Gaining a significant amount of weight can affect your skin. Over time, it slowly stretches to accommodate the accumulation of fat tissue. If you undergo bariatric surgery and lose a lot of weight, your skin might not spring back into place. This may cause stretch marks and weight loss can result in extra folds of skin on your lower stomach, thighs, arms, chin and/or breasts.
Body contouring surgery removes the extra skin that is left following weight loss. As an elective procedure, it is completely up to you and your doctor whether or not you should consider it. The best way to determine if it’s right for you is to learn more about the surgery and what to expect.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Below are some commonly asked questions and answers about body contouring surgery.
What is body contouring?
Body contouring is a surgical procedure to remove excess body skin that diet and exercise may not be able to remove. The procedure can help create a smooth, well-proportioned appearance of your body.
There is a variety of body contouring surgeries available:
- Abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, tightens the stomach muscles and reduces excess fat and skin around the midsection. The goal of the surgery is to make the abdomen flatter, smoother, and improve overall appearance.
- Breast contouring lifts and reshapes sagging breasts.
- Arm lift, also known as brachioplasty, removes excess tissue and skin to reshape the upper arm, from the underarm region to the elbow.
- Thigh lift removes excess tissue and skin to reshape the legs for a smoother contour and better-proportioned lower body.
How can body contouring help you?
Following weight loss surgery, the excess skin that exists may make you prone to health risks like infection and skin conditions such as rashes, itching, chafing and/or ulcers.
Excessive skin can cause pain and interference with daily activities, such as putting on clothes, physical activity, personal hygiene and sexual behavior. Body contouring can help alleviate these symptoms to help you live a more comfortable life.
Many people say it also helps their own self-confidence and body image.
Are you a good candidate for body contouring?
If you have undergone weight loss surgery and have excess body skin, you may be a candidate for body contouring.
- You should be healthy without any medical conditions and with stable weight loss for a minimum of one year.
- You should not smoke or use nicotine in any form. If so, then a minimum of 5-6 month nicotine free would be needed before surgery.
If you are considering body contouring, you will be assessed by our medical team to ensure you are healthy enough to proceed with the surgery.
What happens during body contouring surgery? Are there risks?
During surgery, patients are placed under general anesthesia and vital signs are carefully monitored. The surgeon will make an incision in the area to be treated. The length of the incision depends on the amount and location of excess skin. After the removal, the surgeon will reconnect the skin with sutures and skin adhesives and/or surgical tape may be used to help close and support the skin.
At Penn Medicine, body contouring is performed by board certified plastic surgeons, such as Dr. Aron Wahrman, who specialize in body sculpting and reconstruction. Our plastic surgeons use the latest techniques, and whenever possible, strategically place incisions in areas that can be hidden by most types of clothing.
Body contouring is surgery and carries the same risks including infection, bleeding, poor wound healing and unfavorable scarring.
What happens after body contouring surgery?
Everyone is different; however, the decision to proceed with and recover from your surgery relies a lot on your state of health before surgery. Patients progress in their weight loss differently as well, therefore, there may be patients who lose similar amounts of weight but can have very different outcomes in terms of extra skin that needs to be removed.
There are important instructions to follow before and after surgery. Common problems that may occur after surgery include fluid collections and infections, but they can be managed when identified right away. You may be asked to modify work and other activity in the 6-8 weeks after surgery. You may need to wear compression garments for several months after your surgery. Compression garments help the healing process by decreasing swelling at the incision site.
Cost of body contouring
Despite the journey that bariatric patients take to become healthier and become less of a burden to our health care system, post bariatric contouring is often regarded as a cosmetic procedure and often not covered by insurance. Insurance carriers will often want photographic proof of the extent of extra skin, proof of recurrent rashes, and a history of the patient’s treatment.
Please contact your health care provider for more information on costs.