Body Lift Surgery: Everything You Need to Know

With the rise of bariatric surgery and extreme weight loss, body lift surgery is becoming more frequent. Body lift surgery addresses loose, hanging skin caused by massive weight loss, pregnancy, age, and sun damage.

The procedure raises, firms, and tightens the skin of the thighs, buttocks, hips (flanks), groin, waist, and abdomen. Also known as a lower body lift or belt lipectomy—so named because the incisions encircle the body like a belt, excess skin is removed and the surrounding tissue repositioned to create a more natural body contour.

This article will detail what a body lift consists of, its risks and benefits, what you can expect on the day of the surgery, recovery, and other things you should know about the procedure.

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What Is a Body Lift?

Body lifts are usually performed on those with large amounts of loose, hanging skin in multiple areas on the trunk and legs. Its goal is to return the body to a more normal appearance after loss of skin elasticity due to extreme weight loss or age-related changes.

After an individual is prepped and anesthetized, a common surgical technique is to use incisions like a bikini pattern to tighten areas like the abdomen, waist, groin, thigh, and buttocks. Incisions around the entire body allow the surgeon to remove an "apron" of extra skin and fat.

This allows the surgeon to then reposition and tighten tissues and skin.

What can a body lift NOT do?

What a body lift cannot do is remove significant fat deposits. Your weight should be stabilized at or near your ideal weight before this surgery. If you have small local fat deposits but poor skin elasticity, your surgeon may recommend a combination of liposuction and body lift surgery.

Complementary Procedures

Body lift surgery can be paired with other surgeries to enhance the patient’s results. Common complementary procedures include:

These additional procedures are usually performed three to six months after the body lift.

Candidacy

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons defines characteristics that make patients good candidates for a body lift and explains why some patients are not good candidates for the procedure.

The best candidates for a body lift are non-smokers who are in generally good health and maintain a stable weight through a commitment to a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is also important for the patient to have a positive outlook and realistic expectations about the outcome.

Women considering pregnancy should hold off on having a body lift, as subsequent pregnancy may significantly compromise results in the abdominal area.

Risks and Complications

As with any invasive or surgical procedures, body lifts have risks and possible complications, which include:

  • Unfavorable scarring and/or skin discoloration
  • Excessive bleeding or hematoma
  • Skin or fat necrosis (tissue death)
  • Poor wound healing or wound separation
  • Blood clots
  • Anesthesia risks
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Cardiac and pulmonary complications
  • Persistent edema (swelling) or fluid accumulation
  • Persistent pain
  • Temporary or permanent change/loss of skin sensation
  • Unsatisfactory aesthetic results requiring additional surgery
  • Recurrent looseness or sagging of skin

Call your surgeon immediately if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, unusual heartbeats, or excessive bleeding.

Costs

As cosmetic surgery goes, a body lift is major surgery, and the cost reflects as much. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2020 report, the average cost of a lower body lift was $8,433.

The complexity of the procedure, your surgeon’s skills, qualifications, and reputation, the geographical area (the northeastern and western U.S. costs tend to be higher), as well as any fees—surgeon’s, anesthesia, facility, lab, and medications—contribute to the final costs.

What to Expect the Day of Surgery

Knowing what you can expect the day of the surgery can help reduce nerves and help you prepare. If you have any questions, your healthcare provider can provide specifics for you.

Before the Surgery

During your initial consultation, be prepared to discuss whether a body lift is the right treatment for you. Your surgeon will not just evaluate your general health, but also examine and measure your body and take photos of your body. The two of you will also discuss the outcomes of the body lift and the complications. You will want to have a list of questions ready for your surgeon.

Just before your procedure, your surgeon will usually order pre-op lab tests to confirm your health status. They may also require that you adjust, cease, or begin taking certain medications in the week or two before your surgery, including avoiding aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, and herbal supplements, for two weeks before surgery. If you smoke, you will almost certainly be required by your surgeon to stop well in advance of surgery.

