What is Body Contouring? 


This is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Let’s go through exactly what body contouring is and also describe the various procedures that are available that fall under this bigger umbrella term. 


A body contouring procedure is a procedure that is designed to change the shape of your body. There are several categories of body contouring, and these are surgical procedures, minimally invasive procedures which are surgery but tend to have much less scarring and much less downtime and recovery than surgical procedures, non-invasive procedures, and finally, there are two special categories of body contouring that are high definition body contouring and body contouring procedures after massive weight loss. 


Surgical procedures are exactly what you are imagining they are. They involve incisions and usually general anesthesia which means that you are completely asleep and you are breathing with the help of a machine, and you’ll wake up a few hours later and you’ll have had your procedure performed.  


Common examples of surgical body contouring procedures include tummy tuck or abdominoplasty an arm lift, thigh lift, and also things like lower body lift, and what all of these procedures have in common is that they tend to be the most powerful option available to change the shape of the contour of the part of the body under consideration. 

For example, with the tummy tuck surgeons can remove a great deal of excess skin, treat excess fat, and also tighten the abdominal muscles to treat rectus diastasis.  Similarly, with an arm lift and a thigh lift, they are removing the most amount of excess skin possible with these surgical procedures. While they do tend to have the most scarring and the most downtime and the most cost associated with them, they also tend to be the most definitive options available for a given body area. 


Minimally-invasive body contouring procedures are technically surgical, however, they require only very small incisions, usually 3 to 4 millimeters in length, they tend to have a very straightforward more comfortable recovery than surgical procedures with a lot less downtime, and they also often are less expensive than their maximally invasive surgical counterparts. 


The other thing to know about minimally invasive procedures is that they can often be performed under local anesthesia, which is where you are wide awake but you have numbing medicine, so you are feeling only minimal if any discomfort, and also twilight anesthesia which is where in addition to numbing medicine you have some IV medication to relax you, but you are a lot less concerned with what’s going on. 


With these options where you’re not completely asleep as with general anesthesia, the process right after surgery, the recovery, is often faster and more comfortable.  


There are three subsets of minimally invasive body contouring procedures and they include liposuction fat grafting and skin tightening. 


Liposuction is a procedure in which we make a series of very small incisions insert a long thin instrument called a cannula instill numbing medication into the treatment areas and then come back and suction and the fat out of the treatment area to achieve the desired shape. 


A kind of liposuction that deserves special attention here is lipo  360 or 360 liposuction. It usually implies is liposuction of the entire torso, the front sides, and the back.  Doctors need to be very specific in talking about the areas that they are treating with liposuction so that the surgeon and the patient can communicate goals and desires very clearly with one another to make sure that they are achieving the desired outcome. 


Instead of saying liposuction 360, let’s break this down into its parts such as liposuction of the abdomen liposuction of the flanks and liposuction of the upper back or lower back or the axilla, etc.   

The next category of minimally invasive body contouring is fat grafting, and while the goal of liposuction is to remove fat in areas that it’s not wanted, the goal of fat grafting is exactly the opposite, and that is to increase the volume with fat in areas as desired to improve body contour or body shape. 


The 2 most popular areas for fat grafting in body contouring are the breasts and the buttocks. 


 and fat grafting for the breasts can be used on its own to increase breast volume or in combination with breast implants to achieve a certain shape, specifically, fat grafting is often combined with breast implants to achieve an increase in upper pole volume.  The upper pole of the breast is the portion of the breast that is above the nipple-areolar complex, and the lower pole of the breast is the portion of the breast that is below the nipple-areolar complex.  

When surgeons put an implant into the breast unless you’re using a teardrop or anatomic implant with a round implant more or less adding equal amounts of volume to the upper and lower pole of the breasts. If they want to selectively add volume to the upper pole the breast they can do that with fat grafting. 


The other very popular area for fat grafting is the buttocks. This procedure is often called a Brazilian Butt Lift. In this procedure, surgeons are taking fat from elsewhere in the body and use it either to enhance the size of the product or to give them more pleasing rounder shape or in some cases to achieve both of these goals. 

Fat grafting is a relatively straightforward procedure to perform. With this procedure, doctors are harvesting fat with liposuction and then processing it to remove any excess lipids or blood or anesthesia fluid that they don’t want to be reinjected in this part of the graft and then making essentially a paste out of the harvested fat cells that have been purified and then reintroducing that fat into the treatment area. 


While fat grafting is relatively technically easy to perform there is a lot of nuances in the artistry that goes into achieving truly excellent results with this procedure. 


The last category of minimally invasive body contouring to be covered is skin tightening. Skin tightening technology is important because liposuction is only a fat reduction procedure, it does not do anything to shrink the skin itself. 

The analogy here is that of a balloon. If we think of the treatment area that surgeons are targeting with liposuction as a balloon, and if they go and remove a small amount of air from a balloon, the outside of the balloon,  that plastic shell will contract to a certain degree and everything will look just fine, but if they go and remove a lot of air from that balloon the outside of the balloon will not be able to keep up in terms of how much it contracts and will start to look rippled and wrinkled and may start to droop. 


