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Also known as ‘belt lipectomy’ or ‘circumferential abdominoplasty’, specialist plastic surgeon Dr David Sharp makes an incision 360 degrees around the patient’s lower torso, to remove excess skin from front and back abdomen following massive weightloss. Scroll down for benefits, risks and recovery information. 

What is a body lift?

A body lift is usually a medically required (ie non cosmetic) procedure that removes excess skin, the entire way around the front and back of the lower torso. It also strengthens the abdominal wall, providing the functional benefits of an improved core strength, as well as removing skin that can cause hygiene problems and skin conditions. Body lift is known by a number of different names, and some involve variances of standard body lift surgery:

  • Belt lipectomy
  • Body contouring
  • Torso skin removal
  • 360 abdominoplasty
  • Circumferential lipectomy
  • Fleur de lis abdominoplasty

A body lift is usually a single incision that runs around the lower torso – hence the use of the term ‘belt’ lipectomy. The word ‘lipectomy’ refers to the removal of a section of skin. Removing skin in this area and repairing abdominal wall weakness can impact the following areas of the body:

  • EAbdominal area: apron of excess skin locally or extending around the sides and into the lower back area
  • EButtocks: tightens upper buttock skin excess
  • EGroin and pubic area: after massive weightloss, skin can extend into inner thigh, causing hygiene issues. This procedure removes this skin and also lifts the pubic area
Ageing, sun damage, pregnancy, significant fluctuations in weight and genetic factors may contribute to poor tissue elasticity that can results in sagging of the abdomen, buttocks and thighs. In most cases, the body lift surgery Dr Sharp performs is for significant excess skin that causes hygiene and skin issues. It is therefore usually classified as a ‘medically required’, and thus rebateable, procedure. He rarely performs this operation as a cosmetic procedure.

What a body lift won’t do

Body lifts are not intended strictly for the removal of excess fat. Liposuction alone 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 body lift techniques may be recommended.

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Before and after surgery

before and three months after body lift surgery with Dr Sharp. Patient also underwent mastopexy (breast lift) surgery. 

before and twelve months after fleur de lis body lift surgery with Dr Sharp. Patient underwent two stage procedures including body lift, breast lift (mastopexy), brachioplasty and then augmentation. 

before and four months after circumferential body lift

body contouring surgery in Ipswich and Brisbane
Brisbane and Ipswich body lift surgeon review

How do I know if a body lift is right for me?

Circumferential body lift surgery is primarily for people who have been overweight, and had a significant reduction in their weight, leaving excess skin. It is ideal for people who have reached their ideal body weight. If you have experienced massive weight loss, and find yourself limited by excess skin in your wardrobe choices, intimate relationships or exercise,provided you have realistic expectations, body lift surgery might be for you.

In general, body lift candidates include:

  • EIndividuals with significant soft tissue looseness in one or multiple body areas
  • EHealthy individuals without medical conditions that impair healing or increase risk of surgery
  • EIndividuals with a positive outlook and realistic goals for what body lift surgery can accomplish
  • ENon-smokers
  • EIndividuals committed to leading a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and fitness

Body lift surgery is not recommended for people who are obese.

Body lift scars

Body contouring surgery involves extensive scars, a long operation and lengthy recovery; which is why it is important to consult a qualified plastic surgeon, to ensure that best practice techniques and postoperative care support is offered. In most cases, depending on torso length, scars sit under pant/skirt and underwear lines (see before and after images, at 3 months post body lift). The length of the incision will vary depending upon the location and the amount of fat being removed. The scar will initially thicken and tighten as the scar matrix undergoes its natural healing process. With time, and adherence to postoperative scar care recommendations, the scar will soften and improve in appearance over the 24 months following surgery. It will never disappear entirely.

Dr Sharp and his team offer a proven pre and post operative skin optimisation program that supports you in maintaining healthy skin quality throughout, and after, your surgical journey to reduce long term scarring.

What to expect at your body lift consultation

Prior to your body lift consult you will receive extensive information for pre-reading before you attend your firs appointment with Dr Sharp. You will also be asked to obtain a GP referral and complete some patient registration forms with us, covering important medical history as well as your motivations and expectations of surgery.

