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What is abdominal etching? How plastic surgeons are helping patients get ‘six-pack abs’

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By: Fiza Pirani, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

No matter how well your diet or exercise regimen, some folks just can’t seem to get the toned abs of their dreams. 

According to new research published this month in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a technique called abdominal etching can help create the often desired “six-pack abs” for males and three vertical lines for females.

The procedure, according to lead researcher Tarik M. Husain of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, involves “power-assisted” targeted liposuction as “a novel method of sculpting an ideal abdomen.” The technique, he said in a statement to Wolters Kluwer Health, is both safe and effective.

Researchers tested the procedure in a study of 26 men and 24 women (average age of 36 years), all of whom were in good shape, ate well and exercised regularly, but had “certain resistant areas of fat” that hindered them from achieving the ab definition they wanted.

According to the findings, none of the 50 patients experienced major complications following the abdominal etching procedure, though minor complications did occur in 22% of patients. These minor issues involved some over-etching that improved over time, and some patients (10%) developed seromas, or fluid collections, which were quickly managed.

Overall, 98% of patients said they were satisfied with the results, despite a 27-month postoperative follow-up that involves wearing foam dressings for weeks on end. And they’ve maintained their results through abdominal etching for up to six years, according to the study.

“The patients exemplify that the procedure can be performed with optimal aesthetic results, and minimal postoperative complications,” Husain said, noting that abdominal etching requires extensive postoperative management, plus nutrition and training to maintain long-term results.

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