Brazilian Butt Lift Surgery: Overview

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A Brazilian butt lift (BBL) is a type of gluteoplasty—a cosmetic surgery performed to enhance the appearance of the buttocks. It involves transferring fat from an area such as the hips or midsection to the buttocks to make it fuller and rounder. Despite its name, this procedure will not "lift" loose, sagging skin on the buttocks.

Many considering undergoing a butt augmentation procedure turn to a Brazilian butt lift because the end result tends to look more natural than other options (butt implants or injections). There is also a lower risk of infection due to the use of your own fat vs. a manmade material.

Woman holding her buttocks

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What Is a Brazilian Butt Lift?

A Brazilian butt lift is an elective plastic surgery done for cosmetic reasons. It is done on an outpatient basis in a surgical center by a plastic surgeon.

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia (you are unconscious) or local anesthesia (you are numbed from the waist down and put into a light sleep).

Liposuction is performed to remove excess fat from the abdomen, the sides of the midsection, thigh, or lower back. The collected fat is then processed and injected back into specific parts of the buttocks to enhance its size and shape. There are no implants involved in this surgical procedure.

As a cosmetic surgery, Brazilian butt lift is not covered by insurance. The average total cost of a BBL ranges from $4,000 to $15,000 and includes your surgeon’s fee, anesthesia fees, facility fees, lab fees, and medications.

Various Surgical Techniques

Due to the increasing number of BBL surgeries performed every year and the risk of a rare but very serious complication called a pulmonary fat embolism—when injected fat entering the buttock (gluteal) veins travels to the lungs—plastic surgeons are constantly evaluating their surgical techniques.

BBL techniques may vary in fat processing, location of buttock incision sites, and how and where the fat is injected: either subcutaneously (under the skin) or intramuscularly (into muscle).

To minimize the risk for a pulmonary fat embolism, professional societies like the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF) have devised a set of recommendations for performing a BBL.

Some of these recommendations include:

  • Avoid injecting into the deep muscle.
  • Use a single-hole injection cannula (a thin tube holding the fat) measuring ≥4.1 millimeters in diameter.
  • Avoid downward angulation of the cannula when injecting the fat into the buttocks.
  • Only inject when the cannula is in motion.

Contraindications

Contraindications to a Brazilian butt lift surgery include:

  • Lack of excess fat that can be harvested
  • Poor or compromising health status
  • Unrealistic expectations

Potential Risks

Besides the known risks of anesthesia and the general risks of all surgeries (e.g., bleeding and infection), specific risks associated with a Brazilian butt lift include:

  • Seroma (fluid collection beneath the skin)
  • Undercorrection (too little fat is harvested or injected into the buttocks)
  • Fat necrosis (death of fat resulting in small, firm lumps beneath the skin)
  • Scarring
  • Sciatic nerve injury
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

Pulmonary fat embolism is the most deadly complication of BBL surgery. Reports suggest the mortality rate due to this complication may be as high as 1 in 3,000.

Purpose of Brazilian Butt Lift Surgery

Shapelessness of the buttocks may occur from poor tissue elasticity as a result of aging, pregnancy, and weight fluctuations. Genetic factors also play a role. A Brazilian butt lift can alter the contour of the buttocks to address this, if desired.

With a fuller, rounder buttocks from a Brazilian butt lift, you may:

  • Have a curvier figure; notice that your clothes fit better
  • See an improvement in the balance between your upper and lower body
  • Experience a boost in your self-confidence, if this was an area of concern for you

Patients who are good candidates for a Brazilian butt lift include those who:

  • Have good skin tone in the hips and buttocks
  • Are at a healthy weight
  • Have excess fat stores available for harvesting and transferring
  • Are willing and able to avoid sitting directly on their buttocks after surgery for several weeks
  • Have realistic expectations

If your surgeon deems you a good candidate for a BBL, and you decide to move forward with surgery, you will need to undergo medical clearance from your primary care physician. This usually entails undergoing basic laboratory studies like a complete blood count (CBC) and basic metabolic panel (BMP), and an electrocardiogram (ECG).

