Minimally invasive lipo-abdominoplasty (MILA), that’s what! I sat down with Singapore plastic surgeon DR MARCO FARIA CORREA for an update on how to achieve a beautifully sculpted tummy – and other global plastic surgery trends including rhinoplasty.
There’s no doubt that Dr Marco is the man to fill me in. He’s just returned from Athens, where he presented his MILA technique to the congress of the International Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).
Events like these are key to staying abreast of industry developments, he says. “The science is in constant evolution, and I’m always learning. It’s never boring.”
“They’re enjoyable, too, because the attendees are generally the best and most successful surgeons from their respective countries. We’re continually solving problems, improving our techniques and sharing skills and tips with one another. Sometimes, you can learn more in the corridor than in the auditorium!”
Born to operate
“I’ve been a surgeon my whole life – and I just love being in the theatre doing surgery.”
Though this Singapore plastic surgeon performs a wide range of plastic and cosmetic procedures for both men and women – everything from nose-jobs, facelifts and breast enhancements to tummy tucks and Brazilian butt-lifts – Dr Marco is best-known here for the “mummy makeover”, which is exactly what it sounds like. (This can include breast surgery, a tummy tuck, liposuction, labial surgery, plus one or more facial rejuvenation procedures.)
Globally, however, he’s celebrated for his groundbreaking work in the field of minimally invasive endo-surgery, including the use of robotics that he introduced in 2015. At the time of our chat, he was looking forward to holding a workshop in Brazil the next month to train surgeons from various countries in the use of MILA.
“It’s not only about the best surgical techniques,” he explains. “I’m also passionate about the importance of patient preparation, physiotherapy and rebuilding core strength and function. In the end, they are absolutely essential for a pleasing and lasting result.”
Who is MILA for?
It’s for a specific type of patient, explains Dr Marco. The state of the art in mini-abdominoplasty, it’s a minimally invasive method using endoscopic and robotic surgery to repair the post-pregnancy abdomen, with the important advantage of leaving minimal and inconspicuous scars.
MILA is suitable for someone who has little to no redundant skin, and skin that is cosmetically good with healthy elasticity. Often, this functional and cosmetic surgery involves repairing the woman’s rectus diastasis – a vertical gap that commonly forms between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. And this aspect is at least as much about restoring healthy function as it is about aesthetics.
MILA also includes high-definition liposuction to sculpt the patient’s ideal waist silhouette and contours. According to Dr Marco, the surgeon must be highly experienced, clear in his or her own mind about the outcome, and honest enough to convey what is or is not achievable.
If you are not a suitable candidate, he will tell you so. In his practice, 75 percent of people will not qualify for MILA, purely on the basis that they have too much loose skin. For them, a standard tummy-tuck may be the right option. That still leaves 25 percent of people who are good candidates, however!
Abs to die for
Speaking personally, my tummy has never been my strong point – never smooth or flat enough for my liking. Fortunately, I’m well into that stage of life where a more elegant style of dressing trumps fashions such as crop tops.
But I can’t help wondering… could MILA be an option for someone like me – neither overweight nor particularly flabby – who’d simply like to sport a smoother, more youthful tummy on the beach? (For vanity’s sake, let’s say.)
If there is room for improvement, replies Dr Marco, why not? As long as it’s safe, plastic surgery can work wonders to improve self-image and eliminate related emotional suffering. Where one’s quality of life is limited by avoiding being seen at the gym or the beach, for example, that might be good enough reason to go for it.
Once again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is no single definition of an attractive tummy: preferences are influenced by culture, ethnic differences and personal taste. “Some people want a very muscular stomach with a defined six-pack,” in Dr Marco’s experience. “Others prefer a slightly curvier waist and abdomen covered with a light layer of fat.”
Plastic surgery trends
When clients ask what’s new in plastic surgery, he’s quick to point out that newness is seldom an advantage. Tried and tested is the way to go.
“We use well-established procedures that have stood the test of time and repeated practice. That said, there’s always room for incremental improvements that promise quicker healing or enhanced results. Before embracing a new technique, we need to see a surgical demonstration, and to know that it can be consistently replicated.”
New technology brings new applications that require top plastic surgeons to refine or even redesign their techniques, he says. “It keeps things interesting!”
For example, both facelifts and neck-lifts have been done for many years. Over time, the facelift scar has been moved into the hairline and changed to a zigzag line to make it less conspicuous.
“Similarly for neck-lifts, we now have new robotic platforms that allow us to come from behind, so as to avoid making an obvious opening in the front of the neck.”
The same goes for nose jobs. “It used to be all ‘closed’ rhinoplasty before we moved to ‘open’ rhinoplasty. Today, we often use a third, more conservative technique called preservation rhinoplasty.” This approach involves precise and minimal incisions, while preserving the underlying structures and tissues as far as possible.
Likewise, breast enhancement surgery continues to evolve. Implants were traditionally placed under the breasts, over the muscle; then under the muscle; and then under the fascia of the muscle. A skilled plastic surgeon will be able to choose the appropriate technique for a particular patient.
“For example, someone with a flat, bony chest needs her implants to be placed under the muscle, otherwise they won’t look natural. For a woman with somewhat fuller breasts, we may just need to increase the volume on top of the muscle.”
Instead of women requesting overly large breasts, he’s seeing a move towards smaller, more moderate enhancements. And that’s a good thing. “Too-large breasts are not functional, for a number of reasons. They can stretch the skin irrevocably, cause sagging over time, and even lead to postural problems.”
A Singapore plastic surgeon like Dr Marco has recourse to nonsurgical body-tightening technologies that can enhance patient outcomes. One of these add-ons is a plasma radiofrequency (RF) based device often used after liposuction to kick-start collagen production so as to effectively smoothen and contract subcutaneous tissue. Dr Marco has been using it to excellent effect since 1992.
He also likes a micro-needling device that delivers RF to remodel subdermal adipose tissue.
“Concepts of beauty are changing so quickly nowadays, driven by social media and influencers. Plastic surgery trends start, goes viral and spreads like wildfire. It’s impossible to keep up.”
Going by Dr Marco’s record, however, he’ll continue doing his level best!
This article on Singapore plastic surgeon Dr Marco first appeared in the December 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe so you never miss a copy!
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