Weight-loss surgery can be life-changing and potentially life-saving. At a healthy weight, you feel better, look better and can better enjoy everyday activities. But along with the positive aspects of substantial weight loss comes a problem that affects many individuals: excess skin.
Skin’s natural elasticity—the ability to shrink back after being stretched—is partly determined by genetics. Advancing age, sun exposure and smoking decrease elasticity. There is also likely less elasticity in areas of greatest weight loss—the abdomen, for example.
Q. Is cosmetic surgery necessary after bariatric surgery?
Loose, hanging skin can cause rash and irritation, may limit physical activity, and is an ever-present reminder of a long and personal struggle with obesity. It is a problem so prevalent that, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, about a quarter of all weight loss surgery patients have had plastic surgery to remove excess skin—and that number is growing.
In 2014, almost 45,000 body-contouring procedures—tummy tuck, breast lift, thigh lift, upper arm lift and lower body lift—were performed on people in the U.S. who had achieved massive weight loss following weight-loss surgery. This is a reflection of both the increase in the number of patients undergoing weight loss surgery and awareness of the benefits of follow-up plastic surgery.
Q. When is the best time to have a skin removal surgery?
Plan for your surgery well in advance and consider these factors:
- Consider cosmetic surgery 12 to 18 months after weight loss surgery, when your weight-loss goal is near and your weight is stable.
- Choose a plastic surgeon experienced in these procedures.
- Discuss personal goals and expectations with your surgeon.
- Plan for ample recovery time.
Q. What are the long-term benefits?
Two recent medical studies shed light on some of these benefits. One study reported significant improvement in quality of life for patients who underwent body contouring after gastric bypass. Another revealed that seven years after gastric bypass, individuals who had had excess skin removed had regained about 4 percent of their weight, compared to 11 percent in the gastric bypass-only group.
For more and more people, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight means taking a step beyond weight loss surgery. For them, plastic surgery is a step in the right direction.
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