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Is Plastic Surgery after Extreme Weight Loss Good or Bad?

By Robert J. Kelly, Jr, MD


It’s normal to want to look a little bit slimmer and more attractive…maybe even a little different than you do now. After weight loss surgery, many patients who have lost weight wonder whether plastic surgery is a good idea. Well, let’s be honest. Your looks play an important role in how you feel about yourself. The fact that our body goes wherever we go, makes it a subject that’s hard not to think about. But no matter what, the idea of having plastic surgery does raise a few important concerns.


Because weight loss surgery is such a powerful tool used in the treatment of morbid obesity, it drastically enhances an individual’s ability to lose weight and maintain that weight loss over their lifetime. During weight gain, the skin expands to contain the underlying fat and can often lose elasticity. In some patients who have been overweight for many years, the skin and underlying tissue may not naturally return to its original size after weight loss surgery. Depending on the amount of weight one loses following a weight loss procedure, the skin that is left over can become loose and create folds.


Redundant folds of skin may need to be removed or contoured for hygienic or aesthetic reasons. Depending on the individual, some patients who lose even 50 pounds may begin to notice extra skin that develops in different areas of the body. Typically, patients may be surgical candidates for body contouring once they have achieved a stable weight for several months. The time frame varies for all individuals but most referrals to plastic surgeons are made 2 years after their weight loss surgery.


Typical areas of concern for patients include the abdomen or tummy area, breast/chest area in males and females, buttock region, lower back, arms, legs, and face/neck area. A number of surgical procedures for removing excessive skin and fat are available and include: abdominoplasty or (tummy tuck), mastopexy (breast lift), inner thigh lifts, and brachioplasty (arm lift). Advantages of body-contouring include improved skin quality, smoother natural curves, and lasting results.  However, as with all surgery, complications may occur and a full understanding of each operation and the associated risk involved is need prior to proceeding. Furthermore, insurance companies may not cover body-contouring surgery if they consider it cosmetic. Always check with your carrier to see if these procedures are a covered benefit.


Keep this in mind…it’s important to understand the risks, benefits and limitations of any appearance-enhancing surgery. This is why an evaluation by a cosmetic/plastic surgeon will provide you with the information needed to pursue treatment of your excess skin.