Obese Patients Face More Surgery Complications

K. Mathews on 7 Jul 2011 at 9:00am

Can you be too fat for plastic surgery? While those extra pounds won’t generally make you ineligible for surgery, they will put you at a greater risk. According to new research, obese patients are 12 times more likely to contend with plastic surgery-related complications. 

The study, conducted by experts at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine focused on patients who underwent breast-related procedures: reductions, reconstructions, augmentations, and lifts. After a month, 18% of the obese patients suffered from at least one complication, while only 2% of the normal-sized patients encountered a problem. Moreover, the obese patients were 13 times more likely to get an infection and 11 times more likely to experience pain.

Dr. Marty Makary, who headed the study, said that not only do plastic surgeries on obese patients require more time, but also blood doesn’t flow to fat tissue as quickly, causing for a prolonged recovery time. Given the extra work and potential complications, Dr. Makary suspects that fewer doctors will be willing to take on overweight clients.

obese people are at more risk for surgeryIndeed, it is a problem that RealSelf member thrumyis encountered. When thrumyis went for a breast augmentation consultation, the plastic surgeon told her that she was “too fat” for the procedure. Afterwards, she polled the RealSelf doctors to determine whether this response was standard. The majority of doctors said that it’s not weight, but rather a person’s overall health that matters more when determining whether a procedure is right for a patient.

“We don’t have a weight limit on our patients, but we do tell all patients who are overweight that they have higher risks of complications such as infection, loss of implant, and anesthetic complications,” said Dr. Francisco Canales, a Santa Rosa plastic surgeon.

That’s how the news from this research will have to be handled. Certainly, obese patients shouldn’t be prevented from having plastic surgery altogether. Nonetheless, this data should be shared with both doctors and patients so that all parties are well aware of the risks and can make informed decisions.

What do you think? 

Photocredit: Tobyotter and didbygraham on flickr *The poll (second photo), based on a random sample of 1,077 people in 2006, was commissioned by the journal Nursing Standard, which said it disagreed with the views.