Massive Weight Loss and Body Contouring Surgery
Losing weight takes both commitment and a resolution to make important health lifestyle changes.
Losing weight usually involves a combination of diet, and exercise; in some cases, particularly when significant amounts of weight and/or health issues, such as diabetes or health conditions are involved, one may consider bariatric surgery. Whatever method you choose, it’s often the case that losing a significant amount of weight can result in excess sagging skin.
Excess skin can cause painful chafing, rashes and in some cases, infection. Body-contouring procedures such as body lifts, tummy tucks, thighplasty, arm lifts, breast lifts and liposuction remove excess skin and can reshape your body.
My colleagues and I, from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, recently conducted a study comparing surgical complication outcomes in patients who had lost significant amounts of weight prior to a body contouring procedure. Patients who lost more than 100 pounds through bariatric surgery or gastric bypass had the highest risk of complications in body contouring surgery. Complications included infection, delayed healing, ruptures and reddening of the skin.
Many of these complications are directly related to nutritional issues. Following bariatric procedures, many patients consume less than 1,000 calories daily, which leads to lower protein levels and other nutritional deficiencies. Their bodies adapt to their new nutritional state, which then changes when the body becomes stressed by body contouring surgery. Prior to any body contouring procedure, it is essential that patients discuss their dietary restrictions when preparing their body for surgery. Nutrition plays an important role in skin healing, collagen production, and the generation of new blood vessels, all of which are important during recovery.
Your surgeon will advise you on the appropriate vitamin and protein daily supplements which are vital for reducing your complication rates and enhancing your recovery.
If you are considering a body contouring procedure after massive weight loss, here are some recommendations:
- For optimal results, weight stability is imperative. We prefer to see weight stability for at least 3 months prior to considering contouring. It may be 18-24 months after you begin the weight loss process before you reach this plateau.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of protein to facilitate quick recovery and balance this with appropriate supplements such as a multivitamin, and in some cases calcium and iron.
- Do not smoke because it will slow down the healing process and increase complication risks. If you smoke, quit at least six weeks before surgery.
Have realistic expectations about your body contouring procedure. There will be marked improvement however, it is impossible for the surgery to restore your skin or body to what it was prior to your weight gain. That being said, plastic surgery after weight loss allows many to “look as good as they feel”.