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Body Contouring

(Also Called 'Panniculectomy')

After significant weight loss, whether through surgery or exercise and diet, body contouring can be the final step in creating "the new you."

For people who have lost a significant amount of weight, there's one more thing they need to lose, and that's excess skin - sometimes pounds of it.

Saying "goodbye" to fat means saying "hello" to loose skin. That's because skin that has been stretched for a long period of time sags and loses its elasticity. Like a deflated balloon, it won't shrink back to its former size and shape. Instead, it hangs on the body in heavy, loose folds.

Excess skin makes clothes fit poorly and can make people feel less confident. Excess skin on the legs can become irritated from constant rubbing while walking. Skin-on-skin contact anywhere on the body can cause rashes and other sores, which can become infected. Some people get yeast infections in the folds of skin, which can cause odors.

"People can wear clothes to hide the folds, but they still might feel awkward in social situations," says Silvia Cristina Meneghetti Rotemberg, MD, a plastic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic.

Excess skin is also a reminder of heavier days that most weight-loss patients would like to forget. People who have lost weight – sometimes 100 pounds or more – want their body to reflect the results of their hard work.

Body contouring can remove excess skin. Such procedures as skin-trimming, lifts and liposuction can help clothes fit better and make participating in favorite activities fun again, says Dr. Rotemberg.

Selecting from a variety of techniques, doctors choose procedures that meet the individual needs of each patient based on which areas of the body need improvement.

Depending on how much weight a patient has lost, the operations may be done in stages to minimize risks of surgical complications, such as infection and blood loss. Although scarring is inevitable, a skillful plastic surgeon will minimize it by using fine stitching techniques, and hiding incisions in natural folds of the skin.

"People should wait until their weight has been stable for at least a year before considering body contouring," says Dr. Rotemberg.

Doctors also stress the importance of quitting smoking. Smoking slows the healing process and increases the risk of serious complications during and after surgery.

Because body contouring is major surgery, some risks are involved. Some soreness, swelling and bruising are normal for two to three weeks after surgery. Patients may have to take one to four weeks off work, depending on their line of work and where the surgery was performed on the body.

The end result is worth it for many patients, though, because their body reflects their healthy lifestyle. "And after all, that’s what 'the new you' is all about," says Dr. Rotemberg.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 6/1/2007…#13598

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