Medically reviewed by a licensed NHS consultantLast updated: 15/08/2019
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Abdominal etching, also known as ‘six-pack liposuction’ or ‘six pack surgery’, is a procedure that removes stomach fat, allowing your natural abs to protrude forward and create a natural ‘six-pack appearance.’ This procedure goes beyond the liposuction and tummy tuck procedures and helps patients to achieve “washboard abs” without endless hours at the gym.
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This procedure is meant for individuals who:
- Have a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Struggle with 'resistant tummy fat'
- Already have toned underlying abdominals
- Desire more defined abdominal lines
- Have realistic expectations
- Know the advantages and disadvantages of cosmetic surgery
You are still a good candidate if you have undergone tummy tucks or liposuction in the past, but still desire a more chiselled appearance. But before going ahead, it is a good idea to speak to your doctor to discuss whether abdominal etching is right for you.
Abdominal etching is a short procedure (similar to other forms of liposculpture), lasting no longer than an hour from start-to-finish. This means that the procedure can be performed whilst an outpatient using local or general anaesthesia, which means you can go home on the same day.
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A breakdown of the abdominal etching procedure:
- Before surgery, your doctor will outline your natural abdominal markers. These will act as a guide throughout the surgery.
- Once the patient is happy with the markings, anaesthesia is administered. (You will have decided whether to opt for local or general anaesthetic beforehand. If you are unsure which is best for you, speak to your doctor.)
- Next, small incisions (approximately four to five) will be made along the abdominal markers and/or in the belly button.
- A tiny metal tube, often called a cannula, is then inserted into the skin.
- The cannula uses sucking motions (similar to the liposuction technique) to remove excess fat from the patient’s abdomen. This will allow their natural abs to protrude forward.
- Finally, the incisions are closed with a protective dressing being applied. The incisions are very small (usually only an eighth or a quarter inch in length) and do not require sutures.
The recovery period after abdominal etching is fairly short. Patients are required to wear a compression garment for a three to six weeks post-surgery and should only be removed when bathing. Patients will experience some discomfort, swelling and bruising whilst recovering, however this should subside within few days to weeks.
Most patients are able to return to work a few days after the procedure has been carried out, although this may be longer if you work in a physically demanding job as patients are advised not to take part in exercise that puts pressure on the abdomen, such as lifting heaving items.
However, it is important to remember that everyone’s recovery will vary depending on an individual’s pain tolerance and healing response.
Results can be seen instantly; however, it can take up to six months to see the full final results.
Generally, results are permanent if you maintain a healthy lifestyle and normal weight range.
Abdominal etching is generally a safe procedure, although possible side effects can include:
- Damage to nerves
The main difference between the two procedures is as follows:
- Liposuctionremoves stubborn fat from different areas of your body, including your arms, stomach and legs.
- Abdominal etching removes fat from your abdomen and nowhere else.
If you are still unsure on which procedure is right for you, speak to your doctor.
In the UK, abdominal etching surgery can cost anywhere between £3,000 to £10,000. The cost of the procedure depends on several different factors including the geographical location, amount of fat removal and liposuction technique.
Abdominal etching should only be performed by a medical professional who is certified on the BAAPS register. Since the results of abdominal etching greatly depends on the surgeon, it is vital that you choose the right one.
Before going ahead with the procedure, make sure you have a consultation with your intended surgeon and ask them questions, such as:
- How many years of training they have
- What qualifications do they have
- What the risk and side effects of the procedure are
- What previous client results and reviews were
- What technique and products they will use
This will give you a good idea about whether your surgeon will create the final result that you desire. If you have any issues, it is a good idea to consider other options before coming to a decision. You should never go ahead with a procedure unless you are comfortable and confident with your chosen surgeon.
For more top tips about choosing a plastic surgeon, read our guide.
Mr Debashis Ghosh
Mr Debashis Ghosh, renowned breast and oncoplastic surgeon and consultant at The Royal Free NHS, UCL London, The Wellington Hospital & Harley Street - MS, FRCS(Edin), FRCS, FEBS(Breast), FEBS(Surgical Oncology). Over 25 years of expertise in breast augmentation, breast cancer treatments and reconstruction. In the forefront of clinical trials, research and has several publications in Kirk's Operative Surgery on breast surgery.
Royal Free London Consultant Profile:https://www.royalfree.nhs.uk/services/staff-a-z/mr-debashis-ghosh/
NHS Consultant Profile:https://www.nhs.uk/profiles/consultant/4657664