According to American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) data, the number of buttock lifts performed between 2000 and 2004 grew approximately 158 percent.
"That's partly because people are now recognizing that that area sometimes needs to be enhanced. People like Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé Knowles have, in a sense, given women the freedom to not only feel comfortable about themselves, but also to almost flaunt that area," says Anthony Griffin, M.D., a Beverly Hills-based plastic surgeon and a featured surgeon on ABC's "Extreme Makeover."Birth of procedure
He says the procedure's popularity doesn't surprise him given today's trend toward more fitted fashions. Paralleling the growth of breast implants in the 1970s, Dr. Griffin says, "The trend is toward having a little junk in the trunk" as the mainstream culture now embraces a body part previously valued only by ethnic cultures.
Nor did Dr. Griffin immediately recognize the procedure's value. "My primary interest is in rhinoplasty. We stumbled upon this procedure by accident," he explains, starting with a patient who needed buttock implants (inserted by another doctor) removed because one had become infected.
"She was so grateful that she kept sending me her friends who wanted buttock implants," Dr. Griffin says, who turned away such patients until seeing Brazilian plastic surgeons present their fat transfer work at an industry conference.
"That's actually how I got started," in response to a liposuction patient's request to put the fat he had removed into her buttock area, he says.
Burgeoning butt lifts
Over the past few years, Dr. Griffin has gone from performing one or two BBLs weekly to approximately three weekly.
In the decade since he developed the procedure, "I've gotten better and faster. The first time I did it, it took about eight hours, because it involves repositioning the patient and processing the fat," Dr. Griffin says, who estimates he has performed more than 500 such procedures total. Presently, he says it takes about three hours for a simple BBL, largely because he has redesigned the necessary instruments to inject larger volumes of fat with greater control.
"It's not a matter of just slapping fat back there. One really must be able to sculpt that area and have an appreciation for its aesthetics," Dr. Griffin explains.
In fact, he says this element is what he enjoys most about the procedure.
"The only work is harvesting the fat. From then on, it's really sculpting," Dr. Griffin explains.
Though many surgeons ask him how to perform the procedure, he adds, "I can tell them how to do the processing. Transferring fat is part of what we do as plastic surgeons. What's hard to teach is how to sculpt the buttocks and how to have that artistic vision in that area. One either has an eye for it, or one doesn't," Dr. Griffin says.
He adds that what is attractive to patients about the procedure is that it involves no invasive implants or extended downtime (patients are up and walking the next day), as well as a very low risk of infection.
"It uses the patient's own tissue. One takes fat that normally would be thrown away and recycles it to reshape the body," Dr. Griffin says.