How to Prepare

To prepare for your Brazilian but lift, your surgeon may instruct you to:

  • Stop smoking at least four weeks prior to surgery.
  • Stop taking certain medications and herbal supplements that may thin your blood two weeks prior to surgery (e.g., nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamin E, and fish oil).
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight on the eve of your surgery.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you for the first one to three days after surgery.
  • Prepare for recovery (e.g., purchase a doughnut cushion, healthy snacks, ready-to-go meals, and comfortable/loose-fitting clothing).

What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

A Brazilian butt lift procedure takes around three to four hours.

After you check in and change into a gown, a nurse will place a peripheral IV for the administration of fluids and medications. Your surgeon will come to greet you and mark sites on your buttocks where the fat will be injected.

Once anesthesia is started, the surgery typically proceeds in the following manner:

  • Incisions: After cleaning the skin, the surgeon will make incisions at both the harvest/liposuction site (e.g., abdomen) and the graft site (the buttocks).
  • Harvesting/liposuction: A tube-like device will be inserted and fat will be suctioned out of the harvest incision sites and collected in a special container.
  • Transfer: The collected fat will be transferred into individual syringes and then strategically injected into various areas within the buttocks.
  • Closure: When the fat transfer is complete, the incision sites will be closed with sutures and covered with a waterproof dressing. A compression garment will be placed over the buttocks.

Anesthesia is then stopped and you are taken to the recovery area.

Recovery

In the recovery room, a nurse will monitor your vital signs (e.g., heart rate and blood pressure) and give you medication for pain and nausea which are common after surgery. When your surgeon gives you the OK, a friend or family member can drive you home.

At home, you can expect to experience pain, bruising, and swelling in your buttocks and liposuction sites. While the pain should last only a few days, swelling may persist for weeks or even months. Your surgeon will give you tips on how to minimize these symptoms.

Recovery from a Brazilian butt lift takes about six to eight weeks. It takes up to six months to see the final result. You must carefully follow your surgeon's post-operative instructions to ensure a safe and optimal outcome.

One of the most crucial things to do after surgery is avoid sitting on your buttocks for around two weeks. This means that you will need to sleep on your stomach or side. If you absolutely need to sit, your surgeon will probably advise you to use a doughnut cushion or a rolled-up blanket underneath your hips.

You will also need to wear a compression garment (usually provided by the surgeon) at all times for two weeks after surgery. You can remove the compression garment briefly when taking a shower or in order to wash it.

Your surgeon will also likely advise the following:

  • Avoid driving until you are off prescribed pain medication for at least 24 hours.
  • Begin walking around on the second day after surgery.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and vigorous activity for two weeks after surgery.
  • Gently massage the parts of your body where liposuction was performed.
  • While showering is OK after surgery, avoid bathing and swimming for two weeks (until your incision sites have fully healed).

When to Seek Medical Attention

Your surgeon will tell you when to call their office or seek emergency care. General symptoms that warrant immediate attention include:

  • Signs of an infection (e.g., fever or redness/tenderness/warmth/abnormal drainage at the incision site)
  • Excessive bleeding at dressing site
  • Significant or worsening pain
  • Chest pain or trouble breathing
  • Leg pain or asymmetric swelling

Long-Term Care

Patients are generally highly satisfied with the outcome of their Brazilian butt lift. For some, the surgery results in a boost in self-confidence they say helps them try new things, take on goals like achieving a healthier lifestyle, and so on.

Going into surgery with realistic expectations is key, though. Surgery is not a "quick fix" and will not dramatically change your appearance or life.

If you are experiencing depression or anxiety prior to or after surgery, it's important you reach out to your surgeon or primary care physician.

Revision Surgery

While the results of a Brazilian butt lift are essentially permanent—provided you do not lose or gain a significant amount of weight—revision surgery may be needed if the original procedure results in buttock asymmetry or an under-correction.

However, transferring fat to a part of the buttock that has already been injected with fat tends to be less successful and more technically difficult. In addition, revision surgery may not be feasible if you do not have any more areas of excess fat to collect from.

A Word From Verywell

While a less invasive procedure than obtaining silicone implants in the buttocks, a Brazilian butt lift still carries risks and requires a commitment to recovery.

Be sure to thoroughly research and choose a board-certified plastic surgeon who has ample experience performing BBLs. During your consultation appointment, ask the surgeon about their experience, complication rate, credentials, and portfolio (they should have a photo gallery of before and after pictures from prior patients).

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Article Sources
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