Fluctuations in weight, growing older, and genetics can cause your legs to have a drooping, sagging appearance. Exercise may strengthen and improve the underlying muscle tone of the thighs and hips, but it cannot address excess skin that has lost elasticity or underlying weakened tissues and localized fat deposits. No amount of leg exercising can reduce redundant skin.
If fitness and weight loss efforts have not helped you reach your goals for a lower body that is firmer, more youthful-looking and more proportionate to your overall body image, a thigh lift may be right for you. This surgery contours the thighs by removing excess skin and fat, resulting in smoother skin and better-proportioned contours of the thighs and lower body.
Thigh lifts are not intended for the removal of excess fat. Liposuction can remove excess fat deposits where skin has good elasticity and is able to naturally conform to new body contours. In cases where skin elasticity is poor, a combination of liposuction and thigh lift techniques may be recommended.
- 1 Before and After Photos
- 2 Thigh Lift Information
- 3 Before You Decide…
- 4 Thigh Lift Preparation
- 5 Recovery
Before and After Photos
Thigh Lift Information
A thigh lift is a surgical procedure that reshapes the upper legs. With it, you’re able to:
- Reduce excess skin and fat on the thigh
- Reshape your thighs to result in smoother skin and contours
- Create a more toned and proportionate appearance
A medial thigh lift removes excess skin and fat from the upper, inner leg, placing the incision in the groin and buttocks crease.
A lateral thigh lift removes skin from the sides of the legs and requires an incision on the outer aspect of the upper thigh.
A circumferential thigh lift is the combination of a medial and a lateral thigh lift done together.
A longitudinal thigh lift removes skin from inside the thigh running from the groin down to the knee. This incision is much longer, and is similar to that done for an arm lift. The advantage is that much more skin can be removed by this technique. This procedure is usually done on individuals who have lost significant weight, either on their own or after gastric bypass surgery.
Before You Decide…
Choosing Your Surgeon
There are several important factors to choosing a surgeon, including recommendations from friends, personality, physician training and board certification, and experience.
Referral from Friends: Many prospective patients find confidence if they have a close friend or other trusted individual who has already undergone a successful procedure. This is often a good first step in making a decision. However, not all patients know someone who has had surgery. Most of our patients are referred by satisfied friends who have been our patients.
Personality: It is important to develop a good relationship with a surgeon, where communication is easy and trust can be developed. A patient needs to feel intuitively that they are in good hands with someone they can trust. Bedside manner is important.
Training and Certification: In years past, only plastic surgeons performed thigh lifts. However, in recent years doctors from many different specialties are more commonly performing cosmetic surgery procedures, including ear, nose, and throat doctors (also known as otolaryngologists and facial plastic surgeons), dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and gynecologists. However, a surgeon who has been certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery has received the most extensive training in cosmetic surgery. There are many boards, and it is easy for patients to become confused or assume that when a doctor says they are “board certified,” it all means the same thing. BE CAREFUL!
Experience: Finally, consider the physician’s experience, the most important factor in making a decision. As with all professions, expertise is directly proportional to experience, meaning the total number of procedures performed. Medical literature illustrates that biggest predictor of success in surgery is volume, in other words, the number of times that a doctor has performed a procedure.
If the doctor is recommending a specific procedure, how many has he performed? How often does the surgeon perform this procedure?
While board certifications and training are important, a surgeon’s experience with the procedure itself is more important. Don’t hesitate to ask pointed questions about recommended procedures.
To ensure the most natural looking results, Dr. Alexander will recommend the procedure which most appropriately matches your needs and to offer realistic expectations for post-surgery outcomes.
Because a thigh lift requires long incisions, Dr. Alexander may discourage you from having the procedure if your skin laxity does not seem excessive enough to warrant the resulting scar. It is usually not possible to perform a good thigh lift with a hidden incision in the groin, because not enough skin can be removed.
The success and safety of your thigh lift depends very much on your being completely candid during your consultation. We will ask you questions about your health, desires and lifestyle.
Be prepared to discuss:
- Why you want a thigh lift, your expectations and desired outcome
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- Previous surgeries
We may also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Examine your legs, and take note of your skin quality
- Take photographs for your medical record or for computer imaging
- Discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes of a thigh lift and any risks or potential complications
- Discuss the use of anesthesia during your procedure
Questions to Ask
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Were you trained specifically in the field of plastic surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
- Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure?
- Is the office-based surgical facility accredited by a nationally or state-recognized accrediting agency?
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- What will be expected of me to get the best results?
- Where and how will you perform my procedure?
- What surgical technique is recommended for me?
- How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- How are complications handled?
- How can I expect my legs to look over time?
- What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my thigh lift?
- Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure and what results are reasonable for me?
Who is a good candidate?
In general, candidates for a thigh lift include:
- Those with significant thigh skin laxity
- Individuals who have lost significant weight
- Those with stable weight and are not significantly overweight
- Healthy individuals who do not have medical conditions that can impair healing or increase risk of surgery
- Individuals with a positive outlook and realistic expectations
What does it cost?
A quote will be provided to you after your consult with Dr. Alexander. Cost is always a consideration in elective surgery. We offer patient financing plans, so be sure to ask.
