What is a body lift?

Drawing of before and after of body lift (belt lipectomy) patient.A body lift (or, belt lipectomy) is an extensive body contouring procedure designed to circumferentially eliminate large areas of fat and skin around the abdomen. It is intended mostly for individuals who have loose fat and skin after dramatic weight loss. Whether you recently underwent weight loss surgery (for example, gastric bypass or lap banding) or dropped the weight using old fashioned diet and exercise, there may be areas around your midsection that will not return to a normal contour or skin texture. Sometimes, this excess extends around your lower back. A standard tummy tuck will not address these areas and will likely leave contour problems along your sides. In these cases, a body lift will eliminate the loose tissues around the lower back in addition to accomplishing the same goals as a tummy tuck in front. 

For the properly chosen patient, a body lift is lifechanging! Not only does it work well for restoring an hourglass shape to the midsection, but patients frequently report improved exercise tolerance, energy level, mood, and self-esteem.


How is a body lift performed?

A body lift (or, belt lipectomy) is performed after a thorough preoperative evaluation by Dr. Panossian. Not all patients who have experienced massive weight loss will be candidates for the procedure.  Therefore, the consultation and preoperative photographs are essential for proper planning. Prior to surgery, skin markings are placed circumferentially around Drawing of body lift (belt lipectomy) incisions on the back of woman.your lower back and abdomen in the standing position. In front, these are partially similar to markings of a tummy tuck. Along the back, a pattern of skin above the buttocks is marked out as well.

Surgery is started on your side or back to complete half of the body lift, followed by changing positions to complete the other half. In front, the abdomen is addressed with a standard tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) with or without liposuction. The stretched out abdominal muscles are also tightened. The tummy tuck incision then extends around the back where the marked tissue is removed and the incision closed. The end result is a scar that extends around the lower midsection in a belt-like fashion. In some instances, a body lift may be combined with other procedures such as breast lift or augmentation with mastopexy.


What is the recovery?

Depend ending upon the extent of loose skin, a body lift may take between 6 and 8 hours to complete. It requires at least a one or two day stay in an aftercare facility. Long-acting local anesthesia is used in combination with general anesthesia to limit pain substantially in the postoperative period. You should have a friend or relative assist you in the first 1 to 2 weeks when you go home. Your initial dressings will include gauze and a support garment. Any external stitches will be removed during the first visit. Drains placed during surgery will be removed in 1 to 2 weeks. A support garment will need to be worn around the clock for the next 4 to 6 weeks.

Bruising and swelling may occur for the first one to two weeks following surgery. As with other body contouring procedures, you should plan on staying home for the first week or two, with very limited activities including light walking, reading, and watching television. Driving should be avoided during this time, as well as heavy lifting.

In 2 weeks, you may begin to gently increase your activity including more extensive walking, but avoid aggressive exercise or weight lifting. Running and other high impact activities are strictly avoided for 6 weeks.

There may be some diminished sensation along the lower abdomen near the incisions. This usually improves over the next several weeks as swelling goes away. Occasionally, the decreased sensation may be permanent.


What are the risks and complications?

A body lift (or, belt lipectomy) is a long and complex procedure that requires close attention to contours and symmetry. Basic risks include sensitivity or reaction to anesthesia, bleeding, or infection. A small hematoma may be drained in the office with a local anesthetic. However, a large one may require surgical drainage under anesthesia or sedation. An infection may require oral antibiotics and possibly surgical drainage, if it occurs. In more severe cases, a bad infection may require intravenous antibiotics and a brief hospitalization. 

Proper nutrition is vital for healing large incisions. This is especially true of patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery or rapid weight loss. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to slow wound healing or partial breakdown of the incision. These problems are treated most often with local wound care at home, but can be a big nuisance until the wounds close.

Scars are commonplace for any surgical procedure. In a body lift, the scars are extensive. They can be raised (such as a keloid or thick scar) or can stretch or widen over time. Dr. Panossian’s technique for scar management is unique and has provided fantastic results time and again. 

Slight asymmetry is always a risk in plastic surgery. After a mommy makeover, there may be subtle differences between the breasts in terms of scarring, shape, or decreased sensation. Once again, these are relatively rare occurrences in experienced hands. 

In rare cases, a clot in the legs can form, causing swelling and pain in the calves. This is called a “deep venous thrombosis” or DVT. If this does occur, it is considered an emergency and must be evaluated quickly in an emergency room. Dr. Panossian uses specialized boots during surgery and encourages early walking after surgery to reduce this risk substantially.

Dr. Panossian has vast experience in minimal-scar plastic surgery and body contouring. His consultations are thorough and extensive, taking over one hour in many cases. His staff is also available at all times to answer your questions and address problems, should they arise.  Call today for a consultation.


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