuous scars 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.