Side Effects of Thigh Lift Surgery

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Although most procedures go well and patients are pleased with their results, in order to prepare yourself fully for thigh lift surgery, it is important to take into account some of the common undesirable side effects that accompany operations in general and thigh lift surgery in particular.  Most of these are temporary and can be alleviated with medication and good care, but some are serious, and unfortunately in some cases supposedly temporary after effects may remain permanent. Some of the most common are:

  • Sickness and nausea
  • Bruising and swelling
  • Tightness sensation
  • Blood clots
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Asymmetry
  • Wound separation and scarring

Sickness & nausea

This is one of the most common side effects of all, and tends to occur only in the immediate period after surgery.  It is the body’s natural response to being fatigued and exposed to the strong chemicals that comprise a general anaesthetic.  While unpleasant, this is usually a harmless effect, and in some cases can be alleviated by bed rest and the use of antacids.  If symptoms persist beyond a few days, it is worth calling your clinic for advice.

Bruising & swelling

This is another common consequence of surgery, but the large area of the thighs together with the degree of movement involved in stretching the skin tight can result in extensive and protracted bruising and swelling.  This can cause a great deal of discomfort, and look unsightly.  The bruising often travels down the length of the thigh, much further than the site of incision.  This movement of the blood can appear worrying, but usually remedies itself.  Swelling can occur for three or four months after surgery.  Unless there is fluid which needs to be drawn off, this too will subside by itself in time.  The most effective way of alleviating pain and discomfort in the meantime is to take simple, over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories, such as Ibuprofen (which fulfils both functions).

Tightness sensation

This may appear an obvious (and desirable) consequence of thigh lift surgery, and as such should not be considered an unwanted side effect.  However, some patients report that the sensation of tight skin is uncomfortable.  This is especially noticeable when bending or stretching.  This feeling should reduce in time, and to compensate the body should accustom itself to the novel sensation.  Aside from patience and acceptance, there is no other remedy for this.

Blood clots after a thigh lift

Blood clots can develop in any person of any state of health at any age.  However, the probability of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is markedly more likely if you maintain a sedentary lifestyle.  During recovery after surgery, it is likely that you will engage in little exercise and will be stationary for long periods at a time.  This inhibits blood circulation and allows blood to collect in one site, creating an obstruction in your blood vessels.  This is dangerous and painful, and any concerns should be immediately raised, either by phoning a helpline or seeing a doctor immediately.  The consequences can be life-threatening, as the clot can move to the lungs or the brain, causing a pulmonary embolism or stroke.  For this reason, it is important to do some gentle movements every thirty minutes or so, even if all you can manage is a change in lying position.  Wearing a support garment also helps to encourage blood flow, which reduces the risk of DVT.


Numbness can initially be caused by pain relief, such as may be used while in the care of your clinic.  However, longer-term numbness can be the result of nerve damage during surgery.  Some people report gradually regaining their feeling in their thighs, while others never regain sensation in the upper legs.  This is not necessarily harmful, but it can be disconcerting. 

Pain after a thigh lift

Pain is another very common unwanted but inevitable effect of surgery.  You should be offered pain relief during your aftercare with your clinic, and may be prescribed strong pain killers by your doctor for the first few weeks.  This may be very unpleasant, and will make mobility difficult at first.  However, within a few weeks it should subside, and should be controllable with over-the-counter painkillers.  Even with the pain, it is important to remember to do some gentle movements occasionally, to maintain a healthy blood flow and prevent clots.  It is an important consideration before resorting to surgery, but most patients consider it worth it, as temporary pain is a manageable side effect of a procedure which has lasting results.


This is rare, as surgeons with experience and training tend to have high satisfaction rates.  However, when considering plastic surgery it is necessary to prepare for a less than ideal outcome, as they do occasionally happen.  It is possible that after experiencing some of the above side effects, you may still not be happy with the end result.  Our bodies tend to be naturally slightly asymmetrical anyway, which can make balancing the effect achieved by the surgeon on each leg difficult.  However, this can be an unsatisfactory result after committing to a painful and costly procedure.  If the clinic agrees that the result is below standard, you may be offered revision surgery without extra charge.  This is usually sufficient to fix the problem, but you must be prepared to undergo renewed pain and go through the risks of general anaesthetic surgery again. If you are not pleased with the results, but they are deemed to be a success by your surgeon, you may have to pay again to have the flaw remedied.  This can create a dilemma between being unhappy with your new appearance and being unprepared to invest twice as much in surgery.  It is useful therefore to assess your finances in detail before going ahead with the first surgery to be sure that you do not automatically plump for repairing the damage when this might cause considerable financial problems.

Wound Separation & Scarring

Wound separation can occur when sutures are not sewn tight enough in surgery, or when they are loosened through movement and rubbing against other surfaces.  Some people even find the stitches irritating and will inadvertently pull these loose through stratching the area of surgery in their sleep.  If this occurs, the seal intended to be formed by the stitching can pull apart, exposing the wound afresh.  This can cause pain, bleeding and leave the site vulnerable to infection again.  In this case, it is imperative to keep the wound area clean, to stem any blood loss by applying pressure with a clean cloth, and to call your surgeon for advice.  If the wound is very bad or you are advised to seek medical attention when far from your clinic, you should contact your local Accident and Emergency department to ask about the possibility of being restitched.  This is likely to be painful, but vital for allowing the wound to heal.

Finally, scarring is an inevitable part of surgery.  The size and location of the scar depends upon the procedure (medial, bilateral, spiral) and extent of the thigh lift.  Your surgeon will try to make the scar fit the contours of your body and be as discreet as possible, but it is unlikely that it will ever fade completely.

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