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Aesthetic surgery of women’s genitals: reduction of large labia minora

Large labia minora can result in chronic irritations, worsened hygiene, interfere with sexual intercourse and be aesthetically displeasing.  The solution is surgical reduction, and the technique addressed here is inferior wedge reduction with superior pedicle flap reconstruction.(1, pdf)

See the article for the details and the pictures.  The response to this article was published as the following Letter to the Editor,(2) which addresses how the procedure can be improved –


I congratulate Dr. Munhoz and colleagues1 on their modification of the central wedge technique, which I reported in 1998.2 I applaud them for emphasizing the importance of preserving the natural labial borders to maintain a normal appearance and to prevent a possibly painful scar.

The authors used inferior wedge resection and superior pedicle flap reconstruction to perform a labia minora reduction. Although I agree that a wedge technique is preferable, I do not believe the inferior wedge gives a better result, for several important reasons. Women seeking this operation desire removal of the most bulky and protruding tissue. Removal of an inferior wedge leaves the bulky superior tissue as the labial edge. Often the inferior edge of the labium is the thinnest and least protuberant portion, as illustrated in their Figures 1 and 5. Removal of this area, therefore, is counterproductive. In contrast, a central wedge can be placed to remove the most objectionable portion of each labium. Perhaps the authors chose the superior pedicle as a solution to the difficulty in approximating the thicker upper labium, which is attached to a thick, convoluted, lateral clitoral hood to the thinner inferior labial edge. Approximating the inferior flap to the frenulum extension of the clitoris as it ends at the upper labial edge will solve this alignment quandary. Also, the outer wedge excision should then be curved laterally and anteriorly (“hockey stick” ) to excise this redundant lateral labium and excess lateral clitoral hood (if desired by the patient).3 Therefore, the internal and external V excisions are shaped differently, with the intervening subcutaneous tissue preserved while the leading labial edge is precisely re-approximated. Only enough subcutaneous tissue is excised to produce a good cosmetic result. This allows for better subcutaneous closure, which is necessary to prevent wound dehiscence and fistula formation.

The hockey stick lateral wedge excision allows for elimination of much of the unsightly lateral hood, which is a major aesthetic and often functional concern for these women; this issue is not addressed by these authors. In addition, the central wedge flaps are extremely healthy, with wide vascular bases that eliminate the tip necrosis problems seen with the superior flap technique. Therefore, a more predictable and better aesthetic outcome results with a central wedge excision combined with a lateral hockey stick V excision. A more detailed description of my technique and results will be forthcoming shortly.

Gary J. Alter, M.D.
Department of Plastic Surgery
UCLA School of Medicine
416 North Bedford Drive, Suite 400
Beverly Hills, Calif. 90210
altermd [@]


  1. Munhoz, A., Filassi, J., Ricci, M., et al. Aesthetic labia minora reduction with inferior wedge resection and superior pedicle flap reconstruction. Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 118: 1237, 2006.
  2. Alter, G. J. A new technique for aesthetic labia minora reduction. Ann. Plast. Surg. 40: 287, 1998.
  3. Alter, G. J. Central wedge nymphectomy with a 90-degree Z-plasty for aesthetic reduction of the labia minora. Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 115: 2144, 2005.


  1. Munhoz, A. M., Filassi, J. R., Ricci, M. D., Aldrighi, C., Correia, L. D., Aldrighi, J. M., and Ferreira, M. C., Aesthetic labia minora reduction with inferior wedge resection and superior pedicle flap reconstruction, Plast Reconstr Surg, 118, 1237 (2006).
  2. Alter, G. J., Aesthetic labia minora reduction with inferior wedge resection and superior pedicle flap reconstruction, Plast Reconstr Surg, 120, 358 (2007).


Here is the reply of the first author to Gary Alter’s comment:



I appreciate the opportunity to reply to Dr. Alter’s thoughtful letter regarding our article on aesthetic labia minora reduction.(1) This allows me to clarify some points of confusion as to the “drawbacks” he suggests for an inferior wedge resection procedure. Dr. Alter is highly recognized as an authority in genital surgery, especially modern aesthetic labia minora reduction, of which he was one of the pioneers (central wedge technique, 1998 (2)). Dr. Alter’s letter makes many good points, and I would not presume to argue with him. I think he actually seems to agree with much of what my coauthors and I said, but he differs with regard to my interpretation of the inferior wedge technique concept. I thank him for his comments.

