Weight Loss Surgery Patients Rarely Have Excess Skin Removed

Weight loss surgery patients often suffer from the discomfort and embarrassment of excess skin after shedding a lot of weight. Even so, the majority do not have body contouring surgery to address the issue, a recent poll shows.

Only 12 percent of weight loss surgery patients have body contouring surgery after losing excess weight, according to a recent poll. This despite the fact that the large folds of lose skin that can result from dramatic weight loss often cause extreme physical discomfort and emotional distress.

“It is surgery that improves patients’ quality of life,” Dr. Jason Spector, a plastic surgeon at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, told Reuters Health.

Spector and his team mailed a survey to 1,158 patients whose operations were done by two surgeons between 2003 and 2011. Only a quarter of the 284 respondents said they had even discussed body contouring with their bariatric surgeon around the time of their weight loss surgery.

“In order to complete the journey, patients really do need to undergo the appropriate post-bariatric body contouring. Even though that has a slightly cosmetic ring to it, it’s certainly something that we, as plastic surgeons, would consider reconstructive,” Dr. Spector told Reuters Health.

Body contouring – which often focuses on areas like the thighs, belly and back of the arms – can minimize or remove the excess skin that often results after a patient loses a large amount of weight rapidly. If not removed, these large folds of skin can make it difficult to exercise or to find clothing that fits properly. In more severe cases, chafing beneath the skin folds can cause rashes that can become infected, or the skin can get caught and torn.

Patients cited a lack of information and the cost of plastic surgery as reasons that they did not have body contouring after bariatric surgery. According to Healthcare Blue Book, a consumer guide to healthcare costs, the average cost of body contouring is about $13,000.

Dr. Spector presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) in Denver last week.

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