Obesity isn’t just a problem that affects adults. According to the National Institutes of Health, about one in six children is obese. Being extremely overweight at a young age puts a person at greater risk for health problems, and the problems only increase as he or she gets older.
While a number of overweight or obese teenagers are able to reduce and lose the weight on their own, some need additional support or help, usually from gastric bypass surgery. The surgery is approved for teenagers. It reduces the size of the stomach, so that teenagers get fuller quicker and end up eating less.
Weight loss surgery isn’t recommended for every teenager. It’s usually only recommended when a teen hasn’t been able to lose weight with other methods and is typically only recommended for teeangers who are finished growing. Since the surgery requires a number of lifestyle changes, it’s not something a teen or his or her parents should rush into.
Another issue that weight loss surgery brings up is the changes it can cause to the body. After a dramatic amount of weight loss, the skin can become saggy and loose. A patient might be happy with the number on the scale but less than thrilled by the way his or her tummy, thighs or other areas look. Plastic surgery after dramatic weight loss can usually help improve the appearance of certain areas, such as the abdomen, hips and thighs.
Although teenagers can have the same issues with loose skin after weight loss, plastic surgery is generally thought of as something for adults only. But, a study published in October 2014 in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery asked a small group of teenagers who had had bariatric surgery to complete a questionnaire.
The questionnaire found that the great majority of teens believed that their post-weight loss body was unattractive, due to excess skin. The extra skin on certain areas not only made the teens feel unattractive, it also caused a certain amount of physical discomfort. While only a small percentage of the teens questioned had had some sort of body contouring surgery, a great many wanted it.
Plastic surgery after weight loss might be a suitable option for certain teenagers. But, there are a number of things a teen and his or her parents should know first.
Waiting Is Recommended
While a teenager might want to look and feel his or her best as soon as possible after weight loss surgery, it’s usually recommended that a person wait between 18 months and two years before having any type of body contouring procedure performed. After that period of time, it’s recommended that a person wait until his or her weight has been stable for about six months before having surgery.
Waiting before having surgery will give a teen’s skin time to shrink back as much as it will shrink back. It also gives a teen time to reach a goal weight or to stabilize his or her weight. Continuing to lose weight after a tummy tuck or arm lift can affect the results of the surgery.
Waiting to have a body contouring procedure until a teen’s weight has stabilized generally also means that his or her diet has stabilized. It’s important for a teen to eat a healthy diet that is full of protein and other nutrients, as that will allow him or her to recovery from the surgery with more ease.
There Will Be Scars
It’s important that a teenager understands that a body contouring procedure will generally leave some sort of scar on the body. The scar left from a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty, can stretch from hip to hip and circle the naval. Scars from a thigh lift vary in size and shape. If a teenager needs an extended thigh lift, the scar is often L or T shaped and may stretch the length of the thigh, down to the knee.
While scarring is for the most part unavoidable after a body contouring surgery, the good news is that they can usually be easily concealed. Scars on the thighs can be covered up by pants, longer shorts or tights. Scars on the arms or abdominal area can be covered by a top.
Results Can Be Undone
In many cases, the results from a body contouring surgery are permanent. There are certain circumstances that can lead to a reversal of the results or interfere with them. For example, if a teen gains weight after the surgeries, it can impact the results. Pregnancy can also change the results of a tummy tuck. But, having the surgery as a teen doesn’t mean a person can’t get pregnant later in life. It just means that she should be aware of the effect the pregnancy might have on her surgical results.
No matter a patient’s age, body contouring surgery isn’t something to rush into or a decision to make lightly. Plastic surgeons at the Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in the Washington, DC area, Dr. George Bitar and Dr. Robert Centeno, are happy to speak with patients about their post-weight loss options. To learn if body contouring is a good choice for you, call (703) 206-0506 to schedule a consultation 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.