Weight Loss Surgery and Loose Skin

Dr-Joseph-Michaels-cropWeight loss surgery patients can have “loose” skin after dropping pounds. Several surgeries are available to help tighten this skin; plastic surgeon Joseph Michaels explains.

Weight loss patients have excess skin after a rapid loss of extra pounds. Plastic surgery can remove this skin and help provide the patient with the body they’ve waited for. But many have questions about when and how they can get this plastic surgery, and what kind of scars it can leave.

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Dr. Joseph Michaels, a surgeon with Belmont Aesthetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery of Maryland and Virginia, explained that scarring is a guarantee, but after a weight loss operation, there is no set time for a plastic surgery to happen.

“It varies for different patients,” he said. “Generally speaking, we like the patients to be weight stable for around three months. And depending on what surgery they’ve had, it can be anywhere from 12 months up to two years. There really is no set point — it’s just very important for the patient to be metabolically optimized prior to surgery.”

When many people hear about surgeries of this kind, the phrase “tummy tuck” is what they think first. But Michaels said the range is much greater. He cited many areas, pointing out that aside from the abdomen, women often want skin tightened around the breast, arm, thigh and buttock regions. Men with loose skin tend to request surgeries in the chest area.

“Each patient is individual,” he said. “And what their ideal goals are is really what the plastic surgeon needs to listen to.”

Scarring is inevitable, he added. Weight loss surgery patients who lose large amounts of weight and produce excess skin can have that skin tightened, but should expect to trade one visual defect for another: scars. Surgeons can sometimes hide the scars, but they cannot be avoided. He said that genetics and scarring history also play a part in the final result.

“We do try and put the scars in places where it’s minimally noticeable,” he said. “We do have techniques where we’ll try and hide scars under bra lines, under bikini lines, if this is possible. And these are all options we all discuss with our patients at the time of the consultation.”

Another common question is how a patient can pay for all this. Many try to get their plastic surgeries insured. Michaels said that generally, insurers only pay for tummy tucks – and only if they are deemed medically necessary, related to conditions such as panniculitis. He added that surgeons can offer information about lending and financing services that can help.

5 Responses

  1. Beverly

    I have lost 127 lbs since having gastric bypass (Dec,2/08)I have a couple of problem areas and was wondering if any info in Canada is available, and is funding available to help??

  2. Chef Dave

    What part of Canada? The dietician that checks all my recipes lives in Vancouver and may be able to lead you in the right direction.

  3. Miriam

    My daughter lost over 100 lbs several years ago and has had a tummy tuck. She still needs to have a breast lift and thigh lift. (the thigh lift is most important as she has vericos veins and trouble with her knees – the excess skin puts a lot of pressure on her legs) We live on the west coast of canada and she cannot afford the cost of these surgeries. Is there any kind of financial assistance for this kind of surgery.

  4. evan

    I am 17 years old and I lost about 50 pounds back when I was 15. I am now stuck with excess skin around my abs hips and chest. I was just curious what it takes to get surgery covered by insurance. I have panic attacks and deppression and I feel as if alot of my depression is due towards this skin. please let me no if I can have insurance cover a tummy tuck.

  5. Brandy

    i`ve recently lost 178lbs (and counting) and was curious if there were organizations that helped people who have financial issues to get the skin removal surgery?