My experience with the aesthetic labia minora reduction began 8 years ago, with Dr. José Roberto Filassi, a gynecologist, who first introduced me to this technique in an effort to find a simple and reproducible procedure with low rates of complications and fewer trade-offs.(3) As mentioned in the article, at that time (1998), the main technical options available were based on the simple protuberant tissue resection. Despite the reproducibility of this old concept, this procedure removed the natural contour of the labia minora and replaced it with an irregular suture line and an unsatisfactory aesthetic result. In addition, one might surmise that wide and simple resection of the protuberant tissue can occasionally extend to the clitoris and put sexuality at risk. To avoid these undesirable aesthetic and functional outcomes, since the end of 1990s my coworkers and I have used a simple and reliable technique based on the inferior wedge labia minora resection and superior pedicle flap reconstruction.(1,3) Contrary to what Dr. Alter wrote (and I believe that I was just misinterpreted), the main point of our article was not to demonstrate or dispute the superiority of our technique; this was beyond the reach and scope of our article. Rather, the purpose was only to review a series of labia minora reductions using this technique with regard to the main indications, operative planning, advantages, and limitations. We believe that significant conclusions related to aesthetic results following each technique (Dr. Alter X inferior edge resection) should only be evaluated with controlled prospective studies. In addition, the methodology of determining aesthetic outcome should be scientific and performed by a patient, a surgeon, and an independent observer (a physician, nurse, or layperson). In our study, cosmetic evaluation was performed subjectively after a minimal period of 3 months postoperatively. At that time, 85.7 percent of patients presented good or very good aesthetic results and 95.2 percent of patients were either very satisfied or satisfied with their result. All patients mentioned smaller and finer labia minora with a more youthful appearance. Despite this fact, I believe that comparative studies between the two techniques utilizing scientific methodology are necessary for significant conclusions. Up to now, a scientifically valid comparison required that the authors identify and quantify variables in each group. The methodology of our study and Dr. Alter’s does not establish comparable cohorts (comparable groups with quantified tissue and surgical variables). Therefore, Dr. Alter’s data and conclusions (2) do not prove that his technique has better results compared with inferior edge resection. It is just a personal opinion.

As mentioned in the Discussion, the inferior wedge technique is a variation of the innovative technique described by Dr. Alter in 1998 (2) and adapted by Rouzier et al. in 2000.(4) In Dr. Alter’s article, he mentions a wedge-shaped resection in the inferior part of the labia minora and superior flap reconstruction in cases where the labia minora are more protuberant throughout their extension. Correspondingly, the Rouzier group described a V-shaped redundant labial tissue resection located in the inferior region of the labia minora. The surgical planning was performed through rigid marking whereby the authors utilized two Kocher clamps. The first clamp was placed on the posterior part of the labia minora close to their base, and the second was placed across the labia minora. Together they formed an angle of approximately 90 degrees. Unlike Rouzier et al., my coauthors and I avoided rigid marking, because the tissue redundancy varies a lot. For moderate hypertrophy, we prefer a small reduction with an angle between the two lines equal to or less than 90 degrees. In the presence of severe hypertrophy, and if the patient desires a more aggressive reduction, the angle can be greater than 120 degrees.

With regard to the statement “[w]omen seeking this operation desire removal of the most bulky and protruding tissue,” my coauthors and I totally agree with Dr. Alter. However, his statements that “[r]emoval of an inferior wedge leaves the bulky superior tissue as the labial edge” and “is counterproductive” are partially true and do not appear to be supported by published data. This has certainly not been my experience.

In my practice, once the skin laxity also contributes to labia enlargement, simple removal of an inferior wedge can be productive. For this purpose, a simple preoperative evaluation can determine the amount of tissue to be resected and simulate the final result. With a small forceps, the medium portion of the labia minora is stretched inferiorly until the posterior part of the vagina introits (pinching test). If skin tension is observed, the forceps is moved upward; if skin laxity is noted, the forceps is moved downward to resect more tissue. Using this maneuver, it is possible to simulate the final aesthetic result and estimate the amount of tissue that needs to be resected and the extension of the superior flap. Thus, I do not believe that the technique is “counterproductive.” In addition, care must be taken to make certain that the tissue enlargement is not overresected to prevent a tight introitus. When planning the wedge-shaped resection area through the pinch test, the surgeon should place two or three fingers inside the introitus and stretch the labia minora, to estimate a safe amount of tissue resection. The same concept can be used to avoid underresection and tissue enlargement relapse.

