If you’ve always dreamed of sporting defined, washboard abs but don’t want to work your way to them in a gym, abdominal etching might be an option worth considering.
Let’s face it, there’s something incredibly appealing about a lean, rock hard six-pack. But there is one major limitation: achieving definition in the abdominal area is not an easy task. It’s a long-term endeavour, requiring commitment to a rigorous training schedule.
And since the muscles can remain hidden under a small fatty layer of skin despite strenuous exercise, intensive dieting may also be necessary. All this often takes years to achieve, and even then it can be difficult for some to see the results they’re really looking for.
But don’t give up on your dreams of revealing a tight mid-section just yet. There is an easier, almost instant way to achieve a rock hard washboard stomach: it’s called abdominal etching. We asked New York plastic surgeons Dr. Kevin Tehrani and Dr. Leonard Grossman to tell us more about this unique procedure.
What is abdominal etching?
Abdominal etching, also known as six-pack liposculpture, high-def liposuction or lipoetching, is a non invasive procedure used to get those absinstantly, without having to go to the gym for hours on end and perform ten thousands crunches. The procedure literally carves different shapes in the fat that overlies the muscle.
Abdominal etching can work for those who do regular exercise and those who don’t. For instance, bodybuilders often have the procedure done when they can’t get the layer of fat as low as they want over their abdominal muscles. And for those who don’t enjoy exercise but maintain a healthy weight, abdominal etching is the perfect solution to achieving definition.
The procedure has been around since the early 80s, along with similar treatments such as pectoral etching, which sculpts the chest, and arm etching for the biceps and triceps. In fact, etching can be used anywhere on the body to achieve a more chiseled look.
Surprisingly, you’d assume this procedure is most popular among men, but Dr. Tehrani shares that most patients who elect to undergo this procedure in his practice are actually women. At his practice, Dr. Grossman finds the procedure to be equally popular in men and women, although it started with women before gaining acceptance among men as well.
How is the surgery performed?
Abdominal etching is a variation on the more traditional liposuction technique. It’s a relatively non-invasive procedure that does not influence the muscle tissue. Instead, it targets subcutaneous adipose tissue in the abdominal area.
Unlike traditional abdominal liposuction, where all the fat might be removed from the abdominal area, the plastic surgeon literally etches out an instant six pack by removing certain deposits of fat. Contouring the abdominal fat pad establishes definition where the muscles would naturally be.
General anesthesia is not required, as the abdominal etching procedure uses standard tumescent liposuction. On the day of the procedure, a tumescent local anesthesia (TLA) solution is prepared by surgical staff, numbing the area and preventing blood loss and pain after the procedure.
After having traced detailed markings on the abdominal area to outline the six pack and indicate exactly where excess fat needs to be removed, the surgeon inserts a very small cannula (blunt-tipped tube that contains a hole) under the skin.
The surgeon then vigorously moves the cannula along areas that have been marked off to loosen the fat, and a suction device connected to the cannula sucks the fat out via a tube.
The surgeon may also pinch certain areas to deepen the etch where needed. The fat is removed from the lower abdominal area first, then the obliques (side areas), before etching the middle portion of the abdomen.
Depending on the surgeon, the procedure takes between 1.5 to 4 hours.
“Most plastic surgeons who perform etching use multiple incisions for the procedure. I use one or two completely hidden incisions,” says Dr. Grossman. These small cuts can be made near the belly button, along the natural creases of the pelvis, or in some cases on the lower nipple. Patients are left with very little scarring, if any scarring at all.
Is the procedure the same for both men and women?
While the procedure is similar for both genders, “in my opinion men and women should be approached differently,” says Dr. Grossman. “The technique remains the same if the goal is to achieve an athletic look, but what makes a person look sexy is different for each gender and individual.”
Dr. Tehrani agrees. “In terms of level of muscle definition, it is the patient’s preference,” he says. “Decreased levels of definition are typically the norm for women. In general the procedure is a little more invasive for men, simply because they often want more definition.”
How long does abdominal etching last?
“The results of abdominal etching are permanent and don’t need to be redone ever, if done properly the first time around. For that reason the individual should stay in relatively good shape so as not to look funny,” says Dr. Grossman.
Dr. Tehrani agrees: “This is a procedure that’s generally performed only once, unless there are massive weight changes or the person goes through a pregnancy.”
Who is a good candidate for abdominal etching?
Abdominal etching is not suited to patients who have excessive weight to lose. To achieve the best results, an ideal candidate is a patient who is already relatively lean.
Also, if there is skin damage or excessive skin laxity after weight loss, this may limit the results of the ab etching. Though it will depend on how much loose skin there is, “some people have a tummy tuck first, then lipoetching,” says Dr. Grossman. However, these procedures should not be performed at the same time. Instead, abdominal etching should only be considered after the patient has fully recovered from the tummy tuck surgery.
What are the potential side effects and complications?
According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, liposuction is considered the safest and most popular cosmetic procedure.
Since abdominal etching is a type of liposuction procedure, you can feel confident that side effects and complications will be minimal. “Prolonged swelling and bruising are the most likely side effects to expect,” says Dr. Tehrani.
How long does it take to see results?
With any plastic surgery procedure it is important for patients to have realistic expectations and an understanding of recovery timelines.“Patients will have to wait three to six months to see the final result of abdominal etching,” says Dr. Grossman.
“What patients need to understand is that etching involves creating grooves on the fatty layer, so in the process a void is created. This void has to be filled (lined) in with skin that retracts over time, and that process takes three to six months. The key for patients during this time is to continue eating a healthy diet and applying themselves in the gym,” adds Dr. Grossman.
What does recovery involve?
Since the incisions are minimal with abdominal etching, recovery from the procedure is short and painless. While some surgeons may request that you wear some kind of compression garment, Dr. Grossman disagrees, saying, “I am personally against any form of compression garments as I feel they interfere with the healing and prevent the skin from using its natural elasticity to shrink.”
As for your time off work and getting back into the gym, Dr. Grossman informs that most of his patients can return to work the next day and resume normal activities. Of course, any heavy lifting and strenuous activity should be avoided. Dr. Tehrani suggests that not all patients want to return to work immediately but prefer to take at least one week off from their activities.
“Swimming and light workouts can be resumed in five days,” says Dr. Grossman. Other forms of exercise should be avoided for one month. “Remember, in terms of the abdominal muscles, this will be the last workout that they’ll ever need,” adds Dr. Tehrani.