What is Body Contouring?
Body contouring is the process of using either surgical or non-invasive techniques to sculpt certain areas, remove excess fat or loose skin and create a more fit and pleasing overall appearance. A combination of cosmetic procedures may be used or a patient may get the results he or she wants with just one procedure. While no cosmetic surgeon can reverse heredity or time, there are techniques that can be used to target problem areas of the body and improve a patient's self-esteem and even provide motivation to eat healthier and exercise more to help keep that new shape in place.
What Problem Areas Can Body Contouring Improve?
Some of body areas that contouring methods can improve include the abdominal area, hips, thighs, arms, breasts, neck, back and buttocks.
Is Body Contouring Right For You?
Body contouring procedures are usually recommended for patients who have areas that are not responding to dieting or exercise and need help removing those last few stubborn pounds or inches. People who are categorized as severely obese or who have serious medical conditions aren't ideal candidates.
Being in overall good health is a general requirement, and your surgeon will go over any medical conditions or medications you might be taking that could prohibit you from having body contouring surgery.
Surgical Body Contouring Options
There are several surgical options to shape your body and remove excess fat and skin. Some are more invasive than others but all will require some down time after the procedure. A board certified cosmetic surgeon can evaluate your individual needs and determine which procedure will produce the best results for you.
Traditional Tummy Tuck
Tummy tucks are used to remove weight and skin from around the abdomen when exercise and dieting just won't work. A basic tummy tuck involves general anesthesia and is done in an operating room or surgical center. The whole procedure can take three to five hours from start to finish, and some patients will be released the same day while others might be kept for a day or two.
The surgeon will make an incision across your abdomen, from hip to hip, cutting your belly button loose and then pulling up the muscles of your stomach and abdomen. Once the muscles are pulled tight, the surgeon will suture them in place, remove any extra skin and reattach your belly button.
Mini Tummy Tuck
If you don't have a lot to loose around your waist, a mini tummy tuck may be the solution. With a mini tummy tuck the incision is a lot smaller than with a traditional tummy tuck. That means the scar will be much less noticeable. Patients usually don't have to have general anesthesia, only be sedated and have a local anesthetic for the procedure. Liposuction is normally used to remove the fat instead of cutting it away surgically. You also won't have to have your bellybutton removed and then reattached. Most mini tummy tuck patients can go home later that day and the recovery period is shorter.
Endoscopic Tummy Tuck
An endoscopic tummy tuck is another procedure that works best for patients who don't have a large amount of weight around their waist or a lot of extra skin. It involves only small incisions around your low front abdomen for the surgeon to use an endoscope to tighten and suture your muscles. You can also have liposuction with this procedure. The positive points for having an endoscopic tummy tuck include less bruising and swelling, fewer and smaller scars, less down time and no skin is cut away.
There are several methods of liposuction available and those are used to get rid of fat around the waist, hips, thighs, arms, buttocks and even some areas of the neck and back. Liposuction is an invasive procedure and is done under general or local anesthesia, depending on the type performed. Most liposuction is done on an outpatient basis, but your activities will be restricted and you may not be able to go back to work for several days. If the procedure was extensive, it could take two weeks before you can resume your normal job.
Results can be seen immediately, but sometimes there are dimples or lines in the area that was liposuction. This is a result of the fat being removed and the skin and tissue should become smooth again after a few weeks. In some cases however, the ridges may take as long as a year to dissipate.
Types Of Liposuction
Wet liposuction involves the patient having general anesthesia. The cosmetic surgeon will then inject a solution that contains a local anesthesia and chemicals that dissolve fat cells. Small incisions are made where a cannula is inserted and the liquefied fat is vacuumed out of the problem area. There are several levels of wet liposuction, and all depend on the amount of fluid that is injected and the size of cannula used.
With ultrasound liposuction, the fat cells are dissolved with ultrasonic pulses delivered to the target area with a wand or tube that is inserted through a small incision. The fat is then vacuumed out with a cannula. External ultrasound liposuction carries less risk of tissue or organ damage from the energy waves than internal ultrasound liposuction.
Superficial Syringe Liposuction
This procedure involves no injected chemicals or ultrasound device, just the cosmetic surgeon using a syringe to vacuum out the fat cells. Because this is a simpler method with just the insertion of the syringe needle, patients experience less bleeding, swelling or bruising. The drawback to it is that only the top layer of fat that is closest to the skin can be reached with the syringe.
Smart Lipo works by having a tube inserted through your skin and passing a laser into it. Laser light then dissolves the fat cells and the liquid is vacuumed out. Smart Lipo produces less bleeding, bruising and swelling than traditional lipo because the incisions are smaller and the laser cauterized blood vessels.
Vaser Liposuction is another non-invasive method where the cosmetic surgeon will use sound waves or ultrasonic waves to liquefy fat cells. A numbing solution will be injected into the area to be treated. It also shrinks blood vessels to help control bleeding. Small incisions are made and the sound wave probe is inserted. A cannula then vacuums out the fat cells.
Non-Invasive Body Contouring Options
There are some non-invasive body contouring treatments available now, and they are becoming very popular because of less down time and less expense. More are being developed and are waiting on FDA approval, but a couple of the most commonly used methods are described below.
Thermage is used to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles on your face and neck, tighten sagging skin under your eyes, jaw or abdomen and encourage new collagen to grow. This FDA approved treatment uses radiofrequency waves to heat up deep layers of skin and collagen but keeps your skin surface cool. This means that there won't be much of any swelling or redness after treatment.
A cosmetic surgeon or licensed dermatologist who has experience using Thermage can give you a treatment in half an hour to two hours, depending on how large the area is to be treated. Patients can return home or to work right after having Thermage because only a local anesthetic or cream is used to numb the area. The only after care is to keep the area free of makeup or lotion for a week or so and avoid sun exposure for a few days.
Most Thermage patients can see a positive change in their skin right after treatment. Skin tone improvement and lessening of wrinkles can continue for three to four months. After that, you may opt for more treatments. Results can be seen for six months up to two years.
Zerona is used as a weight loss technique. It's a non-invasive option for people who don't want to have liposuction. It can also smooth and tighten loose or wrinkled skin. By using a device that targets laser light on problem areas, fat cells are broken down inside the body and then flushed out naturally through the lymph system.
You can expect to spend twenty minutes for each side of your body to be treated with Zerona laser light. Patients will need to have multiple sessions, normally about six, to see the best results. That equals about forty minutes every other day. If you skip a day, there is a chance that the fat might be reabsorbed into your body and not flushed out.
Patients are also encouraged to drink eight to ten glasses of water each day while you are having Zerona sessions, stick to a healthy diet, exercise daily and skip alcohol and caffeine. This is to aid in flushing the fat out of your body.
This method of body contouring is one of the few that uses cool temperatures, not hot, to dissolve fat cells. Your cosmetic surgeon will use a wand or applicator that delivers almost freezing temperatures to the target areas. The cold temperatures destroy the fat cells and they are then naturally flushed from the body. No anesthesia is used and patients can return to the work or daily activities after treatment. The only side effects are some initial discomfort from the cold device and possibly some redness of the skin, light bruising, tingling or loss of feeling for a short period.
Cool Sculpting treatments last one or two hours, depending on the size of the target area. In about three weeks patients see results and will continue to see fat reduction for the next eight to sixteen weeks. The best Cool Sculpting candidates are those who aren't extremely overweight but who just a few extra pounds to lose.
Finding a qualified, experienced cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist is the first step in body contouring. He or she can evaluate your individual needs, discuss realistic goals and then help you determine the best treatment to look your best.