Body Contouring After Weight-Loss Surgery

What is body-contouring surgery?

Body contouring is a type of surgery done after you lose a large amount of weight. It gets rid of extra skin folds and other nearby tissue. This gives your body smoother contours.

When people gain a lot of weight, their skin slowly stretches over time. If you lose a lot of weight, your skin might not have enough elasticity to spring back into place. This can cause extra skin folds of tissue. You may have this tissue on your lower belly, thighs, arms, chin, and breasts. This may have happened after you lost weight after weight-loss surgery. Many people who have had weight-loss surgery are interested in learning about body-contouring surgery.

During this surgery, a cosmetic surgeon removes extra areas of tissue. For instance, your surgeon may make a cut around your midsection. This is to remove extra skin and fat around this area. Depending on your needs, your surgeon may also make cuts to lift your breasts or remove extra tissue from your arms or thighs. Your surgeon then sews the tissue that’s left back together. This makes a smoother contour. All of this happens while you are asleep under general anesthesia.

Why might I need body-contouring surgery?

If you lost a lot of weight after weight-loss surgery, this surgery may be an option for you. You may not like how you look if you have extra folds of skin tissue.

These skin folds can cause other problems. These can include:

  • Discomfort

  • Swelling, rash, or ulcers between the skin folds in your groin (this can lead to an infection)

  • Problems with hygiene in these areas, especially the groin

  • Trouble walking

  • Trouble urinating

  • Trouble with sexual activity

What are the risks of body-contouring surgery?

Body contouring is a generally safe procedure, but it comes with some risks.

People who have lost a lot of weight may be at a higher risk for problems than people who are having this surgery for other reasons. Some complications from this surgery include:

  • Blood clots. This includes if the clot travels to the lung (pulmonary embolism).

  • Problems with wound healing that in some cases may need additional surgery

  • Infection that can lead to septic shock in severe cases (sepsis is a life-threatening condition in which an infection spreads throughout the body and affects the internal organs)

  • Heavy bleeding that may need additional procedures, including transfusions or surgery

  • Nerve damage

  • Problems from anesthesia

  • Pain that doesn’t go away

  • Stroke

  • Problems with the heart, including irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias) and heart attack

  • Death

You also may not get the results you want from surgery with a poor cosmetic outcome. Then you may need to have another surgery to fix this.

Your risks depend on your age, the amount of weight you lost, how quickly you lost the weight, your health conditions, and the amount of tissue you need removed. Ask your surgeon about the risks that apply to you.

How do I get ready for body-contouring surgery?

First, ask your healthcare provider if this surgery is right for you. If you have certain health issues, the risks of the surgery might not be worth it.

Your surgeon will want to make sure that you have a realistic idea of what the surgery can do. You will also need to commit to a healthy lifestyle. This includes good nutrition and regular exercise.

The surgery may cost you a lot of money. Most health insurance plans will not cover it unless you have a major complication. These may include an infection and ulceration around a skin fold. Find out what the surgery will cost you before you make plans to have it.

You shouldn’t have this surgery until you have reached a stable weight. If you lose weight after your surgery, new pockets of sagging skin may form. If you gain a lot of weight after your surgery, it can harm your already weakened skin. This can cause more stretch marks and wide scars.

If you smoke, quit at least several weeks before your surgery. Smoking greatly increases your risk for complications. Most surgeons won't do this surgery if you are still smoking.

Ask your surgeon if you need to stop taking any medicines before the surgery. These include over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin. Don't eat anything after midnight before the day of your surgery. But you may be able to have some clear liquids up to the morning of the surgery. These include water and tea without milk. Tell your surgeon about any recent health issues, such as a fever.

Your surgeon may do tests before you have surgery. These may include:

  • Electrocardiogram.(ECG) This checks your heart rhythm.

  • Pulmonary function tests. This checks your lung function.

  • Basic blood tests. These check for infection, diabetes, anemia, and kidney function.

Ask your surgeon how to get ready for your surgery. They may have more instructions for you.

What happens during body-contouring surgery?

Your surgeon will explain the details of your surgery. Your surgeon and a team of nurses will do the surgery. In general, you can expect the following:

  • A healthcare provider will give you general anesthesia. This is done so you will sleep through the procedure and won’t feel anything. In rare cases, you will get spinal anesthesia and a medicine to relax you. In this case, you will be awake.

  • Someone will carefully watch your heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs.

  • You will get antibiotics during and after the surgery. This is to help prevent infection.

  • Your surgeon makes a cut in the area to be contoured. This may be done in your midsection. This is to remove extra skin and tissue. Your surgeon will try to make it so that your scar won’t be easily visible.

  • Your surgeon surgically reconnects the skin. This will make a smooth contour.

  • If needed, your surgeon repeats the same procedure on other parts of your body. You may have this done in a series of surgeries instead.

  • The healthcare staff will put dressings on your wounds.

What happens after body-contouring surgery?

When you wake up, you may have a tube underneath your skin. This will drain fluid that builds up in your wound. You may have some pain afterward. You can take pain medicines. You should be able to eat a normal diet once you are ready.

You may need to stay overnight in the hospital after your surgery. Or you may be able to go home the same day. Make sure someone is able to drive you home.

Your surgeon will tell you how to care for your wounds. Tell your surgeon if you have severe draining, redness, or a fever. If you have life-threatening symptoms, call 911. These include heavy or prolonged bleeding, sudden shortness of breath, or chest pain.

Your surgeon will also tell you how to limit your movements after surgery. You shouldn’t expose your wounds to too much force as they heal. Follow all of your surgeon’s orders carefully. This will improve your chances of a smooth recovery.

You will see the results of your surgery right away. They will last if you keep a stable weight. If you are not happy with the results of your surgery, talk with your surgeon. Some people may need another surgery for best results.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure, make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure

  • The reason you are having the test or procedure

  • What results to expect and what they mean

  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure

  • What the possible side effects or complications are

  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure

  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are

  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure

  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about

  • When and how will you get the results

  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems

  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure

Online Medical Reviewer: John Meilahn MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2023
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