If you have already undergone bariatric surgery or lost weight on your own, congratulations. The fight against obesity is not an easy one, mentally or physically. It’s wonderful that you have taken your health into your own hands.
Unfortunately, you are probably also experiencing the major negative side effect of significant weight loss: loose skin. It’s typical for patients who undergo bariatric surgery to lose 60% of excess body weight over the following two years. Following massive weight loss, the skin does not have enough elasticity to bounce back and tighten up on its own. This can leave you with loose folds of skin that are often unsightly and can also pose problems with hygiene.
It can be discouraging after such a commitment to weight loss to have flabby skin, which hang from the tummy, thighs, and buttocks. This can prevent you from fully enjoying your new shape, leading to both emotional and physical discomfort.
But there are ways to help uncover the true you.
This is where surgery comes in. The needs of patients following massive weight loss go well beyond a standard tummy tuck after pregnancy. It requires a Specialist Plastic Surgeon who has an interest and experience in helping weight-loss patients achieve full body contouring.
Are you an Ideal Candidate?
You may be a candidate for a body lift surgery if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions:
• Have you lost a significant amount of weight, either following bariatric surgery or lifestyle changes?
• Do you have loose folds of skin on your abdomen, breast or chest, buttock, and/or thighs?
• Do you wish to eliminate the stigma of your previous body size?
• Do you desire a firmer, more youthful appearance?
• Do you feel like a body lift could boost your confidence and self-esteem?
There are certain factors that should also be considered when determining if you are a good candidate for a body lift surgery. Generally speaking, candidates should:
• Be in generally good health, with no medical conditions that impair healing or increase surgical risk
• Be at a stable weight following massive weight loss
• Be a non-smoker
• Be committed to lifestyle changes to maintain a stable weight
• Be positive and have realistic expectations about what a body lift can do
Your Body Lift Procedure
It’s important to understand that the needs of patients following massive weight loss are not the same as someone looking for a tighter belly after pregnancy. Patients post pregnancy mainly have excess skin in the lower abdomen, with minor excess fatty deposits in the hips and lower back regions, so a standard abdominoplasty combined with liposuction work well in these situations.
However, weight-loss patients have often significant excess skin in both the upper and lower abdomen which extends into the outer thigh, hips and buttock regions. This is why a simple abdominoplasty is often ineffective for patients who have lost significant weight and more complex surgery is required.
The type of body lift you would benefit from most depends on the amount and location of any excess skin and fat. Dr. Turner will recommend the least-invasive procedure possible to achieve maximum results. Possible options include:
• Circumferential body lift, which involves an incision in a belt-like fashion across the lower abdomen, around the sides and into the lower back
• Fleur-de-lis (anchor) abdominoplasty, which includes a long incision across the lower abdomen combined with a vertical incision to tighten the skin across the upper abdomen
• Corset abdominoplasty, which is often combined with a breast reduction so includes an incision along the breast fold, a midline vertical incision and a lower abdomen incision to enhance the entire waistline contour
Operating Time: 5-6 Hours
Hospital Stay: 3-4 Days
Recovery Time: 3-4 Weeks
In addition to body lift surgery, many patients will benefit from other procedures, including:
• Breast surgery, such as a breast lift and/or reduction
• Arm lift (Brachioplasty)
• Thigh Lift
Recovery Following Your Body Lift
Your recovery following post-weight-loss surgery will be a very personalized process. Your experience will depend on the type and extent of the procedures you undergo. However, it can be helpful to understand what you can expect on a general level.
When you leave the hospital, you will be prescribed antibiotics and pain medication. These will help ensure you are as comfortable as possible during your recovery. Dr. Turner will place drain tubes at the time of surgery, which stay in place for 1 week. You will need to wear a compression garment for approximately 6 weeks. This also helps with swelling, comfort, and final shaping of your body.
You will need to have someone available to help you for the first few weeks of your recovery. Many patients require assistance with chores, errands, and childcare. You will gradually be able to increase your activities, but expect to spend at least two weeks with limited ability to do things around the house or driving anywhere.
Most patients are able to return to light activities two weeks after surgery, but you will not be able to participate in strenuous activity for eight weeks or more. Swelling may take up to six months to resolve fully. At first, you will feel like you need to be flexed at the waist and knees after surgery. However, with time you will be able to stand upright again.
