Thigh Lift : Part Two – Technical Aspects, Results, and Recovery

This is the second educational writing on the cosmetic surgery operation called a thigh lift or thighplasty. A thigh lift is done to make the thighs look smaller, thinner, and more attractive. The operation removes excess skin, stretch marks, cellulite, and fat. This educational writing will cover technical aspects (how is it done?), results, and recovery. The final section or Part Three will discuss risks, expectations, and costs. Patients interested in body lifts will find similar writings related to the body lift in that educational writing section.

How is it done?

There are essentially three types of thigh lifts or thighplasty. There are two different medial lifts and a lateral lift. A medial thigh lift is done to remove excess and unwanted skin and fat from the medial or inside leg area. Medial is the medical word for inside. (Lateral is the outside part of the thigh). The two different medial lifts are the classic procedure versus the mini thigh lift.

The Classic Lift :
This operation uses an incision that goes from the groin area down to the inside of the thigh and then down to the knee. Sometimes it is called a “stocking seam” incision. The incision is utilized to remove the excess skin. Through the incision excess fat can also be liposuctioned. The skin edges are undermined and elevated to allow for greater removal of skin. This technique also allows for an incision closure with less tension. The incision is closed in three layers. I have found this gives the best results and the thinnest scar. The deepest layer is called the fascial layer. The next layer closed is the deep dermal layer. This is the deepest layer of the skin. The final layer is the superficial skin. I use extremely tiny and delicate sutures for this layer. It is believed this is another factor that will give us a pretty scar. I try and use all the latest techniques to give the best scar and healing. This includes underminining of tissues to give the least tension on closure. Decreasing tension is a big factor in getting the best incisions. I also use the smallest and best suture material for the final skin layer. Sutures are all inside and absorbable. These factors combined leads to the greatest chance of a pretty surgical result.

The classic lift requires one drain per leg. The drainage tubes stay in about a week. The incisions are injected with a long acting anesthetic. This injection helps immediately decrease pain, so the best and easiest recovery occurs. Soft bandages are applied after the incision is closed and a compression garment or girdle is then used.

The Mini -Thigh Lift :
This operation uses an incision just in the groin crease. No “stocking seam” incision is used like with a classic lift. The mini procedure has a much smaller incision, and this smaller incision leads to less skin removal. An advantage of this operation is the smaller length of the incision. The disadvantage is that the smaller incision allows for much less skin to be removed. People can be disappointed with less dramatic results with the mini lift. However, many people are happier with the shorter and smaller scar.
The mini lift really removes extra skin from the top of the thigh. Liposuction is done on the rest of the thigh, if necessary, to remove fat from these areas.

Drainage tubes, closure, and anesthetic injections to decrease pain are done as described in the above paragraph for the classic lift.

The Lateral Lift :
The lateral lift is done to remove extra skin from the outside area of the thigh. It can be extended into the buttock crease to improve the junction of the buttock and thigh. Like the procedures described above, liposuction or liposculpturing is done to remove fat in surrounding areas. Closure and pain med injections are described above.

Results :

The results of the thighplasty can be dramatic. Before and after photos can be seen in the photo gallery under body lift. Some people can get the legs that they only dreamed about. The length of the incision will determine the amount of skin removal. People with lots of excess skin will get the best results from the classic procedure. This is because it allows for more skin removal. Realistic expectations about how dramatic a change you get is important. These operations like all cosmetic operations don’t change us into “movie stars”. This concept about realistic expectations is covered in more detail in Part Three.
Most patients will have results that are very satisfying and give much more attractive and thin legs.

Recovery :

Recovery after these operations require compression garments, leg elevation, and rest. Pain is not that much for most people, as muscle work is not part of thigh lifts. Many people are surprised at the low pain level they have after this operation. I believe the local anesthetic that I use makes a big difference and helps with the thigh lift recovery.

Patients are instructed on how to take care of their drainage tubes. These stay in about a week. Detailed instructions are also given on techniques to decrease risks of blood clots. These risks are low overall, but one can never be too careful. I have come up with a detailed plan to decrease this risk. Please click on this link now to review this plan.

Walking is encouraged immediately. Recovery is gradual and restrictions are lifted with time after surgery. I call this a “phased-in” return of activity and exercise. Most people can resume desk jobs and walking in about 10 days. Lite activity, such as ellipticals and stationary bicycles, can often be started in two weeks. Strenuous activity is limited for a month.

Scar care is discussed extensively. This includes the use of silicone strips, lasers, and the best scar oils and creams to get the prettiest scar. Scars fade with time and I believe that attention to these details makes a big difference. By doing this, we get the thinnest and prettiest incision.

I am a board certified plastic surgeon who practices exclusively cosmetic surgery. Please come in for a complimentary consultation. Details of your specific leg anatomy and cosmetic desires will be discussed completely. A personal surgical plan will be determined for you with a discussion of options and cost. I hope this writing helps with your thighplasty cosmetic surgery.