Thigh Lift

Risks & Complications

A thigh lift reshapes the thighs by reducing excess skin, fat and floppy tissue resulting in a better proportioned contour of the thighs and lower body. Tissues are almost always removed from the inner thigh so that scars remain hidden as much as possible. Excision of the skin and fat on the outer (lateral) side in my practice is very rarely necessary, and remains reserved perhaps only for patients following a major weight loss surgery. Thigh lifting is commonly done as a part of body lifting procedures.

Droopy, sagging inner thighs soft tissues most commonly develop as a result of natural aging process, but can also be due to significant weight loss or rarely, as a hereditary feature. As most patients know, even regular exercise and strength training cannot get rid of excess sagging skin in this area; exercise can tone and tighten muscles underneath, but cannot tighten skin, fat and subcutaneous tissue.

Preoperative Considerations

The following factors are associated with good outcome:

  • Significant thigh skin excess and laxity – only minor surplus of tissue usually does not justify postoperative scarring and risks of surgery
  • Patients with relatively stable weight, but not overly overweight and/or obese
  • Healthy persons who do not have medical conditions that can impair healing or increase risk of surgery
  • Non-smokers
  • Positive individuals with realistic expectations and committed to a healthy lifestyle and diet


Procedure is usually carried out under general anaesthetic on a day care basis. Pending on amount of tissue that needs removing, it can last between 1.5 – 2 hours. Thigh lift can be done in conjunction with additional procedures such as liposuction or correction of other parts of the body in which case operation will last longer and require at least one night stay in hospital.

Cut (incision) is most commonly made on the inside of the thigh. The length of incision and subsequent scar depends on the amount of excess skin that needs addressing. In many cases an incision starts in the area where the thigh and pubic area meet and extends downwards towards the mid thigh and/or knee. A wedge of skin and fat is removed and the skin is closed, leading an improved leg contour and enhanced soft tissue tone. Pictures on the right illustrate modifications and extent of the skin and fat incisions pending individual circumstances.

Sometimes, the area on the outer (lateral) thigh is very floppy and requires addressing too. During a lateral thigh lift, an incision is made at the top of the leg where the lower edge of your underwear would be. A certain amount of skin is then removed before pulling the remaining skin up and attaching it to the same area. Through this technique reshaping is focused on the outside aspect of the thigh and can achieve remarkable leg contour improvements. Patients should however, understand that there will be a relatively long scar on the more exposed side of the tight i.e. more obvious then the one on inner aspect. This can be of particular interest to patients keen on wearing skirts and beachwear. In my practice, lateral thigh is performed for only very selected group of patients.

If there is a lot of fat excess in the thigh, before the skin is opened, liposuction might be performed first. Excessive skin is then removed, tightened and sutured into place with deep (dissolving) sutures. The wound drain (tiny silicone tube) is inserted at the time of surgery to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect. Drain is removed in the dressing clinic the following day. Wound is covered with an elegant surgical tape and thigh bandaged from groin to the knee in order to control swelling and bruising. A compression garment (like a tight cycling shorts) is often used to minimize swelling, support the new contour of the thighs and allow early mobilisation. Compression shorts is applied either straight after operation (in case of limited resection) or the first day after the surgery. Garments/shorts should be purchased by the patient in advance of surgery and we will discuss this during the consultation.


In general, recovery is slow, but straightforward and restrictions are minimal. Recovery may include mild discomfort right after the procedure, but patients very rarely report a need for pain killers. It is normal for some swelling and bruising to occur 2-3 days after the surgery, but this settles within two weeks. Healing is known to be slow, with higher then usual infection rates, mainly due to the location of the wound lines and skin quality in this area. Patients are however encouraged to mobilise at home as soon as possible. Most people find reclining position in bed or sofa the most comfortable. Synopsis box indicates time intervals required for certain activities based on usual extent of tissue resected.

It is important for a patient to have someone helping them get home after the surgery and if possible, to help at home for a couple days afterward.

The results of thigh lift surgery will be long-lasting, provided that you maintain a stable weight and general fitness. There will be some visible scars, but they improve with time and up to 18 months following surgery. Most patients are so delighted with contour improvement that they are happy to accept long scars. As the body ages, it is natural to lose some firmness in the thighs, but most of your improvement from surgery should be relatively permanent.

Many patients who have a thigh lift may also consider other body contouring procedures, such as liposuction, tummy tuck or arm lift.

Before Operation

  • Anticoagulation medication (Aspirin, Brufen, Warfarin, Clopidrogel) should ideally be stopped few days before the operation to reduce the risk of bleeding, but advise from the clinician who prescribed them is wise beforehand. I would strongly advise you to stop smoking prior to surgery as this can badly affect the outcome of surgery and increase complication rates.
  • Please make sure that you arrange to be collected from the hospital as you will not be able to drive after the surgery.
  • Plan your time off work / sports / hobbies
  • Allow at least few weeks after surgery before considering a holiday.

Potential risks and complications

Complications are rare, but as with any surgical procedure, there are general and procedure (thigh lift) specific risks which patients must be aware of:

General complications:

  • Adverse reaction to general anaesthetic
  • Clots in the legs/lungs
  • Vein trombosis / inflammation (trombophlebitis)
  • Bruising and swelling in the operated area
    (especially in patients on aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Skin/wound infection
  • Hypertrophic (lumpy and itchy) scars
  • Delayed healing (higher then usual rates)
  • Numbness, alteration in sensation

Specific complications:

  • Bleeding and haematoma collection (including the need to return to theatre)
  • Seroma formation (fluid collection under the skin which might require repeated aspirations in the clinic)
  • Asymmetry
  • Fatty lumps and irregularities
  • Surface irregularities (dimpling, rippling, loose skin)
  • Prolonged numbness of the inner thigh
  • Swelling of the legs,knees and feet prolonged, sometimes even permanent
  • Long scars

This leaflet provides only basic and generic information, but full details and explanations are provided at the consultation as no two patients are the same and personal circumstances vary greatly between individuals.

If you have any concerns following your surgery please contact:

  • Hospital where you were operated:
    Ashtead 01372 221 442; St Anthony’s 020 8337 6691; Parkside 020 8971 8000
  • Your GP practice
  • My secretary on 0845 026 7776 (Monday – Friday, 9:30 – 18:00)
  • Synopsis:

    Hospital stay Day care or overnight stay (depending on the extent of surgery)
    Anaesthetic General
    Surgery time 90-120 min (depending on the area treated)
    Wound healing 10 -14 days
    Shower / Bath from week 1
    Time off work 2 week (for office based jobs)
    Sports and exercise from week 4
    Driving 1-2 week
    Full recovery 2-3 weeks for smaller areas 4-5 weeks (for larger areas)

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    All appointments, correspondence and enquiries are handled through the Practice Manager: Arabella Burwood

    Ashtead Hospital, The Warren, Ashtead, Surrey KT21 2SB

    Tel: +44 (0)845 026 7776 | Fax: +44 (0)845 026 7772