Scars begin to fade around six months after your procedure. Full scar maturation is a long process, however, and may take up to two years. Following all post-operative instructions will help reduce the scarring you experience.
Risks & Complications
As with any medical procedure, there are risks associated with body lift surgery. Part of the informed consent process is understanding these risks and how they compare to the benefits of surgery. Dr. Turner will review all of the potential risks and complications with you before scheduling your procedure. It is important you ask as many questions you need to in order to understand these risks and how they relate to your individual case.
Some risks are more likely to occur than others and may include:
• Fluid accumulation or seroma formation
• Partial or total loss of the umbilicus
• Loss of sensation to the lifted areas
• Wound breakdown and delayed healing
• Postoperative infection
• Bleeding or haematoma
• Poor scarring, including keloid scars
• Scar asymmetry
• Lumpiness or fat necrosis
• Blood clots in legs or lungs
• Revision surgery to correct or improve the outcome
Your Consultation with Dr. Turner
Your body lift surgery consultation begins with a personal one on one consultation with Dr Turner at one of his Sydney or Newcastle clinics. Dr. Turner will review your medical history in depth with you and discuss your goals and expectations. He will ask you about things like your personal weight-loss journey and what you hope to achieve with surgery.
A key part of the initial consultation is a thorough physical examination to assess whether you are a good candidate for body lift surgery. He will assess the quality of your skin and fat deposits in your breast, abdomen, arms, buttock, and thigh regions. He will also take photographs to help with the treatment planning process.
As part of your consultation, Dr. Turner will explain the benefits and risks of utilizing a one-stage versus a multi-stage procedure. Only one or two body areas are usually addressed at each surgery and, for absolute safety, with a recommended six-month wait between different stages. An important part of the consultation process is helping you understand that multiple scars often accompany this type of surgery. These scars fade with time and are often strategically placed. However, they are a permanent and necessary result of body contouring.
Your body and your weight loss experience are not the same as the next person’s. Dr. Turner will work with you to develop a treatment plan that incorporates all of your personal needs. Your treatment plan will likely include complementary surgeries in addition to your body lift, and your procedures might take place in stages.
Frequently Asked Questions
Dr. Turner is happy to answer any questions you may have about your body lift surgery post massive weight loss. Below are some of the questions patients commonly have.
Do I need a referral?
No referral is required to see Dr. Turner. Simply contact us to schedule your consultation. However, if you are seeking Medicare or health insurance reimbursement, a referral from your GP may be necessary.
Can I get pregnant after a body lift post massive weight loss?
Nothing related to the surgery itself will interfere with your getting pregnant in the future. However, if you do get pregnant, your skin may stretch out again, affecting the results of your procedure.
Will I have a scar?
Unfortunately, scarring following this type of procedure is inevitable. The degree of scarring is proportional to the amount of excess skin removed. However, Dr. Turner will plan your surgery to minimize scarring while maximizing results. This includes strategically placing incisions in areas covered by a bathing suit or underwear when possible.
Scars begin to fade at 6 months, but it can take up to two years for the scar tissue to mature. Following post-operative instructions is the surest way to ensure your scar heals as much as possible.
How long will it take for my final results to be apparent?
This depends on which procedures are performed, your personal healing response, and your adherence to post-operative instructions. Most swelling dissipates within six months. However, it can take up to two years for your final results to fully develop.
How long will the results last?
During your procedure, Dr. Turner removes excess fat and skin but also tightens the muscles and redrapes the skin to recontour your body. This careful repositioning is key to your results, because it creates a new shape altogether.
As a result of this technique, your results should be long lasting. If you maintain a steady weight, your results can last for many years. However, significant weight gain, including pregnancy, may loosen tissues and affect your results. This is why lifestyle changes and motivation to maintain a steady weight are important factors to take into consideration prior to surgery.
Over time, all skin naturally loosens as a result of the aging process and effects of gravity. These cannot be prevented but can be minimized by staying healthy and using preventative measures, such as an appropriate skin care regimen.
Is there any Medicare rebate for a body lift post massive weight loss?
Some aspects of your body lift may be covered by Medicare and/or your health insurance.