Make sure to make arrangements for transportation to and from the medical facility and have someone with you for at least 24 hours after you return home.

During the Surgery

On the day of your procedure, have someone drive you to the facility. There, your surgeon may take more pre-op photos and possibly mark areas on your body while you are standing.

Then, you're prepped for surgery. Medications are given for your comfort during the surgical procedure. Often, general anesthesia is given, so that you will be asleep throughout the procedure. However, a body lift may also be performed using a combination of local anesthesia and intravenous sedation. Your surgeon will recommend the best choice for you.

Incisions are made. Body lift incision patterns vary depending on the amount and location of excess skin and fat. You and your surgeon will determine beforehand which incision technique will work best for your needs. In general, though, a body lift incision will encircle your body much like a low-slung belt.

Excess skin is removed and repositioned. The remaining skin is then pulled to its new position. Underlying abdominal muscles may also be tightened as in a tummy tuck. In addition, the belly button may need to be repositioned.

Incisions are closed with sutures and are usually given additional support with surgical tape and skin adhesive (tissue glue). Dressings or bandages are applied to the incisions, and small tubes may temporarily be placed under the skin to help drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.

Recovery and Downtime

After surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area where you will be monitored by surgical staff. Although body lifts may in some cases be performed on an outpatient basis, many require an overnight hospital stay. At the very least, you will be required to have someone stay with you for the first 24 hours.

Recovery time can vary depending on your procedure. Some sources suggest that you will need four to six weeks of recovery time before returning to normal activities, and you should wait six to eight weeks before exercising. Be sure to discuss the length of time you will need to limit activity with your surgeon in order to make preparations. It is important that your incisions are not subjected to excessive force, abrasion, or motion during this time.

As with all surgery, it is important to understand that these guidelines can vary widely based on the patient’s personal health, the techniques used, and other variable factors surrounding the surgery. Any severe pain should be reported to your healthcare provider.

Seeing Your Results

Most swelling should subside within the first four to six weeks, although your final result may not be fully realized until up to two years. Your body contours should be permanently improved provided you do not lose or gain a significant amount of weight. However, age and gravity will eventually cause some loss of firmness.

Your scar will extend around the entire circumference of your body. Your surgeon will strive to place the scar as inconspicuously as possible so that it will be hidden when wearing your chosen style of bathing suit. Scars will improve over time, flattening and fading for up to two years.

Summary

A body lift is a surgical procedure used when people have large amounts of fat and skin leftover after losing large amounts of weight. It is not used as a weight loss technique. There are risks and complications with the surgery, as with any procedure, so it's important to talk with your healthcare provider about whether this is an appropriate surgery for you.

A Word From Verywell

If you're losing large amounts of weight or have lost a significant amount of weight and are dismayed by the hanging skin and tissue, you might be thinking about a body lift. It should only be done, however, if you're near your goal weight. This can be frustrating and lead to more self-consciousness, but it's for your health.

If you're having trouble emotionally dealing with the excess skin and tissue, talk with your provider about a support group for people dealing with weight loss surgery or pre-body lift. Being around or talking with others who know what it's like to deal with this can provide a sense of community and support that might be helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is a body lift the same as a tummy tuck?

    No, the tummy tuck is a procedure specifically designed for the abdomen to remove extra fat. A body lift is to get rid of excess skin around the lower body.

  • How do you sleep after a lower body lift?

    Talk with your surgical team, but generally people sleep with both the upper body and legs slightly elevated, to avoid any tugging on incisions anywhere. A recliner might be good for this. Your surgeon can provide you with more information, depending on your particular situation.

  • How long does a body lift last?

    If you commit to a healthy diet and lifestyle, with general fitness, the results are long-lasting. There will be normal sagging as you age, of course, but nothing significant like before.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What are the steps of a body lift procedure?

  2. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Who is a good candidate for body lift surgery?

  3. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2020 national plastic surgery statistics.

Originally written by Natalie Kita