Abdominal Etching: A Quick Way To Get Washboard 6-Pack Abs

Many people struggle to get the chiselled body contour with 6-pack abs. This is true even for professional sportspeople and bodybuilders. However, abdominal etching is one way to solve that problem. It allows the patient to use the existing fat to their advantage for a more defined midsection. 

The procedure is performed using liposuction, but unlike traditional surgery, some existing fat is left behind to achieve the desired aesthetic. Knowing who’s a suitable candidate for this surgery is important so that you know if you qualify.

What Is Abdominal Etching?

Abdominal etching, also known as the 6-pack surgery, 3D liposuction or high-definition liposuction, enhances the details of the muscles in the abdominal wall. The surgery was first described in 1993 by Dr Henry Mentz and has since been popularised. Both men and women can undergo this procedure, but there may be slight differences in the surgical technique. 

Although dieting and exercising is the most traditional way to get 6-pack abs, not everyone is able to achieve them through these. In that case, you can undergo targeted liposuction. According to a study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, abdominal etching is “safe and effective” for creating a defined midsection in both men and women. 

Who’s A Good Candidate for Abdominal Etching?

You’re a good candidate for abdominal etching in the following instances: 

  • Diet & Exercise Not Working – Sometimes, even after putting months to years of exercise, people aren’t able to get their desired washboard abs. As mentioned above, this can be true even for professional athletes and bodybuilders. Thus, an abdominal etching surgery can help. Those who find it difficult to take the time out to exercise and want to see quick results should also consider this. 
  • Low Body Fat – Abdominal etching is not a weight loss surgery. You need to be at your ideal weight before undergoing surgery. Some doctors recommend having a body fat of 8-15% for this surgery. However, keep in mind that healthy body fat requirements change with age, so you should consult your doctor about it first. 
  • Good Skin Laxity – The loss of structural integrity of the skin is known as skin laxity. It can be seen in obese individuals but also occurs as part of ageing. Before undergoing abdominal etching, you need to have good skin laxity. Otherwise, the results won’t be visible through the folds of skin. The skin needs to retract and drape over the fat on abdominal muscles in an aesthetically pleasing manner. 
  • Be Healthy – The person having this surgery should be in good health as it will ensure a quick and normal recovery. Anyone who suffers from a life-threatening health condition or isn’t suitable for anaesthesia won’t be able to get this surgery. 

Contraindications for Abdominal Etching

If you have excess skin as a result of significant weight loss following bariatric surgery or exercise/diet, you won’t be able to undergo abdominal etching. However, it is possible if you get the skin removed through a tummy tuck or panniculectomy. You’ll have to wait till you recover from those procedures. 

How To Prepare for the Abdominal Etching Surgery? 

There are a few things that you’d need to do in order to prepare for the surgery, for instance: 

  • Discontinue the intake of blood thinning medications and herbal supplements. 
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking as they also increase the risk of bleeding. 
  • As general anaesthesia will be administered, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything at least 6 hours before your surgery.
  • Make sure to take a bath the night before the surgery, but do not apply anything to the body. 
  • If you have any navel piercing, make sure to remove it. 

What Is the Procedure of Abdominal Etching?

Once you come to the clinic, the surgeon will ask for your medical history and perform a medical exam. If you’re suitable for the surgery, the surgeon will first draw on the abdominal region. For this, you’ll be asked to flex the muscles in that area so that the markings are clearly defined and accurate. 

Afterwards, the anesthesiologist will administer general anaesthesia. Once it takes effect, the surgeon will make incisions in the area above the pubic region. Sometimes, incisions are also made around the nipple-areola complex. Through the incisions, “ports” are created through which a cannula is inserted. It is moved back and forth to break the fat down, which is then vacuumed out. 

Here, the targeted fat in the superficial and deeper layers is sculpted. In order to make abdominal muscles appear more prominent, fat is left on certain muscles and suctioned out from between them. Depending on the requirements of the patient, the etching can be “softer,” meaning less defined to “harder,” which has more definition. Following the surgery, the incisions will be stitched back up. The whole procedure can take anywhere between 2-4 hours. 

