Post weight loss plastic surgery, also called bariatric plastic surgery, is a growing specialty within the field of plastic surgery. I use the word “specialty” deliberately, as it truly takes a special plastic surgeon to put beautiful finishing touches on a newly slim body safely.
Weight loss patients should look for a plastic surgeon who—with their skills, experience and commitment to the specialty—can demonstrate that they’re ready for the challenge of resculpting the body. Here’s why.
There’s a range of surgical options. Every body is different; that goes without saying. But it’s especially apparent in weight loss patients. Some people’s skin bounces back to some extent; others describe their unclothed look as “melted wax.” And skin often sags unevenly from one side of the body to the other.
Take the abdominal area, for example, where most people who seek plastic surgery after weight loss have significant amounts of redundant skin. Whereas your average post-childbearing mom may be very satisfied with a standard tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, a weight loss patient may benefit from other options such as an extended abdominoplasty or a circumferential abdominoplasty, or torsoplasty. True to its name, the latter procedure circles the entire torso, lifting and excising droopy skin. Only a plastic surgeon with experience in a variety of abdominal procedures can design and deliver the right option.
There’s a need to understand special challenges. Weight loss patients, particularly those who have chosen bariatric surgery, may have health considerations that must be taken into account when planning surgery. For one thing, when caloric intake is restricted, people often don’t get enough protein in their diets. Low levels of protein can adversely affect the healing process. Other possible factors that can surface are long-term heart or lung issues that may persist after extra pounds have been shed.
Even with some additional challenges to consider, weight loss patients can usually undergo plastic surgery safely. But it’s vital to choose a surgeon who has invested in learning about obesity, massive weight loss and potential health issues—one who will take the necessary steps to safeguard patients’ health.
There’s the temptation for plastic surgeons to market aggressively to weight loss patients. Plastic surgery for men and women who have lost a great deal of weight can be a very desirable addition to a surgical practice. One reason is the growing numbers of people who are losing weight through bariatric surgery. As gastric bypass surgery and lap bands become more commonplace, and more often covered by insurance, the potential patient pool grows larger.
Another reason is that post-bariatric patients often need more than one procedure. In fact, it’s not at all unusual for someone who has lost a hundred pounds or more to want plastic surgery for their abdomen, chest and arms. Many add facelifts to the list, and some opt for other procedures to fine tune their new bodies. A multiple-procedure patient is a lucrative proposition for plastic surgeons.
After all these cautions, there’s good news too. There are many highly qualified, board-certified plastic surgeons out there who work with weight loss patients.
How to find one? Doing research on the Web is a must. It can be a good sign when a large portion of a surgeon’s Web site is devoted to the specialty. Especially if there are plenty of before and after photos to see. Some plastic surgeons even have a site focused entirely on bariatric plastic surgery.
Perhaps the best research aid is the weight loss community itself. Sites like obesityhelp.com and others offer advice about plastic surgery and, more important, patients who have personal experiences to share.
Massive weight loss is a wonderful accomplishment. Men and women who achieve it deserve the best in plastic surgery.