The same thing is true in liposuction. In that analogy the air that they are moving from the balloon is fat, and the rubber shell of the balloon is skin, and just like the balloon if doctors remove a small amount or of fat from the treatment area, the skin can contract and you’ll do just fine, but if they remove large amounts of fat, the skin sometimes can’t keep up and can’t contract enough so you will get this wrinkled or rippled or even deflated appearance. It is the amount of fat that they can remove without having that skin appearance largely depends on the skin elasticity which has to do with a lot of individual health factors that range from age to smoking status. 


This is an important part of your evaluation with a body contouring expert. They’ll be able to help you decide if you will have good enough skin elasticity to have liposuction without and a skin tightening procedure at the same time, and then they will do that based on physical exam and also taking your health factors into account.  


If it is decided between you and your search and that you are someone that if you remove a significant amount of fat, your skin maybe not be able to contract enough to get a great result, then you will be looking at these minimally invasive skin tightening procedures. 


There are several of these available, but in general, they involve the introduction of some kind of instrument through one of the tiny liposuction incisions and using that instrument to pass some kind of energy to the skin to generate heat which causes skin contraction. 


Of all the available devices the one that works the best is BodyTite, which is a bipolar radiofrequency skin tightening device and it delivers very consistently excellent results for skin tightening in conjunction with liposuction


Noninvasive body contouring procedures can more or less be divided into fat reduction procedures and muscle building procedures. 


the fat reduction procedures have been around for a bit longer than the muscle-building procedures and the basic principle with the non-invasive fat removing procedures is that they use an applicator that will apply some kind of external stimulus that will pass through the skin and selectively affect fat cells to cause them to die resulting in a reduction of fatty volume. 

Of all of these fat reduction procedures, the most widely known is probably CoolSculpting.  Of the non-invasive fat reduction procedures CoolSculpting is the best, however these non-invasive fat reduction procedures really and in general don’t hold a candle to minimally invasive fat reduction procedures as they just don’t have the same kind of precision or efficacy as these procedures, but for individuals that either can’t have surgery or are just very opposed to having surgery, these non-invasive fat reduction procedures like CoolSculpting can be a reasonable option as long as these treatments are designed by a true body contouring expert that understands the limitations of this technology and the best way to apply it.  


In terms of the other category of non-invasive body contouring procedures, we have muscle-building treatments. These are a bit newer to the scene. An original and non-invasive muscle building procedure is EmSculpt, and this is the noninvasive muscle building procedure by which all other technologies in this genre are judged.  

What EmSculpt does is use high intensity focused electromagnetic energy to create super-maximum muscle contractions or muscle contractions that are much more powerful than anything you could produce through voluntary exercise, and it induces up to 20000 of these contractions in 30 minutes, and this causes muscle growth by both hypertrophy and hyperplasia

In hypertrophy, the muscle cells themselves are getting larger, whereas in hyperplasia you’re creating new muscle cells. 

As a byproduct of this treatment, you do you burn a little bit of fat in the local treatment area but the main goal of EmSculpt in these non-invasive muscle-building procedures is to build muscle. 


There are also 2 special categories of body contouring.  

The first is the high definition body contouring high definition lipo, and the second is body contouring after massive weight loss.  


High definition lipo or High-Def body contouring is essentially a marketing term that was developed to describe the use of liposuction instruments to create the appearance of specific anatomical contours as part of a liposuction procedure. Instead of reducing fatty volume with high definition lipo, an addition to reducing that fatty volume will often attempt to create the cuts or lines that are associated with muscle development.  

High definition liposuction can be used to create the inscriptions in the rectus diastasis to give the appearance of a well-developed six-pack. 

While a true expert at this technique can create something that approximates the appearance of a well-developed six-pack using high definition liposuction it usually looks unnatural even at rest, and then as soon as you start to move your abdomen, if you bend at your waist or otherwise exert your core,  the appearance of these results of high def liposuction do you tend to look a bit unnatural, so it’s important before you embark on one of these procedures that you look at a lot of before and after pictures to make sure that the result that can be achieved is something that is in line with your aesthetic goals. 

The second special category of body contouring is body contouring after massive weight loss.  

Massive weight loss by most plastic surgeons is considered a decrease in weight by at least 100 pounds and this is often accomplished with the use of bariatric surgery procedures like a gastric bypass or a gastric band, but sometimes can be achieved with diet and exercise. 

With massive weight loss there is a dramatic decrease in the volume of fat and just like with the balloon analogy, this skin has a very hard time contracting enough to keep up with this decrease in fatty volume.  

Individuals that succeed in losing a great deal of weight often have a lot of skin excess. This degree of skin access far exceeds anything that can be treated effectively with the minimally invasive skin tightening methods. It requires not only the standard surgical techniques like a tummy tuck, but they often require truly advanced surgical skin excision procedures and these might include things like extended arm lifts and various kinds of thigh lift or lower body lift or Fleur-de-Lis Abdominoplasty or tummy tuck that involves both of vertical and horizontal incision to allow for skin excision in multiple dimensions.  

Before considering having body contouring after massive weight loss you must go to someone who is truly an expert in these procedures.  

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