Overview: What is a Thigh Lift Surgery?
A thigh lift is a surgical procedure that reshapes the inner and outer thighs by removing excess skin and fat from the upper leg. This provides a smoother, shapelier contour for the lower body and accentuates muscle definition, creates smooth skin, and a more youthful thigh shape. In addition to removing excess skin due to weight loss or age, and reducing the bumpy appearance of cellulite, a thigh lift can also reduce the appearance of stretch marks, which often accompany the above concerns. It is not uncommon to combine a thigh lift surgery with another procedure or cosmetic surgery. Some popular procedures to combine with a thigh lift include an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) or butt lift. This combination is sometimes called a lower body lift or 360-body lift. Some prefer to combine thigh lifts with other body contouring procedures such as a breast augmentation, a breast lift, or other procedures that are specifically designed for the removal of excess or loose skin caused by a loss of skin elasticity or significant weight loss.
Thigh lift surgeries, like most surgical or cosmetic procedures, are customized to your individual needs as the patient. Each technique requires you to be put under general anesthesia, and the incision patterns include the following techniques:
Thigh lifts are often done using a technique that initializes the incision in the groin and extends the incision downward where it wraps around the back of the thigh, or through a technique that places the incision along the inseam, from the groin to the knee before removing excess skin in the area.
Depending on the anatomy of the patient, a minimal incision inner thigh lift may only be needed. This would allow for a more discreet incision in the groin area. For patients who desire more outer thigh definition, an incision that begins in the groin and extends around the hip and onto the back may be more efficacious.
If you have excess fat in your hip and thigh area, you may be a good candidate for receiving liposuction before skin removal to improve your contours once your skin is repositioned. Your plastic surgeon will also remove redundant and sagging skin before placing deep sutures. Sutures will be embedded into the underlying tissues. This placement encourages the formation and support of the newly shaped contours. Once the deep sutures are in place, your surgeon will use additional sutures and skin adhesive tapes to close the skin incisions before wrapping the thighs in compression garments.
Candidates for Thigh Surgery
If you dislike your thighs due to the way sagging, aging skin, cellulite, or excess fatty tissues make smooth, shapely legs impossible, you might be a great thigh lift candidate. To have the procedure done, though, you will need to be in good general health and at a relatively stable weight. Evaluate your medical history and consider the number of fat deposits and loose skin you have on your thighs.
Good candidates will have excess soft tissue along the inner or outer thigh area as well. Sometimes this happens after extreme weight loss such as post-bariatric patients who have lost a massive amount of weight after their bariatric surgery. Excessive skin laxity in the thigh area is a problem for those who have lost a considerable amount of weight and removing the remaining loose skin in the upper leg can have a positive impact on the appearance of the thighs.
A thigh lift procedure is not recommended for those with an unstable weight as fluctuations can interfere with the success of your immediate and long term results.
Pros and Cons of Thigh Lift Surgery
When deciding to have plastic surgery, it is important to weigh the possible benefits and negative outcomes of the procedure. Schedule a consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon to evaluate your condition and to better understand how a thigh lift surgery could affect your everyday life. In general, though, the pros of having a thigh lift surgery include immediate results as well as improved skin quality, appearance, and feel. The cons of thigh lift surgery include scarring, asymmetry, and possible additional surgeries to address any complications.
What are the Side Effects?
Aside from expected bruising, swelling, and tenderness after surgery, the side effects of a thigh lift might include poor wound healing, seroma, wound separation, asymmetry, persistent pain, skin discoloration, and unfavorable scarring. However, by adhering to your provider’s pre- and post-operative instructions, these side effects can be better avoided.
Serious side effects to know about before surgery include deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications, fat necrosis, recurrent looseness of the skin, skin loss, and possible revision surgery.
What Should I Expect for Before & Aftercare?
Thigh lift surgery is an invasive surgery that requires your cooperation before and after surgery to obtain the best procedure results. You will want to be in good health and maintain a consistent, healthy weight leading up to surgery. This protects you from associated complications with the surgery, anesthesia, or recovery. You will also want to stop taking blood-thinning medications 4 weeks before surgery as they can comprise your procedure and results. These include Aspirin®, Heparin, Warfarin, and Enoxaparin Sodium. You may want to take a look at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website for additional resources about blood thinning medications and what situations or other medications may impact or be impacted by them. For example, anesthesia is impacted by blood thinners, contraindicating their use before surgery.
Smokers should quit at least 4 weeks before and after surgery to prevent blood vessel constriction leading to complications with surgery and recovery. Also, begin taking stool softeners 2 days before surgery and remember that you are not able to eat or drink for 8 hours before your thigh lift.
Your recovery will take an average of 5 weeks. Patients will be advised to refrain from exercise for 6-8 weeks, although light exercise can begin after 2-3 weeks. You can also return to work at the 2-3 week mark. Compression garments will need to be worn until 4 weeks post-surgery, and you will need to refrain from sitting on your incisions for 2-3 weeks. Be careful not to completely submerge your incisions during your recovery time, but begin showering 2 days after surgery.
Although risks are associated with thigh surgery, it can also be a very rewarding procedure to give your thighs a better contour and a more pleasing appearance. Be realistic in your expectations, understanding that individual results may vary and a thigh lift might not meet every goal you have in mind for your upper leg area. Overall, the benefits of a thigh lift can give you a boost of self-confidence in the way your legs look in shorts or a bathing suit. Speak with a plastic surgeon once you have decided you would like more information in pursuing a thigh lift. They will be able to assess your unique needs and guide you into selecting the best combinations, methods, and options to fit your goals.