Importantly, your initial consultation with our clinic will be with Dr Sharp himself. We do not outsource this appointment to patient coordinators or other healthcare professionals in our practice. During this consult you will be examined by Dr Sharp. We encourage patients to bring a support person, or if you require a patient support chaperone for personal or cultural reasons please let us know. As there is a lot of information to discuss with Dr Sharp and our care team at your first consult, please allow an hour to be with us in the clinic. Subsequent to this, if surgery is suitable for you as a medical (item numbered) procedure and you wish to proceed, you are able to book your surgery. You will have a second consultation prior to your operation to discuss the procedure, risks, benefits and recovery again.

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Preparing for your body lift consultation

During your body lift surgery consultation be prepared to discuss:

  • Your surgical motivations and expectations
  • Medical conditions, drug allergies and previous medical treatments
  • Current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drug use
  • Previous surgeries
  • Your current weight and how long it has been stable for (we recommend consulting the surgeon when you have reached your ideal weight, under 30 BMI and it has been stable fro 6 months or more.

Your body lift surgeon will also:

  • Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
  • Examine and measure your body, this may include detailed body measurements
  • Take photographs
  • Discuss your body lift options
  • Recommend a course of treatment
  • Discuss likely outcomes of body lift surgery and risks or potential complications

Be sure to ask questions. To help, we will send you detailed information about the surgery and recovery, to help you develop questions to ask your body lift surgeon.

It’s very important to understand all aspects of your body lift procedure. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether it’s excitement for your anticipated surgery or preoperative stress. Don’t hesitate to discuss these feelings with Dr Sharp.

Benefits of body lift abdominoplasty surgery

Obvious functional benefits include removing skin hygiene issues and skin irritations which may make exercise, exertion, sex and even dressing easier.

Repairing the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles will also result in an increase in core strength.

If your ‘apron’ of skin was hanging over your pants or rubbing on the skin underneath, you will also no longer have to worry about chaffing, skin infections, dermatitis in this region.

Some patients also notice improved abdominal and pelvic muscle function, which can help them develop better control over defecation and urination – and help with stress incontinence.

In the long term, patients may also notice a reduction in back pain and improved posture.

Body lift surgery; the procedure

Body lift procedures are surgical procedures and they require extensive incisions. Incision length and pattern depend on the amount and location of excess skin to be removed, as well as surgical judgement.

Most techniques allow incisions to be placed in locations where they can be hidden by most types of clothing and swimsuits. View a video here of Dr Sharp placing incision markings.

In the case of a fleur de lis (FDL abdominoplasty) an incision is made vertical down the midline of the abdomen to reduce large amounts of lax skin.

Step 1 – Anesthesia

Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.

Which Brisbane surgeon for body lift

One common technique of complete lower body lift uses incisions similar to a bikini pattern to tighten the abdomen, groin, waist, thigh and buttock in one procedure.

A circumferential incision around the body removes an apron of excess skin and fat and repositions and tightens tissues.

A combination of liposuction and surgical body lifts may be necessary to achieve an improved contour.

Body contouring and lift in Brisbane

Deep support sutures within underlying tissues help to form the newly shaped contours. Sutures, skin adhesives, tapes, or clips close the skin incisions.

Step 4 – See the results

The immediate results of this procedure are obscured by bruising and swelling. Due to scarring and initial tightness, it may take as long as one to two years for the final results to fully develop. We offer 12 months complimentary postoperative consultations in our clinic to support you during this time.

How to maintain your results

Healthy nutrition and regular physical activity, including core strength exercises and practicing good posture, are integral to obtaining and maintaining optimal long-term results.

Body lift surgery: recovery

Following your surgery, you will remain in hospital for up to 2 weeks to ensure you have specialised support during the early healing period and can be seen by Dr Sharp and his inpatient hospital team daily.

During your body lift surgery recovery, tape, dressings and a compression garment will be worn. Small, thin tubes will be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood that may collect.

You will be given specific instructions that may include how to care for your surgical site(s) following surgery, medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the risk of infection, specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health, how to care for your drains, and when to follow up with your plastic surgeon.

