Rib removal is an aesthetic body contouring procedure that has an impact on narrowing the anatomic waistline. It is most commonly performed in my experience on already lean women that are trying to achieve an ultra narrow waistline or on male to female transgender patients to get some semblence of a waistline shape. While historically portrayed as an urban myth, rib removal surgery is very real and effective in the properly selected patient.
To create a waistline narrowing effect, the free floating (11th and 12th) ribs are shortened in their length. The concept of rib removal does not mean the entire ribs are removed back to their vertebral facets. Rather they are shortened back to the lateral border of the erector spinae muscle. This removes some support from the overlying soft tissues but does so without risk to any internal organs. This collapse inward of the soft tissues creates the waistline narrowing effect.
The debate in each patient is whether a portion of rib #10 should also be removed in addition to ribs #11 and #12. Rib #10 is not a free floater and has a more horizontal orientation. Its removal has less of an effect on the waistline than the lower two but a portion is often removed as well.
Traditional rib removal by chest surgeons is done through long incisions. But that is not acceptable in the cosmetic patient. Aesthetic rib removal is done through a 4 to 4.5 cm long incision placed in an oblique skin fold seen when the patient turns at the waist. This produces a far more acceptable incisional tradeoff. This patient picture shows the result seen just two days after rib removal surgery.
Dr. Barry Eppley