Bariatric surgery (or weight loss surgery) has emerged as the most effective way of managing the illnesses associated with obesity and weight gain leading to growing popularity with patients.
The safety of this approach and its effectiveness in improving or eliminating type II diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, obstructive sleep apnea and hypertension through sustained weight loss has been well documented.
Despite the medical benefits, significant weight loss can leave patients with excess skin causing functional problems as well as sustained body image concerns. Plastic surgery or body contouring after weight loss has also emerged as a sub-specialty to address these unique problems.
Body contouring after weight loss is a comprehensive management approach that takes into consideration this population's unique physical, aesthetic, medical, and psychological concerns.
Plastic surgeons forge a close relationship with the patient, the bariatric surgeon, nutritionist or internist to ensure optimal management. They also utilize cosmetic surgery procedures that have been modified to address the unique characteristic of a weight-loss patient's skin excess.
These procedures are often combined to address concerns of the face, torso and extremities. Most patients have multiple procedures to address their concerns in one to three stages depending on their baseline weight and the degree of skin laxity.
While patients obviously have less skin, a slimmer silhouette and feel better after body contouring surgery, the long-term effects of these procedures have not been well documented. The effect of body contouring surgery on a bariatric patient's body image, quality of life and potential for weight gain has only recently been further clarified in the medical literature.
A recent study published in the Journal of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery showed a significant and sustained improvement in most body image associated psychosocial parameters.
Patients documented improved body image and quality of life up to seven years after their body contouring surgery. The study group's success in keeping off their excess weight after body contouring was also significantly improved compared to a control group of bariatric patients who did not have body-contouring surgery.
While these findings have been known to specialists in body contouring after weight loss for some time, objective documentation of these benefits to weight loss patients is quite encouraging. Body contouring after weight loss has nothing to do with vanity; it's about improving body image, quality of life and medical wellness.