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Abdominal Etching

Abdominal etching is a form of liposculpture intended to address problem areas of fat deposition, which are resistant to diet and exercise. This procedure improves the contour and shape of the abdomen, giving it muscular definition and sculpted contour. Through the use of liposuction, our patients can have the “six-pack abs” appearance (usually in males), and the athletic female vertical lines.

Is Abdominal Etching for You?

While having a contoured body is always desirable, abdominal etching goes a bit beyond, giving the abdomen a muscular, athletic appearance. Ideal candidates are healthy, athletic patients who are close to ideal body weight (or within 30% is recommended). Abdominal etching is best done in younger and middle-aged patients who have optimal skin elasticity. It is usually combined with liposuction of the flanks also known as “love handles.” The procedure is similar to standard liposuction in that excess abdominal and flank fat is removed, but it also involves defining the peaks and valleys commonly seen in a well-toned abdomen in females and a muscular and athletic abdomen in males. This is done by accentuating the vertical and horizontal lines (inscriptions) that delineate the abdominal musculature. During the initial consultation, your surgeon can determine if this procedure is an option for you, as patients who have excess fat as well as excess skin, might be better served by other options such as a tummy tuck. Overall, abdominal etching provides a very well-defined and athletic appearance to the abdomen for both men and women although the degree of muscular definition might be different and might be tailored to the wishes of the patient.

Understanding the Surgery

Once it is established that liposuction with abdominal etching is the best surgical option for the patient, a detailed physical examination and evaluation of the patient’s anatomy should be performed. Physical examination includes examination for differences in intrinsic anatomy such as deviation from ideal contour, scars, asymmetry, dimpling and cellulitis, skin tone and laxity, presence of hernias and excess skin. Sometimes a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis might be indicated as a way to rule out the presence of abdominal wall (ventral) hernias.

Abdominal etching requires general anesthesia in an accredited surgery center or hospital. Prior to the procedure, the surgeon will carefully palpate your abdominal musculature and make pen marks in your abdomen that carefully delineate your unique abdominal muscular anatomy. After the patient is positioned in the operating room, small, strategically placed incision are made in order to insert the liposuction cannulas. First, tumescence fluid (containing saline with local anesthesia and epinephrine) is injected to minimize bleeding and for pain control. Afterwards, liposuction of the flanks and abdomen is performed in order to remove excess fat and give the torso a healthy, youthful, and overall athletic contour. After the overall shape is achieved to the surgeon’s satisfaction, a smaller liposuction cannula will carefully sculpt the depressions and valleys that represent the separation of different abdominal muscle groups. Once the surgeon is satisfied with this sculpting process, the excess tumescence fluid will be removed, the access incision will be sutured and the patient will be placed in an abdominal binder. Sometimes some of the access incisions are left open so as to aid in the drainage of some of the retained tumescence fluid.

What to Expect After Surgery

It is very common to experience drainage of a significant amount of light pink fluid for the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery. This fluid leakage or drainage is not only normal, but desirable. A few days after surgery the abdominal binder placed in the operating room is replaced with a compression garment. By doing this, it allows the skin to reattach to the abdomen in the proper position so that the athletic appearing lines are made visible. The compression garment also minimizes free space under the skin where fluid can accumulate in the postoperative period. You might find that this compression garment will give you added support and comfort as you heal in the first few days after the procedure. You should be able to return to normal daily activities within a couple of days and nobody should notice your garment underneath your clothes.

Real Patient Stories

I am a cardiologist in Broward County and decided to travel all the way down to South Miami to have a consult with Dr. Perez. His bedside manner is impeccable, not only in making me feel comfortable with his skills, but also because his demeanor makes you feel so relaxed. He is confident yet humble, which is a hard thing to find in a doctor, much less a surgeon. I decided to have him as my plastic surgeon, and my results are amazing. From a doctor, to a doctor....he is the BEST. -Verified Patient

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The New You

Although you will see an immediate effect after this surgery, the final appearance improves on a daily basis as the swelling decreases. About 80 to 90% of the swelling resolves in the first two weeks, while the final 10 to 20% swelling may take several weeks. After the first couple of weeks, you will see progressive improvement. Normally it takes about three months for all the swelling to completely dissipate, and another three months for the skin shrinkage to finalize. Thus, the final results for the procedure will be evident at about six months. In order to optimize results, we recommend that patients follow a healthy low fat and salt diet. Most patients resume light aerobic activity about four weeks after surgery and can resume their normal exercise routine after six weeks. Our patients are then placed on a custom lab and genetic based diet and exercise plan to maintain long term results. With proper diet and exercise regimen, we have patients maintain their abdominal etching results for years without recurrence of unwanted fatty deposits.


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