- Surgeon’s fee
- Operating room and supplies
- Prescriptions for medication
- Post surgery garments
- Medical tests
- Anesthesia fees
Most health insurance plans will not cover thigh lift surgery. When choosing a plastic surgeon for thigh lift surgery, remember that the surgeon’s experience and your comfort are just as important as the final cost of the surgery.
To learn more about our partner in payment plans, please visit CareCredit.
Thigh Lift Preparation
Preparing for the Procedure
Prior to surgery, we will have you:
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
- Stop smoking well in advance of surgery
During a preoperative appointment, usually 1-2 weeks before surgery, we will:
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
- Take photographs
- Tell you what to do on the night before and morning of surgery
- Discuss the use of anesthesia during your procedure
- Explain post-operative care and follow-up, and what help you will need after the procedure
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. An anesthesiologist will administer general anesthesia, which is recommended for this procedure. Smaller lifts can be done with IV sedation.
How We Do It
Achieving excellent results with a thigh lift requires the surgeon to have significant skill and experience. The appropriate technique for you will be determined based on:
- Thigh size and shape
- Skin quality and elasticity as well as the amount of extra skin
- The degree of skin sagging
The procedure typically takes 2.5-4 hours depending on the individual and certain surgical variables.
There are four basic steps to a thigh lift.
Step 1 – Marking
While you are standing, Dr. Alexander makes careful measurements and markings on the thighs. This is arguably the most important part of the procedure, and requires skill, patience, experience, and a good eye for symmetry and detail so that the incisions will be precisely placed.
Step 2 – The incisions
Incision length and pattern depend on the amount and location of excess skin to be removed.
Medial thigh lift: Incisions are generally placed in the groin crease and extend posteriorly into the buttock crease.
Lateral thigh lift: Incisions are placed from the groin, around the outside of the thigh, to the buttock crease.
Circumferential thigh lift: The incision runs all the way around the upper thigh, with the middle portion hidden in the groin and buttocks crease. The lateral aspect of the incision is visible on the upper, outer thigh, and can usually be hidden under a swimsuit or underwear.
Longitudinal thigh lift: The incision runs vertically from the groin to the knee, on the medial aspect of the thigh.
Step 3 – Removing excess tissue
Excess fat and skin is removed, all the way down to the muscle. Then, underlying supportive tissue is tightened and reshaped with internal sutures.
If fat is to be reduced during your thigh lift, it will either be excised directly with the skin or removed with liposuction. Depending on your specific conditions, incisions may be more limited.
Step 4 – Closing the incisions
The skin is smoothed over the new contour of your legs. Your incisions will be closed with absorbable sutures, and non-absorbable sutures that will be removed within 3-5 days following your thigh lift. Incision lines are permanent, but in most cases will fade and significantly improve over time.
Pain from a thigh lift varies but is usually mild. Patients are given pain pills to alleviate the discomfort, but usually only need them for a few days.
The decision to have thigh lift surgery is extremely personal and you’ll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable.
We will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks and potential complications.
The risks include:
- Unfavorable scarring
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Fluid accumulation
- Poor wound healing
- Skin loss
- Skin discoloration and/or swelling
- Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
- Pain, which may persist
- Fatty tissue found deep in the skin might die (fat necrosis)
- Blood clots, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Recurrent looseness of skin
- Possibility of revisional surgery
- Anesthesia risks
Important Terms to Know
Anesthesia—General: The patient is asleep, requiring that the airway be protected, either by a standard breathing tube, or by a laryngeal mask (LMA), an inflatable mask that goes in the back of the throat but doesn’t go down the trachea. Through the airway, an anesthesiologist gives gases to put the patient asleep. Drugs may also be given through the IV.
Anesthesia—Local: The surgical area is numbed up with an injection, but the patient is awake. Sometimes a patient will be given an oral medication, like Valium, to help with relaxation.
Anesthesia— Sedation (Twilight): The patient is made sleepy with medications given through an IV. The level of sedation can be adjusted, from barely sleepy to very sleepy. Sometimes sedation is given by the surgeon, but most of the time it is administered by an M.D. anesthesiologist.
Circumferential Thigh Lift: The combination of a medial and a lateral thigh lift done together.
Excision: To remove the skin.
Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
Lateral Thigh Lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the outer thigh.
Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness.
Longitudinal Thigh Lift: Removes skin from inside the thigh running from the groin down to the knee. This incision is much longer, and is similar to that done for an arm lift.
Medial Thigh Lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the upper, inner thigh.
Skin Laxity: Degree of loose skin.
Sutures: Stitches used to hold skin and tissue together.
You will be required to wear a compression garment for several weeks following your procedure to minimize swelling and support the tissues as they heal. The smoother tighter contouring that result from a thigh lift are apparent almost immediately, although initially obscured by some swelling and bruising. Following a thigh lift, skin quality is dramatically improved both in appearance and feel. Your new, shapely and toned upper arm is dramatically improved both in appearance and feel.
Incision lines are permanent, but will continue to fade over time. If you avoided wearing shorts prior to surgery, there is a much better chance that you will feel comfortable wearing such clothing after the procedure. Like most patients who have had a thigh lift, you may also have a boost in self-confidence.
Over time, your legs can continue to change due to aging and gravity. However, you will be able to retain your new look longer if you maintain your weight and keep a healthy lifestyle. As your body ages, it is natural to lose some firmness, but most of your improvement should be long lasting.
Nearly all of our patients are thrilled with the results of their thigh lift. The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.