Body Contouring Surgery after Major Weight Loss

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Body Contouring Surgery after Major Weight Loss
Dr. Zachary Filip, board certified plastic surgeon, Renuance Cosmetic Surgery Center

What is body contouring surgery?
Surgical body contouring following major weight loss removes excess sagging fat and skin while improving the shape of the underlying support tissue. The result is a more normal appearance with smoother contours. Possible procedures include:
  • facelift (rhytidectomy)
  • breast lift (mastopexy)
  • tummy tuck (abdominoplasty)
  • lower body lift or buttock lift
  • medial thigh lift
  • arm lift (brachioplasty)
Most patients choose to have 1-3 procedures done at a time starting with the areas that bother them the most. If additional procedures are desired they are usually spaced out every 6-12 weeks.

Who is a candidate for body contouring surgery?
In general individuals appropriate for consultation are:
  • Living with a positive outlook and realistic goals
  • Committed to a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and fitness
  • Weight stable for at least 3-6 months
  • Without medical conditions that impair healing
  • Non-smokers
  • Compliant with appropriate nutritional supplements

I lost a lot of weight after bariatric surgery and have been stable for years, but now I plan on losing a few more pounds. Should I have body contouring surgery first, or wait?
It is recommended that individuals be at their ideal body weight before surgery. More than 10-20 lbs of weight loss after body contouring surgery will cause the skin in the treated areas to become loose and sag again. With that said, many individuals schedule surgery 3-6 months in the future for motivation to stay on track with their weight loss regimen.

What are the risks of body contouring surgery?
Complications that occur infrequently are wound breakdown, bleeding, fluid accumulation, wide scars, and residual skin laxity. Very rare complications include blood clots in the legs or lungs, infection, and serious wound breakdown requiring additional surgery. Large studies have shown that individuals with a BMI (body mass index) below 30 are at a lower risk of complications following body contouring surgery, thus being as close to an ideal body weight as possible is recommended.

What is recovery like?
Typically all dressings and any thin plastic tubes left as drains are removed in the office the morning after surgery. Most patients will need to wear a compressive garment or dressing for 1-3 weeks depending on the procedure. Patients typically return to sedentary work after 1-2 weeks after smaller breast, extremity, or facial procedures. Larger full body lifts can require 4-6 weeks prior to more strenuous activity.

Will health insurance pay for body contouring?
In most cases the reshaping of excess skin and body areas is to improve appearance and therefore cosmetic in nature. Only in rare cases is body contouring considered medically necessary to treat serious functional abnormalities such as recurrent life-threatening skin infections or severe back or joint pain.

Where can I learn more information?
Website of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Website of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
Article by
Temecula Plastic Surgeon