A thigh lift (thighplasty) is a surgical procedure where excess skin is removed from the upper, inner thighs, extending down towards the knees in larger cases. Thigh lifts are typically performed under general anesthesia as an outpatient.
Thigh lifts are generally performed on patients who have lost a considerable amount of weight and, as a result, have a lot of excess skin on their thighs. Because of the tradeoff of scarring, it is not generally done on patients whose thighs sag a little from age just to tighten the skin a bit.
Medial Thigh Lifts
A smaller thigh lift exists where a transverse ellipse of skin is removed from the upper thigh and is designed to keep the scar in the groin crease where it is not visible in shorts and, sometimes, even in a bathing suit. However, only a limited amount of skin can be removed and the benefit is limited to just the upper, inner portion of the thigh. This type of thigh lift would not be appropriate for a patient with a lot of excess skin as is seen in massive weight loss patients, as there would only be a minimal benefit.
Standard Thigh Lift
Most patients who are considering having a thigh lift have lost a considerable amount of weight and have a large amount of extra skin starting on their upper, inner thighs and extending down to their knees. A thigh lift performed in these patients removes both a transverse wedge of skin on the front of the upper thighs near the groin crease as well as a vertical ellipse of skin starting on the upper, inner thigh and extending down to or past the knees. This leaves an inverted “L” shaped scar with the longer limb running down the inner aspect of the thighs but the improvement in contour is found on the front, inside and even the back of the thighs.
In most cases, one or two drains are placed in each thigh, which are removed in a few days. Then an elastic garment is worn for several weeks to keep the swelling down and to help the area heal with a smooth contour. Activity is kept to a minimum at first; walking frequently for the first few days with nothing strenuous for at least a week after the drains are removed. Although prescriptions are given for pain medication, there is not usually a lot of pain with a thigh lift.
In patients who have excess fat, some liposuction can be performed at the same time to reduce the size of the thighs as well as improve the skin contour. In cases where a lot of liposuction will be necessary, it may be best to perform the liposuction first as a separate procedure and allow this to heal for several months before the thigh lift is performed. This is because a large amount of liposuction at the time of the thighplasty can increase the risk of seroma formation.