Abdominal Etching

What is Abdominal Etching?

Abdominal Etching is a form of liposculpture (liposuction) and is only done when the ideal patient seeks a chiseled appearance. Some patients have previously undergone tummy tuck or liposuction surgery. Your plastic surgeon will decide if you are an ideal candidate for this form of liposculpture or if you need to undergo another body contouring procedure first. Those who are already athletic and have a pronounced muscular structure benefit the most from abdominal etching. Ideal candidates follow a proper diet and exercise program to maintain their chiseled appearance after the procedure has been completed.

Performed in a plastic surgeon’s office or an out-patient facility, the abdominal etching procedure typically lasts for a full hour, but the total time will vary with the amount of sculpting required. Your plastic surgeon will remove exercise-resistant fat deposits via small incisions of one-two mm in the belly button or in your abdomen’s natural creases. These locations hide the incisions but allow your plastic surgeon to reveal your hidden “six pack.” By removing a small amount of fat, your individual muscular structure will be highlighted and should show excellent definition.

Am I a Candidate?

Candidates for abdominal etching should have good muscle tone and already developed abdominal muscles. Abdominal etching simply highlights the muscles you already have by removing the small fat deposits that hide them. Plastic surgeons recommend this procedure for patients with less than two centimeters of fat that can be “pinched.” Your plastic surgeon will measure this fat to make sure you are a candidate. Both men and women use this body contouring procedure to help define their abdominal section and obtain a more muscular and leaner look. Your plastic surgeon can address any questions you have during your body contouring consultation.

How Much Does Abdominal Etching Cost?

As with any surgery, you will pay for local/general anesthesia, the facility fees and the surgeon's fees. The total cost will start at approximately $3,000 but could go higher if you elect to have additional procedures perfromed at the same time. Your plastic surgeon may use laser liposuction or tumescent liposuction to perform the procedure. In most situations, your plastic surgeon's office will help you to obtain financing if you cannot afford the cost of abdominal etching on your own.

Abdominal Etching Surgery Recovery

Before going under local or general anesthesia, your plastic surgeon will mark your abdomen with lines to guide his surgical incisions. Using an instrument called a cannula, your plastic surgeon will sculpt your abdominal muscles by removing your excess fat along the specific lines drawn pre-operatively. Your scars will be difficult to see since your plastic surgeon will make the small incisions in your belly button or in the crease between your abdominal muscles. Each incision will only be 1/8th or 1/4 inch (1-2 mm) in length. The cannula used for abdominal etching is more flexible than the one used for traditional liposuction procedures. Your plastic surgeon will advise you to wear a compression garment after surgery. You will return home the same day, most likely within a few hours of the procedure.

Bruising, swelling and sometimes pain may be present but with the proper care and medicine, these are manageable. You will need to wear your compression garment for 3 to 6 weeks, but you can shower within 48 hours. Avoid lifting heavy weights and putting any pressure at all on your abdominal area for approximately 3 weeks or as directed by your plastic surgeon. The full results may take up to 6 months to appear. Make sure you discuss post-operative care with your plastic surgeon.

Benefits of Abdominal Etching

When you’ve already put time and effort into achieving the body of your dreams and your optimal results are still not yet achieved, abdominal etching may be the perfect solution. Specific benefits may include:

  • Thinner midsection with less abdominal fat
  • More defined abdominal muscles
  • Less invasive surgery than some other options
  • Great option for candidates with small amounts of abdominal fat
  • Quick procedure with minimized downtime
  • Less scarring since definition will be achieved in areas of incisions
  • Faster post surgical healing than other body contouring procedures

Risks of Abdominal Etching

Just like any surgery where anesthesia is administered, you always run the risk of side effects and complications. Reduce your risk by moving around and walking gently as soon as you can and as often as you can and by following your plastic surgeon’s instructions carefully. Specific risks include:

  • Reaction to the anesthetic - General anesthesia is more risky than local/regional.
  • Loss of sensitivity on abdominal skin is common and sometimes temporary. Permanent sensation loss could also happen around the belly button or lower abdomen
  • Excessive scarring of the skin or internally where "etching" took place.
  • Post operative infections (usually occur in the first 4-6 weeks).
  • Pulmonary Emboli could occur post surgery (blood clots that travel in the bloodstream and can get to the lungs); Usually happens within the first 72 hours.
  • If you received liposuction alongside abodminal etching, you have to also consider the risks of liposuction.
  • "Dog Ears" are little tags or triangles of skin within the folds where abdominoplasty was performed, after everything has healed.

Find a Plastic Surgeon

Your abdominal etching procedure should be performed in your plastic surgeon's office or an outpatient surgery center where he/she practices. It is important to go through a comprehensive consultation with your plastic surgeon to determine if abdominal etching is the proper procedure for your body to achieve the results you want.

It is important to only consider board-certified plastic surgeons (from the American Board of Plastic Surgery) who may have specific experience with abdominal etching and may be experts in abdominal plastic surgery. You may find a plastic surgeon using the resources on this site.

Before and After Pictures

Individual results will differ but we recommend browsing through before and after pictures so you can get an idea of how effective abdominal etching surgery was for other patients. You can give your plastic surgeon an idea of what your expectations are by pointing out several photos of results you prefer or do not prefer during your research. See our liposuction before and after photo gallery.

Discuss Abdominal Etching and Liposuction

Speak with actual patients who received or are researching body contouring procedures just like you. Be sure to ask questions and interact. You can even email plastic surgeons and ask questions from the surgeon’s microsite listings. Discuss liposuction and abdominal etching on our body contouring discussion boards.

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