The pictures of people who’ve successfully lost 100 or more pounds, either on their own or with the help of gastric bypass surgery, only tell half of the story. Often, people who’ve lost a significant amount of weight have a considerable amount of extra skin in the areas where they lost the most. While some people are fine with the way the excess skin looks, others would rather it not be there.
If you’ve recently lost a significant amount of weight and are bothered by the way your body looks, you have options. Plastic surgery after weight loss can reduce the amount of excess skin on your body or help remove areas of stubborn fat. The amount of surgery you need or want depends on how much weight you’ve lost and on how your body responded to the weight loss.
Body Contouring Surgeries
Your surgeon can perform a range of procedures after your weight loss to remove excess skin and fat from a number of areas of the body. Known as body contouring surgery, these procedures can give you a body that better matches the number you see on the scale.
Body contouring can affect several areas. A lower body lift targets the waist, hips, buttocks and outer thighs. It can be performed on its own or in combination with a thigh lift, which focuses on the inner thigh area. While some plastic surgeries take only a few hours and allow the patient to go home right away, a lower body lift is somewhat more involved.
At the Bitar Institute, patients typically stay at least one to two nights following the procedure. The surgery involves removing a wide belt of skin from the waist, then bringing up the lower body area to fill in the resulting gap. The result is an overall tightening of the abdominal area, the buttocks, hips and outer thigh.
Patients who notice excess sagginess or droopiness in the upper part of their body can benefit from a few procedures following a lower body lift. Extra skin or fat can be removed from the upper arms with an arm lift.
Breast surgeries can also be performed after weight loss to restore lost shape or volume to the breasts. A patient may choose to have breast lift surgery along with augmentation or a breast lift alone after losing weight.
While it might seem counterintuitive, some patients also decide to have liposuction after losing a considerable amount of weight. The removal of stubborn fat from various areas of the body, such as the abdomen, arms or thighs, can further enhance a person’s appearance after he or she has lost a lot of weight. Liposuction is often recommended when it will complement the results of another body contouring procedure.
Benefits of Surgery
Body contouring surgery following weight loss has a number of benefits, beyond simply improving your physical appearance. A study published in October 2013 in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that patients who had body contouring surgery after gastric bypass were more likely to keep the weight off than patients who didn’t undergo body contouring.
The study looked at 200 patients. Ninety-eight had body contouring surgery and 102 did not. Two years after the bypass surgery, each patient lost an average of 100 pounds. As the years went on, the patients who also elected to have body contouring gained about a pound a year, while the patients who didn’t have additional surgery gained an average of four pounds per year.
Body contouring surgery after significant weight loss has benefits beyond the likelihood of keeping the weight off. Many patients report feeling a sense of shame about the way their body looks after losing a great amount of weight. Shaping the body and removing extra skin and fat improves its appearance, raising a person’s self-esteem and confidence.
There’s also the issue of comfort. Extra skin can be very uncomfortable, as it rubs against itself, causing chafing. Even once a person reaches his or her ideal weight after gastric bypass, the amount of excess skin makes it difficult for him or her to fit into certain garments.
Things to Consider
A consultation with your plastic surgeon can help you determine which procedure or procedures are best for you following dramatic weight loss. Your surgeon will evaluate your overall health to help you decide if additional surgery is appropriate. If you decide to have multiple procedures done, such as an arm lift and a lower body lift, your surgeon might recommend that you schedule the surgeries at intervals.
It’s important to stabilize your weight before undergoing surgery. Usually, you should wait until you’ve been at your goal weight for about six months before having any body contouring. Typically, it’s recommended that patients who’ve lost weight through gastric bypass wait about 12-18 months before having any shaping surgeries performed. The waiting period gives you time to stabilize your weight and for your skin to shrink back slightly.
Dr. George Bitar and Dr. Robert Centeno at the Bitar Institute in the Washington, D.C., area, have combined over 25 years of experience in post-weight loss body contouring procedures. They are able to discuss your specific situation and recommend the procedures that best meet your needs. To schedule a consultation at the Bitar Institute, call (703) 206-0506 today.
George Bitar, MD, FACS is an award-winning, board-certified cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgeon, the Founder and Medical Director of Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Virginia. He specializes in the latest surgical and minimally invasive techniques to scar management and reduction. Dr. Bitar is involved in groundbreaking research and education in plastic surgery and has authored numerous articles, abstracts, and chapters.