Panniculectomy Surgery to Remove Excess Skin & Fat
Panniculectomy is a surgical procedure performed to eliminates stretched excess skin and associated excess fat from the abdomen. A panniculectomy is distinct from abdominoplasty which tightens your abdominal muscles, however both procedures can be performed simultaneously in certain cases.
When is a panniculectomy performed?
Typically, a panniculectomy is performed after a patient has lost a significant amount of weight and girth around the abdomen. This is most common after bariatric surgery during which patients may lose up to a hundred pounds of weight. For many, the skin has exceeded its elastic limit and cannot return to its original state. Advanced age and genetics also play a factor in how much loose skin one will have after losing a lot of weight.
Typically, the panniculectomy is performed for patients whose excess skin is causing pain, severe discomfort, hygiene issues, rashes and sores or is otherwise inhibiting their lifestyle. In some cases, the panniculectomy can also be performed as a cosmetic procedure to improve the appearance of the abdomen – this is colloquially called a tummy tuck. However, insurance plans will not cover a panniculectomy when performed for cosmetic reasons while they may cover it for well-documented medical issues that a pannus causes.
How does the panniculectomy work?
A panniculectomy is performed in a hospital or outpatient setting and can take between one and three hours depending on the amount of skin that needs to be removed. First, you will be placed under general anesthesia. At this point, hanging skin known as the apron or pannus is removed by making appropriate cuts in the abdomen.
Once the excess skin has been removed, sutures will be used to close the incisions and drains will be inserted to direct fluid out of the abdomen as it heals. It will take approximately six weeks to heal fully from surgery. Over the course of next several months to a couple years, scarring will become progressively less visible and the full results will become apparent.
Are there any risks of surgery?
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks and considerations that must be understood before continuing. These will be discussed in detail during your consultation. The biggest risks are reaction to general anesthesia, infection, poor healing and less than ideal cosmetic results. However, these and other risks are mitigated by employing a surgeon that is experienced in this procedure. Dr. Tsuda and his team are experienced in the performance of panniculectomies, and they love doing them as it often represents a final step for patients in their weight loss journey.
The bottom line
Some patients wear their excess skin as a trophy to remind them of the amount of weight they’ve lost, while others are desperate to have it removed. For most, excess skin represents a nuisance, and in some cases a hindrance, beyond being a cosmetic problem. When possible and medically necessary, insurance may cover the procedure. For cases that are considered purely cosmetic, insurance is not an option. However, results of a panniculectomy are typically excellent and the risks and considerations of the procedure are relatively low.