Prior to your procedure, Dr Sharp will discuss some common questions he receives regarding what you can expect during your individual recovery period, such as:

  • Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
  • What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
  • Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery?
  • When will they be removed?
  • How should I bathe after surgery?
  • Are stitches removed? When?
  • When will the drains be removed?
  • When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
  • When can I start driving again after surgery?
  • When do I return for follow-up care?

Bringing a list of questions along to your initial consultations, and being honest with your surgeon regarding your lifestyle and post-operative plans is integral to having a healthy recovery and good outcome.

Body lift surgery recovery at home

Once you get home, you will still need lots of support for at least another 2 weeks, to ensure you do not over-exert yourself or place tension on your incision lines. Simple tasks like hanging out the washing, walking the dog, carry a handbag or getting in a car can require help. 

You will go home with tape over your incision and a compression garment. Your compression garment is worn for 6 weeks, 24/7.

Tape is changed at your 1 week post-discharge appointment with your care nurse.

Taping and scar massage instructions are tailored to your personal healing rates, and advice will be provided by your post op care team.

We also recommend using a lymphatic drainage masseuse or nurse that specialises in postoperative massage. This will help reduce swelling.

Our clinics offer 6 weeks of complimentary LED scar therapy (20 minute sessions) which patients are encouraged to take advantage of, to assist with their healing.

If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, or unusual heart beats, seek medical attention immediately. Should any of these complications occur, you may require hospitalisation and additional treatment.

Remember, body lift surgery is not for everyone. It is a large procedure that involves a significant recovery period and requires strict adherence to your surgeon’s advice.

How do I choose my surgeon?

Body contouring surgery has a low mortality and morbidity rate when performed in Australia by a specialist plastic surgeon. It is a procedure that Dr Sharp has performed many times. However it is a major procedure – and therefore, choosing the right surgeon is of utmost importance. Body contouring surgery should be performed by a qualified specialist plastic surgeon who is registered as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. You can confirm your surgeon’s credentials on The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeon’s website here or use Dr Sharp’s AHPRA registration number to search via AHPRA’s website.

Dr David Sharp is a qualified plastic surgeon with a special interest in reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery. His personalised approach means that you receive plenty of preoperative time with him to discuss your specific body goals and any questions.

It’s normal to feel both nervous, and an excited sense of anticipation when planning your body lift. Dr Sharp takes the time to ensure you have as many consultations as you require, to ensure your treatment is customised to suit your body and expectations – and address any concerns you may have.

What is an apronectomy?

This is a medical procedure (not cosmetic) usually in the setting of massive weight loss – or post bariatric surgery. It involves the removal of a large apron of skin and fat, called a pannus, which can cause:

  • Skin infections
  • Hygiene problems
  • Impaired function, mobility or movement
  • Chronic dermatitis


Skin removal post pregnancy

Pregnancy brings the greatest of gifts, but it can also leave behind lax skin that causes hygiene and skin issues. Rapid weight gain, and then weight loss – as well as the general stretching caused by an expanding stomach and breastfeeding, can have an impact on comfort and hygiene.

It is important to choose a surgeon that understands your concerns, lifestyle and makes you feel informed, supported and respected throughout this journey.

No woman should feel pressured to change her body after having babies; neither by other people or social expectations in general. Everyone’s body recovers at a different pace, and anybody that has produced life is beautiful! This procedure simply empowers women to have a choice about how they want their bodies to look, if their new post-baby body sits at odds with how they would like to look or feel.

Dr Sharp has a special interest in post-pregnancy surgery. If you are planning future pregnancies, Dr Sharp recommends that you postpone having a body lift until you think you have completed your family.

Click here to read more about tummy tuck and breast surgery options for changing body shape and condition.

Does body contouring remove stretch marks?

Body contouring does not correct stretch marks, however, some of these might be removed or reduced if they are located on the excess skin that is removed.

Dr Sharp’s clinic offers a range of safe, skin therapies that have been scientifically proven to reduce stretch marks – without surgery, needles or downtime. If you are concerned about stretch marks, call 07 3202 4744.

How can I improve body lift scars?

Scarring is dependent on many factors, but the key ones are:

  1. the position of the scar on the body
  2. postoperative scar care
  3. time since surgery
  4. skin type/quality and genetics 

Scar position 

Scars that are located on parts of the body that are under tension or frequent movement are more likely to be stretched, and thicker. This is why it is important to wear postoperative compression garments after  surgery and limit movement.