Since submission of the article, I have continued to use the technique on patients and have yet to observe a good aesthetic outcome. The study demonstrates that the inferior wedge is a simple and consistent technique. The complications observed were expected and did not extend patients’ hospital stay or interfere with the normal postoperative period. As is frequently observed in any aesthetic surgical procedure, success depends on patient selection, careful preoperative planning, and adequate intraoperative management.
Although I do not doubt that Dr. Alter achieves better results using his approach, the word “better” can be influenced by personal bias, especially when it is applied to aesthetic appearance. Up to now, there has been no consensus concerning the best procedure for labia minora reduction. The main advantages of the technique used should include reproducibility, low interference with physiological function, and long-term results. It is almost certain that these objectives are not attained by any single procedure. Each technique has its advantages and limitations, depending on the excess cutaneous-mucosal tissue, skin laxity, and the patient’s sexual and athletic activities. A single surgical technique, in my opinion, never has been and never will be the optimal solution for every patient.

I thank Dr. Alter for providing us with practical clinical information, and I encourage him to publish his long-term experience with a central wedge excision combined with a lateral hockey stick V excision. No technique is perfect, and each surely has its own compromises.

Alexandre Mendonca Munhoz, M.D.
Department of Plastic Surgery
University of Sáo Paulo, Brazil
Rua Oscar Freire 1702 ap. 78
Sáo Paulo SP 05409-011, Brazil
Munhozalex [@]


1. Munhoz, A., Filassi, J., Ricci, M., et al. Aesthetic labia minora reduction with inferior wedge resection and superior pedicle flap reconstruction. Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 118: 1237, 2006.

2. Alter, G. J. A new technique for aesthetic labia minora reduction. Ann. Plast. Surg. 40: 287, 1998.

3. Filassi, J. R., Munhoz, A. M., Ricci, M. D., and Melo, N. R. Aplicacao do retalho labial superior para correcao cirúgica da hipertrofia de pequenos lábios. Rev. Bras. Ginecol. Obstet. 26: 37, 2004.

4. Rouzier, R., Sylvestre, C., Paniel, B., and Haddad, B. Hypertrophy of labia minora: Experience with 163 reductions. Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol. 182: 35, 2000.

I love your site and your message, but this... this is a little twisted. How is this congruent with femininity vs. masculinity in women??? Female genitals, regardless of their size, shape, color, etc. are inherently feminine!

Adris: The information has nothing to do with masculinity-femininity, and is for those who might need it. Sometimes this website will mention surgical solutions to improving looks or functionality, but this doesn’t mean that I am saying that women with the condition addressed must undergo the procedure or that I endorse the procedure.

Medically, I can agree on the worsened hygiene portion, but anything argument beyond is just ludicrous. Are we saying that determining a woman’s beauty should also include the size of her labia?

I agree only with medical reasons for labiaplasty because of constant irritation in tight pants and discomfort when engaging in sports or other physical activities. In many of these instances, women are born with large labia—others may develop this condition with childbirth or age. Surgery of the labia represents a relatively safe solution to most medical reasons. I can understand why for some women with overdeveloped winged labia can be a curse than a blessing. Their lips get pinched in tight pants or get squeezed when riding a bicycle. They slip out of their undies at the worst moments or make an "embarrassing" bump in a bikini.

And why are there an ideal size for the labia minora and majora. They worry that their partner isn't happy with the length of their pussy lips, or that their lips might be either too large or too small to be esthetically pleasing.

But I do not agree with aesthetic reasons. Is there such a thing as the ideal labia size? While some men and lesbians may prefer inner labia that stick out past the outer ones, trying to describe the "ideal" dimensions of the vulva would be a wasted effort.

Some vulvas with smaller inner lips can still be very pretty to many men. Others men prefer a meaty vulva with thick and round outer lips and a fleshy and protruding clit is surely exciting. Large inner lips would simply be a great bonus in such case.

Even the vulvas with large inner labia vary in size and shape from woman to woman. Sometimes the inners are longer towards the front than towards the back, or vice versa. Some are round when spread open while others are pointy. With so many men liking so many different vulva styles, it is impossible to decide upon an "ideal" labia size or shape.

Size preferences can also vary for the same person depending on his or her age. Younger and less experienced men tend to care much less about labia size and may have no preference at all. As they grow a little older and get more experience, it seems that quite often they acquire a taste for larger and more sexually developed labia. For most of them large lips mean nothing more than a welcome novelty, although for others their love for large vulvas may evolve into a true labia fetish.

I think that smaller inner lips can remember to child vagina, so maybe most of men would prefer a slightly meaty vulva to display more sexual maturity.

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