Weight loss surgeries have helped millions of Americans slim down when diet and exercise fail to work independently. These safe and effective procedures make it possible to drop excess weight safely and quickly, with most patients reaching their goal weight within the first two years.
While losing weight and optimizing health are the two primary goals of these common surgeries, some patients are frustrated by body anomalies after the excess fat has melted away. Loose skin, flabby arms and thighs, and lopsided breasts are only a few complaints we often hear from bariatric patients in the years following their weight loss procedures.
This leads many patients to seek out post-bariatric body contouring surgery. By recontouring the abdomen, breasts, upper arms, upper thighs, and buttocks, weight loss surgery patients can achieve something that has eluded them for years – body acceptance.
Why is Post-Bariatric Body Contouring Sometimes Necessary?
When someone schedules an appointment with a bariatric or weight loss surgeon, that person has typically battled obesity for quite some time. Their body has become accustomed to carrying a significant amount of excess weight. This is tough on the organs and joints, and the skin is often stretched beyond normal levels.
For some people, losing weight causes the skin to bounce right back into shape, where it lies flush against the body. This is because the skin contains elastin and collagen, which help the skin form elasticity.
Skin that has been stretched to the maximum loses its elasticity. The result is hanging or loose skin when the person succeeds in slimming down.
The most affected areas tend to be:
Weight loss induced by bariatric surgery can lead to what is known as an overhanging panniculus. This is characterized by a large apron of skin that hangs from the stomach and covers the groin area. The apron of skin can sometimes extend around the sides and lower back area.
The person may develop Bingo Wings or Bat Wings, which are crude terms given to upper arms that sag and appear loose and full.
Depending on the individual, the upper thigh area can also appear loose and full or wrinkly.
The behind can sag and hang, which can lead to pockets of skin.
The hanging skin that results from extreme weight loss is not solely an aesthetic problem. Finding clothes that fit comfortably is never easy, nor is exercising. The sheets of skin that hang from various body parts can also rub against each other, creating irritation and hygiene complications.
When Are You a Suitable Candidate for Post-Bariatric Body Contouring?
Body contouring may be right for you if you have lost a considerable amount of weight after weight loss surgery. You should consider scheduling a consultation with a body contouring surgeon if you feel discomfort, have hygiene problems (particularly in the groin area), and experience trouble walking, urinating, or engaging in sexual activity.
Body contouring surgery can also help with self-esteem when you have been overcome by low body positivity or negative body acceptance.
Post-bariatric body contouring surgery aims to contour and tone these areas, removing the sheets of skin and solving all these problems.
Read our article: Post Bariatric Body Contouring Surgery in Los Angeles – When is it Safe?
How Does Post-Bariatric Contouring Surgery Work?
A cosmetic surgeon performs body contouring following significant weight loss to shape and tone the underlying tissue and remove excess fat and skin. The results leave the body with smoother contours and a normal appearance.
Depending on the areas to be contoured, this grouping of procedures can be performed in one session or several under general anesthesia. Extra precautions are required if the patient has a history of clotting disorders, deep venous thrombosis, or smoking.
Common Body Contouring Procedures
Smart liposuction (also called smart lipo) is a cosmetic procedure similar to traditional liposuction without the invasiveness or recovery issues that concern many patients. The technique uses powerful laser technology and fat extraction, which produces less bruising, swelling, and discomfort when compared with traditional liposuction.
Before the procedure, the surgeon uses a marker to designate where the incisions will be made. Once wheeled into the operating room, the treatment area will be disinfected and treated with a local anesthetic.
Tiny incisions are made, which allow a tumescent anesthetic solution to be injected into the treatment area. A metal rod (cannula) affixed with a laser optic fiber is inserted into the incision, moving through the fat layer beneath the skin. The laser optic melts the fat before a suction cannula removes the liquified fat from the body. Once the appropriate fat volume has been removed from the body, the incisions are closed using adhesive strips.
Tummy Tuck and Abdominal Skin Tightening
A tummy tuck (medically referred to as abdominoplasty) is a procedure aimed at removing excess abdominal skin and fat from the abdominal area. The results of a tummy tuck provide you with a shapelier abdomen and stronger abdominal muscles.
Excess fatty tissue and skin are entirely removed from the abdominal area during the procedure. This makes the results permanent, provided you can maintain a healthy weight following the procedure. The remaining tissue is tightened, along with the underlying weakened abdominal muscles. This helps to contribute to a more attractive abdominal shape and helps clothing fit better, too.
After the tummy tuck procedure, the abdominal area is wrapped in surgical bandages. In some cases, you will be asked to wear a compression garment that aids healing. Some patients are given drainage tubes inserted underneath the skin to collect fluids during healing. The tubes are then removed during the initial post-surgical appointment.
