Preoperative frontal view (left) compared to image obtained 1-year postoperatively of a male patient with abdominal etching plus concomitant gynecomastia correction and deltoid/biceps augmentation (right).
Photo: Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Actually getting your butt to the gym can often be harder than the workout itself, but there might now be a shortcut for getting a defined set of six-pack abs. Researchers at the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine have developed a new plastic surgery technique called abdominal etching that can reshape belly fat to make you look like you spend all your time at the gym.

As detailed in a study recently published in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, abdominal etching uses a more targeted approach to power-assisted liposuction, a technique where a vibrating tube connected to an aspirator removes subcutaneous fat deposits through suction. A plastic surgeon uses these same tools to sculpt multiple layers of a patient’s abdominal fat to accentuate the natural abdominal muscle lines—typically six for men, and three vertical lines for women. Based on the patient’s preferences, the sculpting can be tailored for softer, shallower abs, or a more-defined and chiseled look, as well as improving the definition of hip lines.

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Preoperative frontal view (left) compared to a photograph obtained 6 months postoperatively of a female patient with vertical line etching and defined hip lines (right).
Photo: Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

But if you haven’t stepped foot in a gym in your life, and can’t imagine the torture of performing even a single sit-up, this procedure is not going to turn you into a fitness model overnight. The study included 50 patients in total (26 men and 24 women averaging 26 years of age) who were already in excellent shape thanks to healthy diets and regular exercise but struggled with shedding unwanted deposits of belly fat.

(Left) Intraoperative view with TopiFoam in place for a male patient. (Right) Intraoperative view with TopiFoam in place for a female patient.
Photo: Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

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As with most plastic surgery procedures, there are specific guidelines that have to be followed after an abdominal etching is complete. That includes the use of sculpted foam dressings that have to be worn for several weeks to help preserve the etched lines as the body heals, but also regular visits with a doctor to check for complications that are common to these types of procedures. Even more important is the continuation of a healthy lifestyle, including rigorous exercise after four weeks to maintain the definition of the newly enhanced ab lines. You, unfortunately, can’t walk out of the hospital and slump back down on the couch for six months and expect to look like an Adonis.