Postoperative scar care

Our patients go home with extensive postoperative instructions. These feature evidence-based, best practice scar care recommendations; when followed, they give patients the best possible scar outcome.

It is therefore essential to wear your support garment/s correctly (our team are always on hand to clarify if you are unsure of the correct positioning), observe physical activity restrictions, practice good nutrition and only use approved tape/products on incisions for the recommended amount of time. We also advocate for daily scar massage once the incision has healed.

When we see poor scarring in otherwise healthy patients, it is usually because one or more of the above recommendations have not been followed.

For example, failure to wear compression garments properly can place additional pressure on the scar, or result in excessive swelling, haematoma or seroma, which can require further surgery, in turn causing more incisional tension and unfavourable scarring.

Essential oils, bleaching creams or any products not supplied or recommended by the clinic can be detrimental to healing and cause wound breakdown, delayed healing and poor scarring.

Time since surgery

It is inevitable that patients will monitor, observe and worry about their scars most closely during the exact phase of natural scar healing when it is always going to be looking its worst; the first 3-12 months postoperatively. This maturation process takes the scar approximately 24 months in total, so patience is needed in order to see the final result! While it might be annoying to hear ‘be patient’ during this period, it is important to give your body time to fully heal.

If postoperative instructions are closely followed and you do not experience complications such as infection or wound dehiscence, patients usually find their body lift scars mature into soft, lightly-coloured scars that are not as prominent as they appear to be in the first 3-12 months.

Skin condition, quality or genetics

Some skin types or ethnicities are more predisposed to poor scarring. Sun damaged, aged or thin skin can also scar badly or experience delayed healing. Even if you are genetically predisposed to poor scarring, good scar care can go some way to improving the appearance of the scar.

Following your surgery, you will be given a scar care pack, post op instructions and we also encourage you to use lymphatic drainage as well as our complimentary LED therapy as much as possible during the 6 weeks after surgery, if you wish.


What kind of anaesthetic will I have?

Body contouring surgery is performed under a full general anaesthetic. A specifically selected range of medications are administered during the surgery to ensure your post-operative comfort. Dr Sharp works with an experienced team of friendly and skilled anesthetists.

How much time should I take off work?

You should limit yourself to light activities for at least six weeks. Depending on your work, you could need to take up to 6 weeks off work, although many people return to work, particularly if it involves sedentary activity, after 3 weeks.

After your 6 weeks of no activity, you are able to gently reintroduce normal exercise, activities and exertion – but very gradually! Most people do not return to their preoperative exertion levels until around 3 months. 


How much does body lift surgery cost?

Potential costs include:

  • Dr Sharp’s fee
  • Anaesthetist fee
  • Assistant’s fee
  • Theatre costs
  • Support garments

Under most circumstances, body lift surgery is classified as medically required, and therefore have a Medicare item number. If so, you might be eligible to claim a rebate from Medicare and your private health fund.

After your consultation with Dr Sharp, if there’s a possibility that your surgery meets Medicare’s criteria, you will be provided with an item number. We recommend you contact your health insurance provider and ask them if you are covered for plastic surgery, particularly citing the item number provided.

It is important to understand that, in the case of complications or revision surgery, the cost of your body lift might extend to future surgical procedures and hospitalisations. We encourage patients to think about how they would fund further treatment beyond the immediate costs expected.

How long do the results last?

The effects of ageing and gravity will continue to take normal effect on your body, so it does not stop the hands of time! The best way to retain your results is to maintain your operative weight and don’t sustain injuries or undergo further abdominal surgery. Pregnancy and substantial weight gain are the two most common reasons why body lift results don’t last.

Body lift surgery before and after results

The results of body lift surgery are visible almost immediately. However, it may take two years or more for the final results of the body lift procedures to fully develop.

Some visible scars will remain, but the overall results are long lasting, provided that you maintain a stable weight and general fitness. As your body ages, it is natural to lose some firmness.

However, most of your initial improvement should be relatively permanent.

Although good results are expected from your body lift surgery, 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.

