Brazilian Butt Lift Surgery
The Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL), properly known as “gluteal fat grafting”, is a type of cosmetic surgery that improves the shape and size of the buttocks. Unwanted, excess fat is removed from other parts of the body (such as the love handles, thighs, or tummy area) and injected into the buttocks to create the desired fullness and shape.
The name “Brazilian Butt Lift” can be somewhat misleading. First of all, the BBL is not truly a “lift” procedure, because it does not involve the removal of loose skin. As well, the procedure was not developed in Brazil, or by a Brazilian plastic surgeon. Rather, the name is rooted in the reputation of Brazilian women for having full, perfectly formed buttocks.
The BBL is rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S.; the number of BBL procedures performed annually rose by 228% between 2000 and 2019. (1)
The BBL differs from some other popular esthetic procedures in that ideal candidates are drawn from a smaller group. Typically, candidates are women aged 18 – 30, although it is not unheard of for men to undergo the procedure.
Patients seeking a BBL typically have flat, shapeless buttocks and/or loose skin (although if the skin is too loose, a surgical lift may be required), and the buttocks do not seem to fit with the surrounding body. Patients seeking BBL wish to have a fuller, more natural appearance.
To determine whether you are a good candidate for a BBL, it is recommended that you set up a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon for a thorough evaluation. During this consultation, which is typically free, your surgeon can determine your candidacy in addition to discussing any alternative treatment options.
A BBL does not involve the use of artificial implants or the removal of loose skin. Rather, it involves suctioning fat from one part of the body and injecting it into the buttocks, a technique known as “fat grafting.”
The BBL is usually done on an outpatient basis. Only small incisions are made, in order to insert the suction and injection cannula (a small, 3mm tube).
Often no stitches are needed. About half of all cases of anesthesia involve a general anesthetic, with the rest involving only a local anesthetic or a nerve block. (2)
The following provides an overview of what typically occurs during the procedure: (3)
- First, your surgeon will mark the areas of your body where the fat will be removed and then injected.
- You will be given anesthesia.
- Next, the surgeon uses liposuction to “harvest” fat from an area of the body with excessive fat tissue. Liposuction involves inserting a cannula (suction tube) through a tiny incision and vacuum-removing fat tissue.
- The removed fat is then carefully processed to purify it and prepare it for injection.
- The fat is then injected using the cannula inserted into the buttocks through several tiny incisions. The surgeon strategically places the transplanted fat to optimize the cosmetic result.
- The final step entails closing the incisions and applying bandages to the treated areas.
- In some cases, the surgeon may suggest additional liposuction in the areas surrounding the buttocks to further accentuate the desired result; however, this is not always necessary.
As with any procedure, there are potential risks or complications associate with BBL, some of which include: (3)
- Poor wound healing
- Unfavorable scarring
- Fluid accumulation (seroma)
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pulmonary complications
- Numbness or other loss in skin sensation
The BBL has an unusually high mortality rate (1 death per 3,000 procedures). However, in a policy statement, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has indicated that in every case death was caused by fat embolism (bits of fat entering the bloodstream) due to implantation of fat in the gluteal muscle during the BBL fat insertion process. (3, 4)
As such, they have advised that fat only be placed under the skin; although, it is easy to mistakenly place fat into the muscle. Plastic surgeons who have the skill and experience to properly adhere to these guidelines are unlikely to have serious outcomes, as no deaths have been reported when the fat is placed only under the skin. (3)
Recovering from a BBL is a little more demanding that some other liposuction procedures, because you will be swollen and sore where you sit. You must avoid sitting directly on your buttocks or sleeping on your back for about two weeks after treatment, until the swelling resolves. This is important as it can affect blood circulation to the area and potentially destroy the transferred fat cells.
You will experience tenderness in the buttocks and the areas on which liposuction was performed. This tenderness should resolve within a short time. A compression garment will likely be provided to help limit discomfort. Within six to eight weeks, you can expect a full return to normal activity.
The results of your BBL are semi-permanent due to the fact that even when you take care not to put weight on the buttocks after the BBL, as much as 40% of the transferred fat may not survive. Ultrasound studies have shown that the thickness of the implanted fat decreases by an average of 20% by 12 months. (5)
Despite the expected reduction in size in the first year, most of the effects of the BBL can be expected to last for years. Depending on individual factors such as body type and the desired look, more than one BBL procedure may be required to obtain or maintain the desired results for some individuals.
As with any cosmetic procedure, results can vary significantly from patient to patient. It is important that you thoroughly research the procedure and your surgeon’s safety and patient satisfaction record prior to selecting treatment.
The BBL consultation affords the perfect opportunity to evaluate the surgeon and practice facility, in addition to viewing before and after photos of past patients.
The cost of Brazilian Butt Lift depends on a variety of factors, notably the practitioner performing the procedure and the location in which it is performed. In addition, cost is affected by the scope of the procedure. As you would expect, a butt lift requiring less liposuction and fat grafting will cost less than a butt lift requiring significant liposuction and fat grafting.
The overall cost includes the surgeon’s fees, anesthesia, and the operating facility fees. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the average surgeon’s fee for a BBL in 2019 was $4,960. On average, Brazilian Butt Lifts cost between $8,000 and $14,000 including total costs. (1)
Because it is an elective procedure, BBL is not covered by health insurance, leaving you responsible for 100% of the cost. Most surgeons have payment plans available, allowing you to spread out the cost of the procedure.
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). (2019). Plastic surgery statistics report. Retrieved from https://www.plasticsurgery.org/documents/News/Statistics/2019/plastic-surgery-statistics-full-report-2019.pdf
- Conde-Green, A., Kotamari, V., Nini, K., Wey, P., Ahuja, N., Granick, M., et al. (2016). Fat grafting for gluteal augmentation: A systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 138(3), 437e-446e. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311358151_Abstract_Autologous_Buttocks_Augmentation_with_Fat_Grafting
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). (2018). Fat grafting to the buttocks. Retrieved from https://www.plasticsurgery.org/for-medical-professionals/advocacy/key-issues/fat-grafting-to-the-buttocks
- Sobel, A.W., & Obagi, S. (2019). Safety and ethics in gluteal augmentation via autologous fat grafting. The American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery, 36(2), 53–54. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0748806819828939#articleCitationDownloadContainer
- Cansancao, A., Conde-Green, A., David, J., & Vidigal, R. (2019). Subcutaneous-only gluteal fat grafting: A prospective study of the long-term results with ultrasound analysis. Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 143(2), 447-451. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000005203 (note: only available from academic sources).