Weight loss can lead to significant changes in one’s lifestyle. After a significant weight loss, you tend to have excessive skin in different areas of the body. This is caused due to permanent damage in the elasticity of these tissues, hence hindering the retraction of the skin back to its shape. This loose skin can be treated through plastic surgery or body contouring procedures. These procedures remove the excess fat and baggy skin to improve the shape of the underlying tissues.
Indications and Contraindications
Body contouring procedures are used to remove excessive and baggy skin after massive weight loss procedures. However, for these procedures to be completely successful, your weight should be stable for at least a year, you should not have any medical conditions and be in good health, you should be eating a healthy diet and if you smoke, you should quit smoking at least six weeks prior to the surgery.
Preparation for the surgery
Prior to the surgery, you will discuss the procedure with your physician including risks and outcomes, your medical conditions, drug allergies, current medications, and use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Your surgeon will also evaluate your health status and existing conditions or risks if any. Also, photos of your body will be taken for medical records.
There are different types of body contouring procedures which can treat your needs after a massive weight loss. Your doctor will identify which areas of the body need body contouring treatment. These surgeries are performed under general anesthesia. The areas of the body that are most often treated are:
- Abdomen: The procedure for removal of excess skin and tightening the underlying abdominal muscles is termed a “tummy tuck”. During the procedure, an incision is made just above the pubic region in the hip and overhanging skin and tissues below the belly button are removed which helps the abdominal muscles to tighten.
- Buttocks and Upper Thighs: A procedure called “body lift” is performed to remove skin and lift the buttocks and thigh region. This may be performed as a continuation to the “tummy tuck” procedure of the abdomen.
- Thighs: A “medial thigh lift” is performed to remove excess skin from your upper leg through an incision along the inner thigh.
- Breasts: There are several different body contouring procedures for breasts such as breast lift (with or without enlargement with implants) or breast reduction. The excessive skin in the breast is removed by making an incision vertically down the center of the breast or underneath the breast.
- Arms: The excessive skin in the arm is removed by making an incision at the armpit extending to the elbow. This procedure is termed “brachioplasty”.
- Face and Neck: A “facelift” procedure is performed and excess skin is removed from the face and neck through an incision made at the hairline of the temples extending to the lower scalp.
A combination of body contouring procedures can also be done at one time as long as your doctor feels it is safe for you. An “upper body lift” is a combination of surgeries for the arms, back and breasts whereas a “lower body lift” consists of surgeries for the hips, thighs, abdomen, and buttocks.
After the body contouring procedures, dressing and bandaging are done for your incisions. A drain (thin tube) may be placed under the skin to remove excess blood. You may have to stay overnight or longer depending on the procedure. Your daily activities may be restricted until complete recovery. You will be advised not to lift any excess weight or any additional exercises. However, walking is recommended after the surgery. Scars from the surgery may remain, but the overall results are long lasting if you maintain stable health conditions.
Risks and complications
Some of the possible risks associated with body contouring surgeries include scarring, bleeding, infections, fluid accumulation, skin loss or numbness at the site of the incision. The other risks involved are asymmetry, recurrent looseness of the skin, persistent pain, skin discoloration, and prolonged swelling and anesthesia risks.