Reshaping the contour of the abdomen is frequently requested in my office consultations. The most common techniques are various forms of liposuction with or without an abdominoplasty. Another tool in our repertoire which can yield effective results is the “Reverse Abdominoplasty.” The classic indications for a regular abdominoplasty is a torso which has loose excess inelastic skin of the lower abdomen, abdominal wall rectus muscle separation (diastasis), and varying degrees of excess fatty tissue. The technique eliminates the excess skin and fatty tissue in the lower abdomen, reconnects the rectus muscle together to tighten the abdominal wall, and excess abdominal fatty tissue can be reshaped with liposuction to provide a pleasing shape. A Reverse Abdominoplasty is chosen for the individual who has loose excess skin in the upper abdomen, who generally does not have a full diastasis which is affecting the lower abdominal contour, and may have excess fatty tissue in the lower abdomen without skin excess. The technique is to start with incisions that follow the lower breast fold then cross the lower sternum to connect both sides of the abdomen. These scars generally hide very well even in two piece bathing suites. The full thickness skin is elevated down the abdomen preserving the vital blood supply on either side of the belly button. If upper rectus muscles need to be tightened this can proceed. Any abdominal fatty excess can also be corrected with liposuction at this time. The elevated released excess abdominal skin can be addressed in several ways depending on the needs of the patient:
1. If a women who has the upper abdominal skin excess and also desires rejuvenation of the breast the excess elevated skin of the abdomen can be utilized as a self-augmentation under the breast to provide added fullness and shape. This is often done in conjunction with a breast lift (Mastopexy) and can avoid the need and expense of an implant. I have even performed this procedure with a woman who many years ago had bilateral mastectomies for breast cancer and we reconstructed her with implants. She had experienced some weight fluctuation and was becoming very active and requested the elimination of her breast implants but still desired a smaller breast to remain. We utilized a reverse abdominoplasty skin excess, removed the outer skin, and placed it in her implant space to fill the void and added tissue volume and shape provided with fat grafting harvested from her back, thighs, and lower abdomen giving her a smaller but still reasonable breast shape.
2. The Reverse Abdominoplasty could be incorporated as part of a treatment plan to tighten the upper abdominal contour. After the incision and elevation of the abdominal excess loose skin, the surgeon can remove the undesirable portion and fixate the remaining tissue to the rib fascia of the lower breast fold to avoid the scars from migrating inferiorly thus preventing the exposure of the scars on the upper abdomen. I have used this as a primary surgical procedure for women with loose skin of the upper abdomen that would not respond favorably to liposuction alone. I have also used this as a secondary procedure on women who have previously had an abdominoplasty with good results but over time the lower abdomen has maintained its results yet the upper abdomen has become loose and has excess as a result of weight changes, sun exposure, and of course gravity. The excess skin can be removed providing a nice tight appearance to the whole abdomen.
3. Another situation for the reverse abdominoplasty is for a women with loose upper abdominal skin combined with previous augmentation mammoplasty in which the implants have become mal-posed and have drifted inferior and lateral to the correct position. In this case the excess elevated tissue can be utilized as a autologous (meaning from your own body) soft tissue sling to help reposition and stabilize the implant similar to an Acellular Dermal Matrix (ADM) graft without the significant added cost of the product to provide long lasting results.
One of the aspects in my profession of plastic surgery I am most proud of is the innovative nature of the field. We take problem sets that patients present to our office and we create unique methods that achieve a sound result with the least amount of surgery and the lowest costs to ensure successful and happy patients. The Reverse abdominoplasty is an example of one of these off shoot procedures which fills a vital niche in my practice.
Torrance Plastic Surgeon Todd Gerlach MD