Ab Etching

Photo source: iStockPhoto.com

With the swimsuit season upon us, The Blonde and The Brunette decided to do some homework about Ab Etching Liposculpture and the alternate procedure known as a “Mommy Makeover”.  We’d been hearing about it from many of our friends, but we really didn’t know a thing about this procedure and decided to interview plastic surgeon Dr. Gabriel Chiu, of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery, to literally give us the “skinny”.

1. In simple terms, for this of us who are not familiar with this procedure, “What is Ab-Etching Liposculpture?”

Dr. Chiu: A form of liposuction that removes excess fat between muscle groups, creating indentations and increasing definition of the muscles. Many people like to refer to it as “bringing out the inner six-pack”.

2. When was this procedure introduced?

Dr. Chiu: In the early 1990s (Dr. Henry Mentz III, a plastic surgeon, is credited with introducing this technique). By using special cannulas that enhance the contouring and shaping of the abdomen, he was able to provide patients not only with a flatter stomach but an increased definition of the muscles.

3. A patient doesn’t have to have abdominal muscle for this procedure to be effective? Sounds great for a new mom who has just been pregnant for 9 months and lost ab muscle or the upcoming bathing suit season!

Dr. Chiu: The ideal candidate should be physically fit with a total body fat of no more than 20%. He/she should have some muscle tone with relatively small pockets of fat in the abdominal area, ideally pinching between half an inch to one inch of fat (preferably not more, but possible with evaluation by surgeon). This procedure is not suitable for individuals with significant amounts of abdominal fat or excess sagging skin. Nor is abdominal etching suitable for someone who is obese. For a “new mom who has just been pregnant for 9 months and lost ab muscle” or developed a diastasis recti (a splitting of the abdominal muscles), this is likely not the best procedure. A “Mommy Makeover” (abdominoplasty, liposuction, repair of diastasis recti) may be more appropriate to address a new mom’s concerns.

4. What do you have to do to prepare for this procedure?

Dr. Chiu: First, you should see a plastic surgeon for a consultation to determine if it is right for you. If you are a candidate, developing your abdominal muscles will not only help the surgeon give you more natural contours, but will also enhance the detailing of your results. (So basically, it would be ideal/helpful for a candidate to do sit-ups or abdominal exercises leading up to the procedure, as well as after – when cleared to do so). Obviously, a healthy diet and weight maintenance are important contributors to a great result.

5. What is the sedation/anesthesia you recommend for this procedure?

Dr. Chiu: While this can be performed with sedation, I recommend general anesthesia for comfort and the ability to detail the muscles (better results). Patients who have undergone liposculpture under local sedation with other doctors have complained of significant discomfort during the procedure as well as unsatisfactory results after. In certain cases, a cosmetic surgeon (not plastic surgeon) is not able to complete the liposculpture under local sedation due to patient’s complaining of pain and inability to stay still/maintain a position.

6. What is the fat removal process like; i.e., how does this compare to just Liposuction and other comparable procedures?

Dr. Chiu: Liposuction removes pockets of excess fat but does not involve the same level of detailing as ab-etching. Ab-etching takes liposuction to the next level by removing excess fat and creating indentations to resemble a “washboard stomach”. Special cannulas are used in liposculpture to enhance specific areas of the abdomen and to provide different types of detailing. Think: using different types of brushes to apply makeup.

7. What is the recovery process?

Dr. Chiu: Swelling can occur for a few days, before it starts to go down. Remember that the more detailing and work that is done, the more likely you are to increase swelling. Specific recovery can be different for each patient, depending individual health and amount/area of work performed. Generally speaking, a patient will rest after surgery for 3-5 days with no physical activities. He/she can return to a desk-type of job in about 4-5 days. The patient can expect soreness for 5-7 days, similar to a very tough work-out. A compression garment is worn for up to six weeks. Swelling will generally start to decrease after the first week, and continue to go down over the first 4-6 weeks after surgery. Activities are increased over 3-4 weeks until all normal activities are resumed. In other words, if a patient undergoes ab-etching in May, he/she would be ready to show off the results by June/July.

8. Is there any chance of scarring?

Dr. Chiu: As with any surgery, scarring can occur with this procedure as well. Typical scars left behind from ab-etching are 2-3 millimeters long and located under the ‘hood’ of the belly button and low on the waistline. Additional incisions depend on the patient’s musculature. Redness of the incisions/scars usually go away in a couple weeks. To expedite the healing process of scars, silicone dressing (BioCorneum or Kelo-Cote) can be used. Discoloration rarely occurs if the patient stays out of the sun and takes measures to prevent irritation of incisions (rubbing from clothes, scratching, etc.) We use Arnika-Forte and Traumeel to help reduce post-operative bruising and swelling.

9. If we, or any of our readers, are interested in pursuing this, do we start with a consultation?

Dr. Chiu: The first step in any procedure including exploring ab-etching for yourself would be to schedule a consultation.  During a consultation, the surgeon performs a physical evaluation, reviews your health and medical history, and provides recommendations for surgical and non-surgical options.

To learn more about Dr. Gabriel Chiu or book a consultation, call his office at Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery at 310-888-8087 or go online at BHPS.

 -NJ and Kathryn