Following your surgeon’s instructions is essential to the success of your surgery.

It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing. We will give you specific instructions on how to care for your surgical site after you are discharged from hospital.

Muscle repair during body lift

Abdominal wall muscles can become lax or separated due to pregnancy or aging. When toned, the rectus abdominus muscles join to create a stronger muscle wall. When repeatedly stretched, they can sometimes sit far apart from where they should ideally meet in the middle (called diastasis or diverication of rectus). This is corrected using permanent stitches, which pulls the muscles together for a firmer abdomen and narrower waist. Sometimes the laxity of the lateral abdominal muscles (obliques) also requires permanent sutures to create an ideal shape (called muscle plication). The primary benefit, in a medical body lift, is functional; this procedure can improve core strength, reduce back pain and help with pelvic floor issues.

Risks and complications

Like any surgery, you must weigh up whether the benefits outway the risks for you. While body contouring surgery is very common, it also carries risks, and due to the length of the surgical procedure and amount of tissue removed, the risk of complication is higher than that of a standard abdominoplasty.

Possible complications of surgery in general include:

  • Acute medical event such as stoke, heart attack, pneumonia
  • The need for revision or further surgery
  • Pain which does not respond to pain relief
  • Nerve damage, causing altered sensation or loss of sensation – temporary or permanent
  • Haematoma (collection of blood), oedema (collection of fluid) and abscess
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolisms (PE)
  • Damage or or loss of loose teeth during placement of anaesthetic apparatus
  • Sore throat, swelling or discomfort following placement of breathing tubes during anaesthetic
  • Breathing difficulties following anaesthetic
  • Allergic reaction to medication
  • Allergic reaction to sutures, dressings, tapes or intraoperative solutions
  • Heavy bleeding from the wound, which may require further surgery
  • Poor or slow skin healing, wound infection, breakdown or necrosis (skin death)
  • Wound dehiscence (incision separation)
  • Adverse scarring
  • Psychological impact of surgery, recovery or altered appearance
  • Death


Your pre-operative consultations with Dr Sharp will enable him to discuss potential complications with you, and help you determine whether the surgery is right for you. Possible complications of body contouring surgery specifically include:

  • Excessive bleeding or haematoma
  • Post operative infection
  • Blood clots, cardiac and pulmonary complications
  • Discoloured or keloid scars
  • Infection
  • Slow or poor wound healing
  • Skin or fat necrosis
  • Loss of the belly button (umbilicus) due to necrosis or infection
  • Numbness or sensory changes around the scar and across the abdomen.
  • Wound separation (dehiscence)
  • Asymmetry (lopsided) appearance to the scarline
  • Persistent pain
  • General anaesthesia risks
  • Swelling or accumulated fluid
  • Skin looseness (especially if further weight loss occurs)

Surgery does not proceed until patients have understood the possibility of these occurring, and the impact on their lives if they do occur.

Dr Sharp and his team manage each of these risks with the upmost care to further reduce the likelihood of them occurring. In the event they do occur, most can be treated with prompt intervention. Sometimes, readmission to hospital is required in order for this care to be provided.

Everyone’s body responds differently to surgery. In some cases, post operative revision surgery might be required.

Some factors, such as weight, lifestyle or health problems can increase the chance of a complication occurring. Dr David will take time to learn about your potential risk factors during your pre operative consultations, and will determine if they are relevant to your surgery.

If you have any concerns regarding your body lift and the associated risks, feel free to book additional pre operative consultations with Dr Sharp.

Body lift surgery risks and safety information

Body lift: words to know

  • Abdominoplasty: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.
  • Circumferential incision: A surgical incision around the body to remove the “belt” of excess skin and fat and additional incisions that may resemble a bikini bottom pattern.
  • Circumferential thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the outer and mid-thigh.
  • General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
  • Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
  • Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
  • Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness.
  • Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
  • Lower body lift: Surgical procedure to correct sagging of the abdomen, buttocks, groin and outer thighs.
  • Macerated skin: Excess skin that hangs and becomes wet or infected underneath.
  • Medial thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the inner thigh.
  • Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
  • Tummy tuck: A surgical procedure to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.

Would you like to know more about a Body Lift? Contact our friendly patient support team.