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Everything You Need to Know About Abdominal Etching

Written by Chuma Chike-Obi, MD, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon on February 11, 2022 No Comments

abdominal etching

Abdominal etching is a form of liposuction that strategically removes fat from your midsection to enhance the look of abdominal muscles, aka, your 6-pack. This technique is sometimes referred to as 3D liposuction or Hi Definition liposuction.

Often, the accumulated fat over the abdominal muscles that hide the abs is highly resistant to diet and exercise.  Here’s everything you need to know about abdominal etching and if it’s right for you.

How is Abdominal Etching Performed? 

An abdominal etching procedure begins with your surgeon marking your abdominal area. Abdominal etching removes fat, but intentionally leaves some deposits in place to enhance the look of abdominal muscles.

Once you and your doctor agree on the areas to be sculpted, you’ll receive a local anesthesia. This outpatient procedure does not require general anesthesia, which makes recovery quicker. Your doctor will then make several tiny incisions around your navel in which to insert the fat-removing cannula.

Most surgeons prefer ultrasound-assisted liposuction, the most popular of which is the VASER device. This state-of-the-art technique uses ultrasound to release the fat cells from the surrounding tissues, which are then suctioned out of the body. This decreases tissue trauma, is less bloody, and leads to fat cells more likely to survive if transferred to other areas of the body.

After the procedure, your incisions will usually be closed and you’ll be fitted with compression garments. This garment will reduce swelling, and help your skin adhere to its new shape. Thus, compression is an important part of the process.  Because everyone’s shape is a little unique, I like to customize my postoperative garments to match the particular patient’s anatomy.  Patients can return home the same day, although some at-home recovery time is required.

What Results are Possible?

Ab etching is not a weight loss procedure. While sculpted, 6-pack abs are possible, patients who already have muscle tone will see the greatest benefit from this form of selective, strategic fat removal.

How Long Does It Take to See Results? 

Within 2-4 months, most swelling should have subsided and skin will have retracted, revealing tight and toned abs.

What is Recovery Like?

You’ll be sent home with a compression garment which should be worn as often as possible to ensure incisions heal and skin retracts and conforms to your new body contour.

Most patients can resume daily activities within a few days and return to workouts or strenuous activity within 6-8 weeks.

Are the Results of Ab Etching Permanent?

Fat cells are permanently removed during ab etching treatment. However, remaining fat cells can still enlarge with weight gain. In addition, natural aging may lead to skin sag or loss of muscle which will alter your results.

To maintain your sculpted abs for as long as possible, keep your body weight constant and your musculature strong by continuing to exercise and follow a healthy diet.

Who is a Good Candidate for Ab Etching?

The best candidate for abdominal etching is someone in good health who is approximately 20% of their ideal body weight. A fit musculature and youthful, elastic skin also contribute to more dramatic ab etching results.

Does Ab Etching Leave Scars?

All surgical procedures leave behind scars, but scars from ab etching are very well hidden. Incisions are typically placed in and around the navel, between abdominal muscles or under the areola, and are tiny enough to remain unseen.  There are steps that can be taken post-surgery to help minimize scar appearance.

Are There Any Side Effects? 

Liposuction is a common, low-risk procedure and abdominal etching is no different. Side effects may include swelling and bruising, lumpy or irregular skin or skin discoloration. Choosing an experienced, board-certified practitioner will minimize these side effects and maximize your results.


Chuma Chike-Obi, MD

Chuma Chike-Obi, MD completed a 6 year residency with the Division of Plastic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and Affiliate hospitals in Houston, Texas. Dr. Chike-Obi specializes in cosmetic surgery, including facelift, blepharoplasty, breast augmentation, liposuction, rhinoplasty, and reconstructive breast surgery.


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