Thigh Lift Surgery – Thighplasty

Reviewed by Siamak Agha-Mohammadi, MD, PhD

Chunky, dimpled thighs are the bane of many women's — and even some men's — existence. A thigh lift (thighplasty) can reduce excess skin and fat in the thigh and knee area, resulting in a redefined, slim and taut thigh that will look great in skinny jeans, mini-skirts and bathing suits.

Today's modern thigh lift surgery aims to create thighs that are proportionate to the buttocks, abs and legs. Ideally, the trunk and outer thighs should form an hour-glass silhouette and indent toward the waist, with a smooth outward curve to the outer thighs.

From the back, the thigh should stand apart from the buttock with a well-defined fold.

From the front, the thighs should appear smooth and showcase the underlying muscles. The inner thighs should be firm and flat.

Both men and women who have saggy, flabby and/or dimpled loose tissue and skin on their thighs may be candidates for this body contouring procedure. Many people who have lost massive amounts of weight after bariatric surgery may also benefit from thigh lifts to get rid of the excess fat and flab in this area.

Types of Thigh Lift

There are several types of thigh lift, each of which differs according to incision pattern.

For example, an inner (medial) thigh lift involves incisions in the groin fold. This is the most popular type of thigh lift. It is best for people with a moderate amount of skin and fat in this area. For an inner thigh lift, your surgeon basically lifts up the thigh skin and tissue to tighten it.

A vertical thighplasty involves a vertical incision that starts at the groin crease and extends to the inner knee. The scar is visible when the inner thighs are exposed such as while you are wearing a bathing suit or mini-skirt. During a vertical thigh lift, your surgeon removes a wedge of skin from the inner thigh. Individuals with more significant fat and loose skin may need a vertical thighplasty.

An outer thigh lift requires an incision that extends from the groin around the hip. A newer procedure called the spiral thighplasty targets the front, back, inner and outer thigh. The incision is below the buttock fold and continues over the groin crease at the junction of the thigh and pubic area. This plastic surgery procedure is ideal for people who have lost weight.

Combination Thigh Lift Surgery

Sometimes, several types of thigh lift are performed at the same time. Which thigh lift or combination of thigh lifts is right for you depends on a number of factors, including:

  • How much fat and skin need to be removed
  • Your skin quality
  • The areas to be treated
  • Your doctors expertise and experience
  • Your preferences.

Thigh lifts can also be performed in combination with other procedures such as a lower body lift and liposuction.

Thigh Lift Procedure

Regardless of the thigh lift treatment you choose, the main steps are similar.

Your surgeon will choose general or twilight anesthesia (which leaves you sedated, but not unconscious). Next, he or she will make the recommended incision. Whether the skin is excised or lifted varies based on the type of incision and the amount of fat and skin that needs to be removed, re-shaped and/or tightened.

Your surgeon will likely use deep, support stitches that help form and support the new contours of the thigh as part of the surgery. He or she will also close up the incisions with sutures.

The length of the surgery and your hospital stay varies based on which type of thigh lift is chosen and if it is done with liposuction or as part of a lower body lift.

Thigh lift Recovery and Results

Following a thigh lift, there will be bruising, swelling and soreness, but some of the results — namely the smooth, tight contours — will be visible immediately.

Bruising and swelling can be minimized if you take certain supplements before your surgery such as arnica and bromelain. Find out what your surgeon recommends you take — or stop taking — before your surgery to improve the results and minimize the risks.

You will feel some discomfort and tightness for the first 48 to 72 hours after surgery, but you should begin to feel normal after day three. Prescription painkillers can help relieve this pain.

The swelling in your lower body and upper thighs may take three to five weeks to subside.

You will be fitted with a compression garment to protect the incisions and promote shrinking and tightening of the skin after your surgery. Drainage tubes are inserted to reduce swelling and get rid of excess fluid. These tubes can be safely removed when the output of drainage fluid is low.

Your doctor will likely tell you to keep your legs slightly bent at the hips during the first week after your thigh lift. This will minimize any tension on your incision line, reduce pain and result in a thinner, less-visible scar during the initial healing process.

You should wear gauze pads over the groin incisions so that they remain dry. Your surgeon will discuss how often these dressings should be changed. You can shower approximately three days after the surgery. Your surgeon will likely want to see you for follow-up approximately one week after the procedure.

Try to start walking as soon as possible after a thigh lift, even if you are uncomfortable. Early ambulation will reduce the risk of developing a potentially fatal blood clot in your leg.

Talk to your doctor about how and when to best resume an exercise regimen and your normal activities. The answers may vary based on your physical fitness level and the type of procedure(s).

After recovery from thigh lift, some patients prefer to have additional cosmetic procedures to improve the appearance of the upper and lower leg, particularly to remove unsightly hair. Laser hair removal is one of the more common post-thigh-lift procedures for hair removal because of its longer lasting effects when compared to other hair removal techniques.

Thigh lift risks

Some of the risks associated with thigh lifts include:

  • Scarring
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Poor wound healing
  • Skin loss
  • Blood clots
  • Numbness or other changes in skin sensation
  • Anesthesia risks
  • Skin discoloration and/or swelling
  • Death of fatty tissue found deep in the skin (fat necrosis)
  • Major wound separation
  • Asymmetry
  • Persistent pain
  • Unsatisfactory results
  • Deep vein thrombosis, heart and lung complications
  • Recurrent skin looseness
  • Skin irritation from sutures (may require removal)
  • Possibility of a secondary surgery

Thigh lift cost

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery estimates that the national average for plastic surgeon fees for a thigh lift is around $4,600. The cost of thigh lift surgery includes the surgeon's fee, anesthesia fee and the operating room fee. Thigh lifts can be performed in tandem with other procedures, which can increase the overall cost.

Certain procedures may be deemed purely cosmetic, and therefore will not be covered by insurance. This policy is paralleled in various fields of medicine, including dentistry. For example, dental insurance does not often cover esthetic treatments like Lumineers and tooth bleaching. If the cost is too high, ask your surgeon about monthly payments. For financing options and tips, continue reading about patient financing.

Choose a Board-certified Plastic Surgeon

Choosing the correct surgeon can play a major role in your ultimate satisfaction. Plastic surgeons should be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Such board certification ensures that they have extensive training and are up to date on new technology and techniques.

Consider viewing before-and-after photos of a potential surgeons' previous thigh lift patients so you have a better idea of what you can expect. Many patients who seek thigh lift may also be interested in other body contouring procedures, such as arm lift or body lift. You can consult with a surgeon about these procedures during your visit. If you seek a thigh lift because you previously suffered from obesity and have experienced massive weight loss after gastric bypass surgery or lap band surgery, your bariatric surgeon may be able to recommend a highly-qualified plastic surgeon. We can help, too!

About the Reviewer of This Article

Siamak Agha-Mohammadi, MD, PhD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon in Orange County, California. He received his medical degree and completed his doctor of philosophy degree at the University of Cambridge in England and did his residencies in general surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An expert in aesthetic surgery after massive weight loss, Dr. Agha-Mohammadi has published articles in many prestigious journals and is a frequent presenter at major medical meetings.