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A thigh lift or thighplasty is designed to remove large amounts of skin and fat from the hips and thighs. Thigh lifts are usually performed under a general anaesthetic. The nature of this operation necessitates long cuts and, inevitably, long scars. Elliptical segments of skin and underlying fat are removed from the thigh areas. The remaining skin and tissue are lifted to achieve a tightening and smoothing effect. Although the operation is often combined with liposuction, it is aimed primarily at the tightening of skin and deep tissue. The length of the scar will depend on how much excess skin a person has; scars may extend across the outer and inner thighs. There is a significant amount of pain and discomfort during the healing process following a thighplasty, but this can usually be controlled effectively with painkillers. Recovery generally takes two weeks or longer. Private costs for a thighplasty (thigh lift) can be in the range of £5,000 to £6,000.
A thigh lift or thighplasty is part of a cosmetic surgery procedure called body contouring. It is designed to remove large amounts of skin and fat from the hips and thighs.
The first body lifting operations began in Brazil and France in the 1960s and 1970s.
Thigh lifts, buttock lifts, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), and arm lifts were performed using the surgical techniques which were available at that time. Although “tummy tucks” have since become a popular procedure performed by many surgeons today, this was not the case in the early days. The results of the surgery were often unsatisfactory and unpredictable. After the operation, the patient could be left with an oddly shaped stomach, deep scars and other complications. This made doctors quite cautious about offering these operations.
Since the late 1980s, doctors have gained a better understanding of skin and fat structure and how our body shape changes as we age. Thus, surgeons have been able to redesign their surgery in order to perform operations with more consistent results and fewer complications.
According to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), just under 17,000 thigh lifts were performed in 2015 in the US, a slight decrease of 1.0% on 2014 statistics.
No official figures are yet available for the UK, but there are a few surgeons who are starting to offer this procedure.
If you're considering a thigh lift, the following information will give you a basic understanding of the procedure. It can't answer all your questions, since a lot depends on the individual patient and the surgeon. Please ask your surgeon about anything you don't understand.
Your first discussion with a surgeon should clearly set out your expectations and whether the operation can give you the results you desire.
Careful discussions regarding the reasons for wanting a thigh lift and your suitability for this type of surgery are very important at this stage. Make sure that you obtain as much information as necessary to enable you to make a fully informed choice and make sure you receive satisfactory answers to all your questions.
It, may be that liposuction alone, or a more extensive procedure such as a lower body lift are required in order to achieve the results that you desire, which is why it is very important to fully communicate your concerns and expectations in the initial consultation with a surgeon.
A medical history should also be taken to make sure that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t have this operation. You would normally be asked to sign a consent form which means that you have understood the potential benefits and risks associated with a thigh lift.
Photographs may also be taken by the practitioner as a "before and after" comparison at a later date.
The surgeon may also wish to write to your G.P. giving details of the operation so that if there are any problems associated with surgery in the short or long-term, your doctor is aware of the procedure and can help you to recover.
Thigh lifts are usually performed under a general anaesthetic.
Please take into account that a general anaesthetic carries more potential risks than local anaesthesia – this should be clearly explained by the surgeon before you make any decisions about the anaesthetic.
If you make a decision to go ahead with a lower body lift, the actual procedure may take place in an outpatient surgical clinic, but most surgeons and patients prefer a hospital setting where you can recover overnight.
A thigh lift will usually take around 2 – 3 hours, depending on the extent of work required, and whether any combined procedures such as liposuction are involved.
The nature of this operation necessitates long cuts and, inevitably, long scars. The length of the scar will depend on how much excess skin you have.
Depending on the surgeon, and the extent of the body lift procedure, scars may extend across the outer and inner thighs. Wherever possible, these are positioned so that they can be hidden within a bikini line.
Elliptical segments of skin and underlying fat are removed from the thigh areas. The remaining skin and tissue are lifted to achieve a tightening and smoothing effect.
Although the operation is often combined with liposuction, it is aimed primarily at the tightening of skin and deep tissue.
After a thigh lift, dressings will be applied, and temporary tubes may be inserted to drain excess fluid from the area of surgery. Firm elastic bandages are then applied to support the area.
Depending on the extent of the procedure, you may be released to go home after a stay in hospital for a day or so.
Recovery generally takes two weeks or longer, and to resume vigorous exercise approximately four to six weeks.
Side Effects and Risks
There is a significant amount of pain and discomfort during the healing process following a thighplasty, but this can usually be controlled effectively with painkillers.