Since breasts are mostly composed of fat, women who lose weight with the help of bariatric surgery often experience flattened and sagging breasts in the years after the procedure. Only post-bariatric breast enhancement can return the breasts to a firmer state.
Post-bariatric breast augmentation involves the use of breast implant placement. The surgery aims to contour the breasts to a shape and size that complements your body frame. In many cases, you can return home on the day of surgery.
You and your surgeon will decide on the size of breast implants to be used, as well as their makeup. There are silicone, saline, and gummy bear breast implants, each with its pros, cons, and associated fees.
Following the breast augmentation surgery, you will be fitted with a compression garment worn for around six weeks.
A post-bariatric body contouring breast lift (medically referred to as mastopexy) is a procedure aimed at addressing the low position of the areolas and nipples. The procedure is sometimes combined with breast augmentation to add volume and fullness to the breasts after they are lifted higher on the chest. The areolas and nipples can then be repositioned to place them back in the center of the chest at an aesthetically ideal position.
While a breast lift procedure can leave visible scars, those scars can fade with adequate care and skin treatment. The results leave the breasts with a more youthful contour.
A post-bariatric butt lift (or butt augmentation) gives you shapelier, fuller buttocks to complement your newly slimmed-down figure. The goal is to improve the size and shape of the buttocks. In some cases, butt implants are used. In others, fat grafting is utilized, which involves taking fatty tissue from a donor site on your body and repurposing it for your backside.
For significant amounts of sagging skin, a butt lift is preferred. The butt lift surgery can be combined with butt augmentation to restore the size and shape of the buttocks.
Some patients combine the butt lift with a thigh lift in a super procedure called the Spiral lift. The results make the butt and thighs more proportional to the rest of your body.
A post-bariatric thigh lift addresses loose, misshapen thighs following major weight loss. The results improve the shape of your thighs and give you firmer skin.
During the procedure, the surgeon removes any loose or sagging skin before the area is shaped to the desired contours. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and lasts around two hours.
The surgeon makes an incision below the bikini line so the scar remains hidden inside underwear or swimwear. The length of the incision depends on how much tissue is removed.
Liposuction is often used during a thigh lift to remove stubborn pockets of unwanted fat along the upper thighs. The skin is then pulled tight to create a smooth appearance.
Following the procedure, you might be asked to wear a compression garment to keep the results in place and speed up the healing process.
Arm Lift or Arm Reduction
A post-bariatric arm lift (also referred to as an arm reduction) gives the upper arms a firmer, more toned appearance. The surgery involves reshaping the arm’s upper portion so that the arms complement your newly slimmed-down figure.
During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision along the underside of the arm. The incision typically runs from the armpit to the elbow. Excess fatty tissue and skin are removed before the remaining skin is tightened and drawn together to create a smoother, more youthful appearance.
Some patients prefer to combine the arm lift with other post-bariatric body contouring procedures like the tummy tuck or liposuction to enhance their figure further.
A belt lipectomy (also referred to as a body lift) aims to remove the apron of skin that can drape down the front of the body and sometimes along the back and sides. The procedure begins with the surgeon making an incision that extends around the abdomen at about the height where one would wear their belt. An additional incision is sometimes made down the front of the belly to the groin.
Excess fatty tissue and skin are removed during the procedure before the remaining tissue is tightened and drawn together. You can usually return home on the same day of surgery.
A belt lipectomy typically involves the placement of two drainage tubes at the incision site. The tubes are removed between seven and ten days later. You may be asked to wear a compression garment for around six weeks to protect the surgical site and speed up healing.
Does Insurance Cover Post-Bariatric Body Contouring Surgery?
Even though body contouring can help with skin irritation and hygiene issues, many insurance companies consider the procedures cosmetic. That means they are unlikely to cover body contouring or any complications that can occur after surgery. Some policies may cover the procedures if you have issues with rashes or sores related to excess skin.
Schedule a Consultation with a Post-Bariatric Body Contouring Surgeon
The benefits of body contouring go beyond pure aesthetics. Following the above procedure groupings, you can improve emotionally and psychologically. If you had low body acceptance before, these surgeries will help you fall in love with your body again.
Studies show that patients who undergo post-bariatric body contouring surgery experience less weight regain and have improved quality of life than those who do not have body contouring.
Ready to learn more? If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can work with a board-certified bariatric surgeon specializing in post-bariatric body contouring surgery. That means you can have weight loss surgery and body contouring afterward, all under the same roof and by the same surgeon familiar with your medical history.