Body lift — The underrated procedure

Ok, I get it, body lift… what?! It does sound a bit scary but, in the right hands, results are amazing. 

So what is a “body lift”? Also known as a belt lipectomy or torsoplasty, a body lift for the lower body involves removing a “belt” of skin and fat from the abdomen, sides and back. It is essentially a tummy tuck combined with a lateral thigh lift, combined with a butt lift, all at once. Originally, this procedure was, and still is, used for patients after massive weight loss. However, it is useful for so much more.

Of course, in massive weight loss, especially after weight loss surgery, there is the normal overhang of tissue in the lower abdomen. There is also significant lateral thigh laxity due to deflation of the skin there. And then the buttocks lose fat and muscle causing the skin to fall there also. To address all of these problems requires removal of skin and lifting of all of these areas. The body lift does this, in all areas, at one sitting.

The body lift is not just for massive weight loss anymore. Some women who have undergone weight changes and skin stretching with childbirth have the same issues with the thighs, abdomen and buttocks. Excess skin and stretch marks sometimes just have to be removed. Enter, the body lift for non-weight loss surgery patients. Of course, for some, dividing the procedure into its components and doing them separately is a more tolerable solution and is acceptable. For me the body lift is superior for a number of reasons: 

  1. A single period of recovery.
  2. Elimination of “transition zones” where one procedure has to mesh with the other.
  3. Anesthesia risks are decreased, one anesthesia instead of 2 or 3.
  4. Less operative time and expense.
  5. Overall superior result.

For those of us experienced with this procedure, operative time is usually somewhere in the 4-5-hour range with a significant amount of time used for turning from front to back and positioning. My routine is to start prone (on your stomach) and do the butt and posterior lateral thigh first. In all cases I do a significant amount of liposuction to contour the hips and lower back area. In some cases, I will create flaps to increase volume in the buttocks. Once the back part is completed, we turn, re-prep, re-drape, and re-group. This takes a little time to pad any pressure points and to do it correctly. Once turned, the back incision is carried onto the front. Again, I do a significant amount of liposuction to contour the waist and upper abdomen. Once the liposuction is completed, the incision is made around the umbilicus and the lateral incisions are carried down and across the lower abdomen to start the tummy tuck portion. Just like in a tummy tuck, the mid-line muscles are brought back together and the excess skin remove along with stretch marks. Everything is put back together creating a tight and flat abdomen. I usually use 2 closed drains (present for 1-4 weeks) and they are the only sutures you see. Dressings are a clear tape and glue (Dermabond). Larger patients usually spend one night in the hospital or if there are medical problems that make it necessary. 

At Swetnam Cosmetic Surgery, I use an early recovery program with oral medicines and long-term local anesthesia to decrease pain post operatively. This program has been highly successful in decreasing opiate requirements after surgery. Recovery time is usually 6-8 weeks but most return to work after 2 weeks. Visit our website at to see before and after photos. If you are interested in a body lift or any of our procedures, call us at 479-966-4174 to schedule a free consultation. Virtual consults welcome.

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