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What Are the Possible Complications of Thigh Lift Surgery?

I am a very fit 49-year old with very loose inner thigh skin from previous lipo (and some loose frontal thigh skin from age and long-ago weight loss) who has been thinking of inner thigh lift surgery for a long time. This scares me more than other plastic surgery procedures however - the downtime, the scarring, etc. Is there anyone who has had a good outcome from this surgery, What are the possible complications vs advantages? Also, can any plastic surgeon do this surgery or just a specialist?

Doctor Answers 11

Possible complications after thigh lift

In my experience, the two biggest complications are residual leg swelling and noticeable scarring.  However, with good technique the risk of both of these can be minimized.

Complications after Thighplasty

As with any surgical procedure there can be complications with a thighplasty.  In some cases there can be separation and delayed healing up near the groin area.  Bleeding (hematoma) and seromas can also occur.   The most common problem following a thighplasty is visible scarring and even poor scarring .  In cases where there is a lot of excess skin and fat  the scars  extend the length of the thigh from the groin down to the knee.   In cases with less excess skin the scar may be limited to the groin area but with time this scar may migrate and be visible in a bathing suit.    However most patients who are good candidates -  that is they have a lot of excess skin and fat -  are happy   and feel that the scars are worth the improvement in their contour.

Susan E. Downey, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
3.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Thigh lift complications

Thigh lifts are effective operations to remove the excess skin of the inner thigh. The outer thigh generally needs a lower body lift or a posterior body lift to address the redundancy. The most common complications of this group of surgeries are small wound separations. It is rare to have a major separation. Other complications include fluid formation under the skin and fat, bleeding, infection, loss of blood supply to the skin and poor scarring. Medial thigh lift scars can also migrate downwards and cause distortion of the vagina. This is an ominous complication that is generally due to lack of experience of the surgeon. In general only surgeons who specialize in massive weight loss body contouring should attempt these complex operations.

Sepehr Egrari, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Thigh lift surgery-- risks and benefits

Your question regarding the pros and cons of a thigh lift is an excellent one.  The purpose of the inner thigh lift is to remove excess hanging skin and fat, and the tradeoff is an incision, either a straight one up the inside of the leg, or one hidden in your inner thigh crease, or a combination of the two.  While this procedure can create a nice result for lots of patients, I think there are some real risks involved with it that you need to be aware of, the 2 biggest being infection and a poor scar.  I think the inner thigh skin is some of the most delicate skin of the body-- it's thin, has lymphatic tissue, and is difficult to keep clean and dry.  For this reason, the risk of infection is higher than in other procedures.  In addition, the scar takes a long time (months) to settle down and may end up widened.  So what I tell patients is that if you want this procedure, your thighs have to really be bothering you and you have to understand these risks and be willing to potentially have a longer recovery than normal-- otherwise, I would consider not having it done.

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 116 reviews

Thighplasty: A Tough Recovery

Thighplasty is a difficult operation to recover from.  The incisions tend to be rather long and in a very difficult area to keep clean.  A recent study supports the fact that would healing complications are high for this procedure and patients need to be informed of this prior to surgery.  However, despite these problems, thighplasty remains a reliable and reproducible method of removing excess skin and fat from this area.

John Burns, MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Thigh Lift Complications May Occur - Bleeding, Hematoma, Tissue Loss, Wound Breakdown, Scarring, Infection, Etc.

                  Thigh lift surgery is one of the most popular operations performed by plastic surgeons following massive weight lost surgery.  The procedure is designed to remove and tighten excess thigh skin.  The procedure is associated with high satisfaction rates and improved quality of life.

                  Although the procedure is considered extremely safe, complications may occasionally occur.  These include bleeding, hematoma formation, loss of tissue, wound breakdown, excess scarring, infection, asymmetry and numbness.

                  Several steps can be taken to minimize complications.  These include utilizing an accredited outpatient surgical facility, a board certified plastic surgeon and a board certified anesthesiologist.  Although these steps won’t totally eliminate complications they will hopefully decrease the incidence. 

Complications of a thigh lift

First of all, most patients are very happy after thigh lifts.  Yes, like with all surgery there can be complications. More common things are unfavorable scarring, wound healing issues, and fluid collections.

Steven Wallach, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Thigh Lift Complications

Issues that can follow inner thigh lift are collections of blood or fluid under the skin, infection, and pulling or stretching of the labia over time.  A surgeon experienced with weight loss patients is probably your best bet when contemplating this type of surgery.

John LoMonaco, MD, FACS
Houston Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 205 reviews

Thigh Lift-risks/benefits

An inner thigh lift is an excellent solution for excess inner thigh skin from weight loss, liposuction, or natural redindancy.  Although massive weight loss patients will require a long scar along the inner thigh, many patients can be treated with hidden scars in the groin and perineal (region between the groin and buttocks) areas.  The scar can be designed to be hidden inside the panties or bikini bottoms.  Initially after surgery there may be a fair amount of skin crimping, but this usually smooths over time.  Sometimes small scar revisions are needed. 

Sometimes, despite the placement of deep sutures to anchor the scar upward into natural creases, the scar drifts downward and requires a revision.  To help prevent this, patients should avoid heavy exertion and spreading their legs wide apart for several weeks. 

Not all plastic surgeons perform thigh lifts, so you should be sure that your surgeon is experienced.

Bruce Genter, MD
Abington Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Thigh Lift Surgery should be done by an experienced Plastic Surgeon

The essential first step for any cosmetic surgery patient is to find the right Plastic Surgeon.  First, you want to look for someone who has American Board of Plastic Surgery certification (in US) or Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (in Canada) certification in Plastic Surgery.  The next step is find that Plastic Surgeon who does these procedures regularly, not just once in a while.  More of theses the surgeon did, more experience he has and more likely it will be that the surgery turns out the way you imagined it.

However, sometimes things don't do according to the plan, and so you want to be sure that if that happens, your surgeon will be capable of dealing with whatever happens and will be able to help you get better.

Some of the things you need to consider before a thigh lift are:

  • scarring:  the scars can be pretty big and visible
  • wound breakdown:  sometimes the wound can open up just a bit.  If that happens, the treatment is wound care and to allow it to close on its own.  It's not dangerous but takes time and may be frustrating for you
  • asymmetry: your two legs can never be perfectly symmetrical, but they should be relatively similar
  • infection: this is a risk especially in heavy patients and those with diabetes


One last thing to realize is that although right after surgery the thigh skin will be tight, as the swelling resolves and as over time skin stretches, you will always have some looseness to your skin.  Make sure that you have realistic expectations.  Do not expect tight smooth leg of an 18 y old fit person.




Martin Jugenburg, MD 

Martin Jugenburg, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 271 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.