Bruising is evident after surgery and can spread down the legs; swelling can also be substantial and can take up to three or four months to disappear. You may also experience numbness of the skin around the thighs and it may take several months for the sensation to return.
Like all surgical procedures, there is always a possibility of complications and, although rare, these can include infection, a reaction to the anaesthesia, blood or fluid collection underneath the skin, nerve damage, blood clots, and an irregular or a “lop-sided” appearance of the thighs after the operation.
Occasionally, the superficial lymphatic system in the groin is interrupted during thigh lift surgery. If this should occur, excessive swelling will probably last for several weeks as the lymphatic channels form again. This is an uncommon problem, but it requires some patience and understanding.
The surgery does produce a permanent scar. Your scars may actually appear to worsen during the first three to six months as they heal, but this is normal. Expect it to take nine months to a year before your scars flatten out and lighten in colour. While they'll never disappear completely, they can usually be hidden by undergarments.
Excessive scar formation, however, can occasionally occur where the scars broaden and thicken.
It may take you weeks or months to feel like your old self again. If you start out in top physical condition, recovery from this procedure will be much faster than if you are out of shape when you have the operation.
It is very important that you follow the advice of your surgeon carefully after a thigh lift.
Post-surgery advice may include:
There are few absolute medical reasons why you should not undergo a buttock lift as long as you are in good general health and have realistic expectations of this treatment.
If you have had phlebitis (inflamed blood vessels) in either of your legs, you may not be a candidate for lift surgery.
A thigh lift, however, is not an alternative to losing weight. In fact, many surgeons will suggest alternatives to surgery for patients who are more than 15 percent over their ideal body weight.
Also, if you are considering losing weight, you should wait until after your desired weight is met before having this procedure. You may need additional surgery to remove the excess skin after you have lost the desired weight which would mean that the money spent on the previous lift would be wasted.
If you have experienced healing problems with any past surgical treatments or if you are prone to keloid (red, angry, raised) scars, your surgeon may not recommend a body lift or may caution you that scars could be very visible and raised.
Who Can Do It
Only fully trained and qualified surgeons should perform thigh lift surgery.
This is not a commonly performed procedure in the U.K., so you may find it difficult to find someone who specialises in this operation.
For more information about practitioner training, qualifications and relevant medical organisations please view the information contained within the Legislation section of the Consulting Room.
It is highly unlikely that anyone considering a thigh lift operation would be able to access this free of charge on the National Health Service.
However certain regions do make special cases, and we would always recommend that you visit your General Practitioner before embarking upon a cosmetic procedure involving surgery.
As well as their advice and guidance they may also be able to refer you to a local N.H.S. Hospital for a consultation.
The NHS has set out the following guidelines on how to get cosmetic surgery through the NHS:
"To qualify for surgery on the NHS you must meet specific criteria as set out by your local health authority. The NHS will not pay for surgery for cosmetic reasons alone. Reconstructive and cosmetic surgery to correct, or improve, congenital abnormalities and injuries will usually be carried out free of charge.
NHS reconstructive surgery is performed by plastic surgeons who have had extensive training and belong to the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons. Surgeons who carry out cosmetic surgery through the NHS also belong to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.
To receive cosmetic surgery from the NHS, you will normally need a referral from your GP. You will have a consultation with a plastic surgeon and an assessment by a psychiatrist, or psychologist. It will then be decided whether there is enough social, psychological, or physical benefit to be gained to justify surgery."
Private prices for a thighplasty (thigh lift) procedure can be in the range of £5,000 to £6,000.
The ideal candidate for a thigh lift or thighplasty procedure is an individual with notable skin laxity around the thigh and hip area. This laxity may be a result of poor skin tone related to the normal aging process, multiple pregnancies or significant weight loss.
As well as the prolonged recovery time, the long visible scars are a major drawback; however, in skilled hands the results from this operation can dramatically improve the appearance of sagging thighs.
It is very important for you to describe exactly how you envisage the final cosmetic result with an experienced surgeon who also performs liposuction so that they can assess you properly and recommend the most appropriate procedure, or combination of procedures for you.
The longevity of results is difficult to predict, and depend upon maintaining good control over excessive weight fluctuation causing the skin to stretch, following the procedure. Your surgeon will discuss predicted duration of results with you from their own experience and the experience of their colleagues.
Before and After Pictures
Results vary enormously depending upon both the patient and the skill of the individual surgeon, so outcomes for cosmetic surgery procedures will always be more variable than those for less invasive non-surgical treatments.
We currently do not have any before and after images for Thigh Lift.