Excess skin removal after weight loss surgery

Having bariatric surgery or weight loss surgery can be life-altering as you shed the pounds as well as the years of frustration around weight gain. But the reality is, losing a lot of weight leaves many patients with a lot of loose, stretched out skin that has lost its elasticity, which is its ability to “bounce back” into shape. Patients often feel the victory of extreme weight loss but are left with excess flaps of skin that can cause problems such as sweating within the folds of skin which can cause painful chafing and sores. Some people are also bothered by the appearance of the skin and how it affects the way they look and feel in their clothing.

Will I need skin removal surgery after weight loss?

This is a very individual decision. It depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • How much weight you’ve lost (extreme weight loss is considered to be 100 pounds or more)
  • How much you’ve incorporated physical exercise and muscle toning work into your postsurgical regimen
  • The natural elasticity and aging of your skin

Plastic surgery after bariatric surgery is considered a cosmetic procedure—which means it’s for appearance rather than necessity—so it is an out-of-pocket expense for most patients. If the excess skin is causing or contributing to a health concern, such as infection from sores caused by skin folds, some insurance providers may provide coverage to resolve the issue in that part of the body.

Because of the cost of post-bariatric plastic surgery, many patients opt for a panniculectomy, which is surgical removal of excess “apron” of skin and fat that hangs down from the abdomen. This flap of skin is also a trouble area for chafing, sores and infection.

Other types of plastic surgery after weight loss surgery include:

  • Full-body lift – Body lift after weight loss is a comprehensive procedure in which the surgeon makes a cut along the abdomen and removes excess fat and skin from the area, sometimes using liposuction to further assist with fat removal and body shaping. The surgery also involves lifting of the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks and arms.
  • Tummy tuck – This involves a cut from one hip to the other and the surgeon removing excess abdominal fat and tightening muscles and stretched out skin.
  • Breast lift – For patients who find that their breasts have “deflated” as a result of losing so much weight, breast lift surgery involves lifting and tightening of the breast skin while also removing excess fat and skin and recontouring the breast.

Other common plastic surgery procedures after extreme weight loss include chin lifts, arm lifts, and thigh lifts.

How soon after bariatric surgery can I get plastic surgery?

Your bariatric surgeon will help determine when it is safe and appropriate for you to get plastic surgery. This may be anywhere from 18 to 24 months after bariatric surgery and requires that:

  • Your weight has stabilized and been maintained for about six months.
  • You are in good health.
  • You have realistic expectations about plastic surgery.

It’s also important to prepare for recovery from plastic surgery and understand that you will need several weeks off from work and life activities to properly heal, rest and recover.

If you’re considering bariatric surgery and have additional concerns about excess skin after surgery, be sure to talk with your bariatric surgeon about what to expect. Your surgeon can refer you to a plastic surgeon who specializes in skin removal after weight loss surgery. You can also learn a lot by attending our bariatric information seminars, online or in-person at one of our locations in the western suburbs of Philadelphia.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 484.592.3000.