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Seven Questions About Body Contouring

While losing weight or having a baby are exciting moments, you might be faced with excess and sagging fat and skin that leave you looking for ways to improve your appearance.

Dr Frank Graewe, a renowned plastic, reconstructive and microsurgeon in Tygervalley in the Western Cape, helps answer some questions about the surgical procedures that are available for body contouring.

Q What tummy-tuck procedures are available?

Despite proper eating habits and exercise, some women find it impossible to get rid of excess skin and fat in the abdominal area. In some of these cases liposuction, combined with a less extensive tummy tuck, can produce a pleasing and natural looking result in the problem area. Where large amounts of excess tissue are present, Dr Graewe recommends more extensive abdominal surgery to tighten abdominal muscles and remove excess tissues.

The scar from abdominal plastic surgery lies below the lower abdominal crease and the position of the navel will be adjusted according to each individual case. In the case of a mini tummy tuck, it may be necessary to slightly lower the position of the navel as only skin below the belly button is removed which pulls the navel down.

Q What is an arm lift?

Many women complain of what some refer to as ‘bat wings’. The contours of the upper arms can be greatly improved through an arm tightening procedure, also called brachioplasty. Excess skin can be removed while eliminating the saggy, wrinkled appearance of the upper arm.

The scar will run from the armpit on the inside of the arm to the elbow.

Q What is a buttock lift and body lift?

Similar to plastic surgery to firm the thighs, a buttock lift is a procedure done to improve the position, shape and firmness of the buttocks and outer thighs. It is also used to eliminate uneven areas following outer thigh liposuction. If the abdominal area is also repositioned downwards, it is called a body lift. Buttocks can be enlarged, firmed and given a better contour through special silicone implants. Implants can also be used to treat defects in the buttocks area due to trauma or the removal of a tumour. A limited buttock lift can be performed by making an incision in the gluteal fold (which marks the upper limit of the thigh from the lower limit of the buttock.

Several days in the hospital are required for optimal healing after this procedure.

Q Can excess fat removed from one part be used to fill up another body part?

Fat that has been removed from a problem area can be used to fill defects and improve a patient’s cosmetic appearance, or to isolate the stem cell fraction contained in fat tissue. Adipose (fat) derived stem cells can be injected into skin to improve skin quality, especially in the face. There are a lot of other areas or conditions where fat stem cells may be used, as in inflammatory or degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis. The stem cells could also be banked by means of cryopreservation and be kept for any possible future applications.

Lipofilling with your own fat cells can be used to build up sunken cheeks, correct skin creases and wrinkles, for lip enhancement, to create a generally more youthful looking face or to correct contour defects in other parts of the body. Liposuction on problem areas and the re-injection of your own body’s fat cells in another area where they are needed can be combined in one procedure. Fat grafting is, for example, becoming an increasingly popular method for buttock and breast augmentations.

Q In which areas can liposuction be done?

Typical problem areas that can be treated with liposuction are the outer thighs, hips, inner thighs, abdomen, knees, calves and double chin. For very small problem areas, such as eyelid bags, the chin and cervical area, a minimally invasive treatment with injection-lipolysis can be effective. 

Q Is body contouring surgery effective without exercise and lifestyle changes?

Dr Graewe stressed that liposuction is not suited for treating patients that are considered overweight. The risks are far greater and the results often less satisfactory in cases of extremely high body weight. However, if you consider all of the contributing factors and work actively on a long-term improvement in support of your operation, the contours of your body can be permanently improved.

Q What is a thigh lift and will it leave a visible scar?

Excess skin can cause the thighs to sag, especially in the area of the inner thigh. It is possible to achieve a marked improvement in the appearance of the thighs through the careful removal of this excess tissue. When excess fat is present, a liposuction is performed at the same time. During a thigh lift, the connective tissues of the thigh are tightened and firmly attached to prevent stretching and sinking of the scars. For some patients the scars from this surgery will be hidden under the bikini line, but in most cases a scar stretching from the inside of the knees running up to the groin areas is necessary to remove sufficient tissue.

Plastic surgery combined with a healthy lifestyle can help women to improve their body contours with long-lasting effect. If you want to explore the best option for your body type, speak to an experienced plastic surgeon to advise you on how to prepare and take care of yourself before and after any procedure.

Source: Dr Frank Graewe. Image: iStock

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