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Body Contouring Surgery Sculpts Patients After Significant Weight Loss
Weight loss surgery can lead to dramatic results—many patients lose 100 pounds or more within the first year. While happy with the numbers on the scale, patients often are dismayed when they look at themselves in the mirror. The fat has melted away, but excess skin is hanging next to where the extra pounds once were.
This loose skin lacks the elasticity to spring back into place. Patients aren’t happy with the way they look, and they aren’t able to fit into new, smaller clothes. The loose skin may be difficult to keep clean, and skin folds may rub against other skin, leading to extra moisture, chafing, rashes or even infections. Also, this extra skin may make it difficult to exercise, which makes long-term fitness a challenge.
So what are they to do?
Body contouring surgery is often the next step for patients who have had a dramatic weight loss. This surgery removes hanging skin and stored fat deposits that remain after weight loss surgery. Board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeons are the best choice for the best results.
“After massive weight loss—50-plus pounds to several hundred pounds—patients are left with excess skin, so they have a deflated look and appearance,” says Derek Masden, MD, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. He and his colleague, Praful Ramineni, MD, perform this surgery about once a week. They work closely with the Hospital Center’s bariatric surgeons, many of whom send patients to them after successful bariatric surgery.
“We can do a number of different procedures that help patients achieve great results,” he continues. Patients may have one or all of these procedures, depending on their needs. Often, patients require more than one surgery to perform all the necessary work to achieve the best results.
The best candidates for body contouring surgery are patients whose weight has stabilized. They should be healthy, without other medical conditions, and committed to maintaining their current weight through good nutrition and fitness.
“Usually we wait until a year after weight loss surgery, because if you continue to shed weight, you’ll need surgery again,” Dr. Masden says. Often the bariatric (weight loss) surgeon and nutritionist are involved in the decision to go ahead with body contouring surgery. “We have to make sure the patient has enough protein reserve to be able to heal from these massive incisions,” Dr. Masden explains.
Surgery that includes several procedures can take six or more hours. “The way I explain it to patients is that it’s like tailoring clothes—we take out the excess,” Dr. Masden says. Typically, patients remain in the hospital for one or two nights, and can go back to work after two weeks.
In comparison to many other surgeries, recovery is not too painful, Dr. Masden says, because no muscles or organs are involved.
Results can be dramatic, but patients should not expect a perfect body after surgery. Visible scars remain where the incisions were made.
Patients see results immediately after surgery and those results are long lasting— as long as the patient does not regain weight. A regular fitness routine helps maintain muscle tone, which also improves appearance. “Patients are really happy with the results,” Dr. Masden concludes.