Body Contouring after Bariatric Surgery or Major Weight Loss

There are two major life changes that can have a big impact on a person’s body: pregnancy and massive weight loss following bariatric surgery or diet and exercise. While giving birth and dropping a significant amount of weight are both proud milestones, the impacts of having done both can sometimes take a toll on the body.

For women who’ve given birth, they often suffer from loose, separated muscles on the tummy (diastasis recti) as well as extra skin. While individuals who’ve experienced dramatic weight loss may not suffer muscle separation, they often suffer from excess, drooping skin as well.

*Individual results vary, see disclaimer.

Major weight loss either through bariatric surgery, dieting and regular exercise is a significant life-changing event. After dropping those unwanted kilos, you probably feel like a completely different person. You now look better. You’re healthier. You’re more active. You’re happier. You’re more social. Come to think of it, life couldn’t be better—well almost!

While losing a massive amount of weight has many wonderful benefits, there is perhaps one big drawback. Often times, many patients who’ve reached their weight loss goals suffer from loose, hanging skin. This can impact a person’s self-confidence and serve as an unwanted reminder of their former self.
Other factors that can exacerbate the problem include:

  • Time – Typically, the longer a person has been overweight or obese, the looser their skin will be after weight loss due to elastin and collagen loss.
  • Smoking – There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and many of them trigger the destruction of collagen and elastin.
  • Sun Exposure – The sun’s powerful rays not only damage skin cells but also break down collagen and elastin, which can lead to saggy skin and wrinkles.
  • Age – Gravity has a way of taking a toll on our skin as we get older. As you age, your skin naturally loses collagen and elastin–both are responsible for making your skin appear soft, plump, and, of course, youthful.
  • Genetics – Your DNA may predispose you to have saggy skin on certain parts of your body and impact how your skin responds to weight gain and loss.

While these factors mentioned above can contribute to loose, saggy skin, patients don’t have to be stuck with the problem indefinitely. There are effective body contouring procedures that Dr Bernard Beldholm may recommended to help further improve the shape of a patient’s body after losing a significant amount of weight.

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What is body contouring?

Generally, when people talk about body contouring, they are referring to the post-bariatric weight loss patient. Many of them have a significant amount of loose skin that often results in discomfort and limited mobility. The skin folds may also rub together creating rashes, and finding clothes that fit properly can be challenging.

Body contouring involves a variety of medical procedures designed to strategically remove excess sagging skin and fat while improving the shape of the underlying support tissue. More often than not, a patient who undergoes body contouring will lose additional weight due to the removal of the excess skin. The procedure aims to accomplish two primary goals: help patients achieve a more aesthetically pleasing appearance and improve any health issues that can occur when the skin rubs together.

Bariatric surgery vs. body contouring: The key differences

While both procedures change the appearance of the physical body, they do so in very different ways. Bariatric surgery results in weight loss by restricting a patient’s caloric intake by physically shrinking the size of the patient’s stomach.

Body contouring has no effect on appetite, digestion, or metabolism and will not result in weight loss beyond the weight of tissues removed during the procedure.

Bottom line, weight loss surgery is medical while body contouring surgery is primarily cosmetic.

Common body contouring procedures

Patients who’ve lost a significant amount of weight often require multiple body contouring surgeries to address excess skin and fat throughout their entire body. Some of those procedures include:

  • Extended tummy tuck – This procedure resculpts the waist and stomach area to give patients a more natural-looking, youthful appearance by removing loose, overhanging skin and tightening abdominal muscles. It also improves muscle laxity at the flank and hip region.
  • Fleur de lis abdominoplasty – An alternative to traditional abdominoplasty, this procedure addresses complex contour deformities in patients who’ve lost a lot of weight and suffer from extreme skin laxity around their midsection.  To address the problem, this procedure makes horizontal and vertical incisions to ultimately tighten the skin.
  • Body lift – This procedure corrects sagging of the abdomen, buttocks, inner and outer thighs.  It improves the shape and tone of the underlying tissue that supports fat and skin.
  • Arm lift (brachioplasty) – This procedure completely reshapes the underside of the arm to restore firmness, balance and symmetry. It also restores elasticity and tone to the skin.
  • Inner thigh lift – This procedure reshapes the inner thighs by reducing excess skin and fat. This results in smoother skin and well-defined contours of the thighs and lower body.
  • Face & necklift – Both procedures eliminate excess fatty deposits, tighten underlying muscles, and remove sagging skin. The standard facelift addresses the lower 2/3 of the face and the neck. Muscle tightening in the neck improves the overall effects of the two procedures.

The risks of body contouring surgery

The risks of body contouring procedures are similar to any other major surgery. Complications may include: bleeding, infection, blood clots, fluid accumulation, skin loss, unfavorable scarring, numbness or other skin changes in skin sensation, anesthesia problems as well as contour irregularity. In very rare cases, death may also occur.

Who is a candidate for post weight loss surgery?

Weight loss patients considering body contouring surgery should maintain a stable weight before moving forward with any body contouring procedures. Ideally, patients should keep a stable weight for at least 12 months. Failing to do so can negatively affect the outcome of body contouring procedures and may lead to  medical complications and the need for secondary procedures. Along with maintaining a stable weight, patients who make good candidates for body contouring surgery are those who:

  • have realistic expectations/outcome
  • are non-smokers
  • are in good physical and mental health
  • will devote themselves to the proper recovery requirements
  • are not suffering from a life-threatening illness (Ex: cancer, HIV)

Prior to any surgery, a patient’s overall health will be evaluated along with any preexisting health conditions or risk factors. The patient’s body will also be carefully examined and any appropriate measurements will be taken.

Reach out to Dr Beldholm

Have you lost a significant amount of weight and now suffer from excess, hanging skin? If so, know that you do have options! You don’t have to live with the embarrassing after effects of reaching your weight loss goals. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and Dr Beldholm can help.

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