Abdominal Etching vs. Traditional Liposuction: What’s The Difference?

The following are the differences between abdominal etching and traditional liposuction.

Abdominal Etching Traditional Liposuction 
Procedure Remove fat from targeted areas to make the abdominal muscles more prominent and defined. Removes stubborn pockets of fat from the abdomen and other areas of the body to improve the overall contour.
Suitability Suitable for people who’re unable to get 6-pack abs through diet and exercise and have good skin laxitySuitable for people who’re unable to get rid of fat from different areas of the body and have good skin laxity 
ResultsPermanent (more prominent) Permanent 
Recovery 3-6 months 3-6 months 
Precision More precise Less precise 
Cost It is more expensive, starting from £2,000 (in Turkey)It is less expensive than abdominal etching, starting from around £1,750 (in Turkey)

What Are the Recovery & Results of Abdominal Etching?

After the abdominal etching surgery, you’ll quite likely have drains around the surgical areas, which you will have to empty regularly. You will also be prescribed medications for the management of pain, swelling, and infections. 

It is important to note that although you’ll be able to see the changes in the abdomen after the surgery, you’ll have to wait for 3-6 months to see the final results. That’s because the swelling will take some to subside. 

Is Abdominal Etching Permanent?

The results of abdominal etching are permanent as long as the patient maintains their normal healthy weight by continuing to diet and exercise. If you gain weight or become pregnant, your results will be lost. With ageing, it is also possible for muscle tone and skin laxity to change, which can affect the results. 

What Is the Abdominal Etching Aftercare?

Soon after the procedure, it is important that you give your body the time to heal. For that, you’ll be asked to refrain from engaging in any demanding physical activity. You’ll also have to give up smoking for some time as it can affect the blood flow to the surgical wounds. You may also be required to sleep on your back or sides for a few days. 

Other than that, you will have to wear compression garments for a while. Make sure to discuss with your doctor when you should get back to work because it can depend on the nature of your work.

What Side Effects Should I Expect After Abdominal Etching?

Even though abdominal etching is a safe, low-risk procedure, it carries some risks. These are as follows: 

  • Small bumps underneath the skin 
  • Friction burns 
  • Skin discolouration 
  • Seroma Formation
  • Infection (drainage, fever, heat, bad smell, worse swelling) 

Make sure to choose an experienced and trustworthy surgeon because it can affect the final aesthetics. Some patients end up with an uneven contour as a result of this procedure, but it can be corrected. 

How Much Is Abdominal Etching?

Being a cosmetic surgery, abdominal etching isn’t available on the NHS, and it isn’t covered by health insurance, either. So, you’ll have to get the surgery privately. In the UK, it can cost anywhere between £3,000 to £10,000. However, the prices can vary depending on the location of the clinic and the experience of the surgeon. 

Keep in mind that in order to get good results, some patients also require additional surgical or non-surgical procedures that have to do with skin tightening. That can cost you an additional £3,000 to £5,000 or even more. Since that can be prohibitively expensive, many people choose to get these cosmetic procedures in Turkey, where the cost of medical procedures is far lower. It can be as much as 3-5 times less. 

Concluding Remarks 

It’s not always easy or possible to get 6-pack abs even with a strict exercise or diet regimen. It can result in dissatisfaction with the appearance of the abdomen. You may even be deterred from exercising if you aren’t getting your desired results. In these instances, you can consider the abdominal etching or the 6-pack abs surgery. It can dramatically transform the appearance of the abdomen, and you’ll be able to see the final results in a matter of months. 

However, keep in mind that the results of this procedure are permanent as long as you maintain your weight. Any life changes like pregnancy and weight gain can result in the reversal of the results of the procedure. Therefore, it is important to take these things into consideration before the surgery. Your plastic surgeon can help you determine if the surgery is right for you.

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