Steve Fallek (Plastic Surgeon & Medical Director, Face Focus Medical Spa, New York City) gives expert video advice on: Why would I need a body lift?; Is a body lift painful?; What should I expect after a body lift surgery? and more...
What is a "body lift" procedure?
One of the areas that has really become very popular in plastic surgery is the body lift. What's happened is that with the advent of gastric bypass or stomach stapling surgery, patients who were obese or morbidly obese lost significant amounts of weight. What they determined and what they discovered was that is was a double edged sword. They had lost all this weight, but now they had all this extra skin hanging down from them. Plastic surgeons have really picked up the gauntlet by removing as much of that skin as possible. When we talk about a total body lift, it's really an extension of a tummy tuck or an abdominoplasty, which removed excess skin and fat from the belly area. That's in combination with a thigh lift, both on the medial and lateral aspects, and extending that incision to the buttock area. It's also what we call a total body or circumferential body lift, where all of that extra skin and fat is removed from the body.
Why would I need a body lift?
Patients who come to a plastic surgeon for a body lift are usually patients who have lost anywhere from 50 pounds upwards. Their usual complaints are now that they've lost all of this fat, they have extra skin hanging down from their body. These are the patients who are appropriate and excellent candidates for a body lift.
Who should not get a body lift?
Patients that have lost extreme amounts of weight are excellent candidates for body lift procedures. If the patients are still losing weight, and losing significant amounts of weight, then it's probably a good idea to hold off on a body lift until a patient has plateaued, or has stopped losing weight. Other patients that probably shouldn't get a body lift are patients that don't have extra skin and just have extra fat, where liposuction may be a better alternative.
What are the risks and complications associated with a body lift surgery?
Patients who have lost significant amounts of weight and have all this extra skin are at higher risk for complications than other patients, specifically because the skin is being pulled and pushed in a variety of different directions, and the blood supply is not what it used to be. These patients really are at an increased risk for wound dehiscence, where the wound opens up, and potentially skin loss. Most of these are treated conservatively, but these body lift patients are at risk for incisional problems. They're also at risk for hematoma, a collection of blood and a seroma collection of fluid in the body. You really need to be careful with these body lift procedures and make sure you're going to a plastic surgeon who has experience with body lift procedures.
Is a body lift painful?
Yes and no. The body certainly looks much better once you've got the skin and fat removed after a body lift, and a body lift is a big amount of surgery. I mean we are talking a couple of hours worth of surgery for a body lift. The incision sites themselves aren't very painful because we are talking skin and fat, but there are a variety of incisions and a body lift is a big procedure. So, the body lift is on the more painful side.
What incisions or scarring should I expect with a body lift procedure?
The usual incision with a circumferential or a total body lift extends all around your body, from the area of your belly button down in the bikini or underwear crease, and will extend to both of your hips, around towards your backside. You'll have one entire incision site for a body lift. If your doctor's also doing a thigh lift, you may have incisions in your groin area. If a breast reduction or breast lift is being done, you could have incisions there too. For patients that have lost a significant amount of weight, I worry less about the incisions than about how much skin needs to be removed and how good you look in clothes. I'm never too concerned about the body lift scars in a patient that's lost a significant amount of weight.
What should I expect after a body lift surgery?
A body lift is a procedure where patients are extremely happy because this extra skin that has been torturing them is removed. When they wake up from surgery, all this skin is gone. They're usually in a dressing, and potentially in a garment. The other issue with body lift patients is most likely there'll be some drains, which are little bulbs which will drain the areas where the total body lift was. It's important that you follow up with your doctor closely, because patients that have had circumferential or total body lifts are at risk for complications such as skin loss or skin dehiscence, where the wound opens up. You need to keep a close eye and close contact with your doctor.
Will I have to take time off from work after getting a body lift?
Most definitely. It's important that you recover at home after a body lift, take it easy. You've got extensive incisions on your body, more likely than not you'll have some drains after a body lift. So the recovery time for the body lift procedure, because it's about six or seven hours, is extensive and you need to recover at home and take it easy before you go to work. Time frame I would say anywhere from one to two weeks before returning to work after a body lift.
What are the costs associated with a body lift?
A body lift may or may not be covered by your insurance carrier so it's important that you discuss this both with your insurance carrier and with your plastic surgeon before embarking on a total body lift. If the insurance pays for it, great. It's a very gray area and it's very dependent; you may end up having to wait a couple of months or years before the insurance company really determine whether or not they pay for this. In some respect, you need to be patient. If the insurance doesn't cover a body lift you're looking anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000, up to $25,000. to $30,000.