Excess Skin after Weight Loss Surgery
A significant number of weight loss surgery patients develop some degree of excess or hanging skin after their bariatric procedure. This sagging occurs as a result of the skin exceeding its elastic limit because of the stretching that occurs from excess weight. Much like a rubber band, the skin can only expand and stretch to a certain degree. After passing that point, it can no longer snap back to its original state.
The degree of excess skin formation depends on several factors:
- How much weight is lost
- How quickly that weight is lost
- The age of the patient and
Patients can look at their excess skin either as a trophy or a nuisance. This perception largely depends on the individual and their personality. Many of our patients look at their excess skin as a daily reminder of how far they’ve come. The sagging skin is a trophy celebrating an achievement and a reminder that they turned their lives around, forsaking poor food choices and lack of exercise for better overall health.
Others see the excess skin simply as a nuisance and opt to have it removed with a cosmetic surgical procedure known as a panniculectomy, or the removal of excess lower abdominal skin. Most bariatric patients that have kept their weight relatively stable for about a year and a half may be candidates for a tummy tuck or an arm, breast or neck lift. These procedures, which have now become routine, can all improve sagging skin in their respective areas of the body.
Patients should wait at least 18 months after bariatric surgery to ensure that their weight has stabilized at their new, lower goal. Remember, a significant weight fluctuation after a skin-tightening cosmetic procedure may allow the excess skin to return.
On a financial front in considering excess skin or fat removal surgery after massive weight loss, it is important to remember insurance and payment considerations. Excess skin that is causing significant discomfort or pain may be covered under the patient’s insurance policy as medical necessity. However, purely cosmetic surgery is rarely covered by insurance plans, as it is considered an elective procedure. If cosmetic surgery is indeed an option, be sure to understand the pros and cons of undergoing another surgical procedure, and be prepared for the financial obligations that come with it.
Before taking the next step to eliminate excess skin through cosmetic surgery, please talk to our office, as it is important that your body be prepared for the procedure and you understand qualification and financial requirements. Further, you need to be sure that your weight has stabilized so that the cosmetic procedure is effective and long-lasting.