Shaping Up After Bariatric Surgery
Patients who undergo bariatric surgery to lose massive amounts of weight usually find that their skin has lost its elasticity and no longer retains its shape. Left with large amounts of excess, baggy skin, many people consider body contouring procedures.
“Often, there are two reasons why a patient considers body contouring surgery. One, it provides an additional quality of life benefit following massive weight loss. Two, surgery to remove the excess skin helps prevent fungal infections that are often found between skin folds in overweight people,” says Armand Lucas, MD, a plastic surgeon with Cleveland Clinic.
The majority of patients undergo what’s called a circumferential abdominoplasty. This technique involves removing excess skin from around the entire waistline, hips, thighs and buttocks.
When performed by an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon, the risks associated with body contouring surgery are few. Although the surgery may take up to six hours to perform, the procedure is not overly complicated, says Dr. Lucas. Recovery is relatively mild; most patients require just an overnight hospital stay.
The best candidates are healthy individuals who have stabilized their body weight. Following bariatric surgery, weight loss generally continues for about a year and a half before stabilizing. (Of course, the duration of weight loss and number of pounds lost vary by individual.) People with co-existing conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems that are not fully under control, may not be eligible for surgery.
Dr. Lucas cautions that surgery may have to be performed in stages — typically every six months — depending upon what the patient wishes to have done. For example, in addition to a circumferential abdominoplasty, some patients may wish to have excess skin removed from other areas, including their arms, thighs and backs.
Some insurance companies will cover part of the cost of body contouring surgery. Check with your plan’s member services department for specific questions about insurance coverage.
If you donate your excess skin to a skin bank, you can get body contouring surgery performed at no cost.
Because of numerous practical, medical and financial issues, living donor skin donations are not performed. Skin is only taken from deceased organ donors.
Consider becoming an organ donor by indicating your intentions on your driver's license, by signing and carrying an organ donor card, and by discussing your wishes with family members.