Expert Doctor

Back Lift Body Contouring Procedure

A back lift creates a slimmer, more defined contour to the back and it can be performed as either an upper or lower back lift.  During a lower back lift, excess skin and fat is removed from the lower back.  During an upper back lift, excess skin and fat is removed from the upper back as well as beneath the bra line area. The procedure is also known as a bra-line back lift because it addresses the bra-line area. Even though it has the name “bra-line”, the surgery can be performed on both men and women. The main difference is women can hide the surgical scar with a bra.

Am I a Good Candidate for a Back Lift?

Patients that are GOOD CANDIDATES for a back lift are:

  • People with sagging skin on the back caused by aging or sun exposure
  • People who have lost a significant amount of weight and have a significant amount of excess skin
  • Patients who have lost a bit of weight or no weight at all in the last 6 months

People who are NOT GOOD CANDIDATES are:

  • Patients who have not been at a stable weight for a long period of time
  • Those without a significant amount of excess or sagging skin on the back

How is a Back Lift Performed?

General anesthesia is used on patients undergoing a back lift. The doctor makes an incision to remove the excess skin and fat. If the patient is having an upper back lift, the incision is made in the confines of the back portion of the bra. If the patient is having a lower back lift, the incision is made above the buttocks.

Once the incision is made, excess skin and fat is removed to tighten and smooth the skin on the back and improve its contour. In general, the amount of skin that needs to be removed determines the length of the incision. In order to remove any excess fat under the skin, liposuction can be performed at the same time. Once the desired amount of skin and fat is removed, sutures are used to close the incisions.

Combined with a Tummy Tuck

Some patients, do not have a well-defined waist and have a square look in the back. Removing the excess skin in the anterior abdomen (in the front), gives them a flat stomach. However, it often accentuates the square look in the back. Having a lower back lift, in combination with a tummy tuck, is commonly referred to as a lower body lift. It removes the excess skin in the front, as well as the back, and elevates the lateral thighs and buttocks. In other words, the excess skin is pulled down in the front while the excess skin on the backside is pulled up. This procedure gives a nice contour to the waist and lifts the buttocks at the same time. It is a good option for patients that are not overweight.

A lower back lift can also be performed in conjunction with a tummy tuck in patients who are overweight. These patients need to have excess and sagging skin removed from their back at the same time as the front.

Having an Upper and Lower Back Lift

Patients who have lost a large amount of weight often have both the lower body lift (an anterior abdominoplasty) and the lower back lift as a first procedure. They will come back later and have an upper back lift performed and this produces a scar that runs under the bra area in the upper back. The upper back lift takes care of excess skin that occurs in the axillary area (in the lateral aspect of the breast) that can deflate and leave an area of excess skin.

What is the Cost of a Back Lift?

The cost of a back lift can be anywhere from $4000-$12,000. The cost depends on the amount of skin and fat that needs to be removed and whether any additional procedures are performed at the same time. Insurance usually does not cover any of the cost since the surgery is not considered to be medically necessary. The cost also includes the anesthesia fee and any additional fees charged by the doctor or the facility.

Recovery and Downtime

The patient might spend the first day or two of RECOVERY in the hospital following the procedure in order to be monitored by the surgeon. There will be some discomfort and pain following the surgery that can be controlled with medication. Patients need to have someone at home to help them as they will have difficulty moving around for the first week or so. There will be some swelling and bruising that will resolve on its own. Patients are encouraged to take short walks to keep the blood circulating properly.

If a patient only has a back lift, he or she needs about a week of DOWNTIME off work. If a patient has a back lift as well as a tummy tuck, he or she needs to be off work for two weeks. After the one or two-week period, there is still a six week healing period. After six weeks, the patient can resume any normal activities.


The results of a back lift should be long lasting as long as the patient maintains a steady weight. Regaining a large amount of weight means the body can produce extra skin to cover that large amount of weight. However, gaining or losing 5-20 pounds does not affect the results significantly.

It takes about a year for a scar to completely heal, soften, change colors and gain its final appearance.

Limitations of Back Lift

The main limitations of a back lift are

  • The amount of skin that can be removed during the surgery while still having natural looking results
  • Patients will need to combine a back lift with other procedures, such as a tummy tuck, to address other areas of the body with excess skin

Risks of Back Lift

Some of the common risks involved with having a back lift include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Chance of infection

Experience is Key When Choosing a Doctor

A back lift is not performed by many doctors in the United States. Because of the smaller number of doctors that perform the surgery, there is no substitute for experience when having a procedure done. Patients need to do their research and find a doctor experienced in performing the surgery. Patients should also ask to see “before and after” photos of actual patients that the doctor has treated in the past.

Cosmetic Town is the premier online cosmetic surgery news and information resource. We connect patients with the best doctors for cosmetic procedures. Get the answers to all of your questions and find a doctor near you.

Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team - MA

Based on an exclusive interview with Paul Vitenas, MD in Houston, TX