After Significant Weight Loss, Is Your Patient a Candidate for Cosmetic Surgery?

Significant weight loss can be a monumental step in a person's life, but one setback many patients face after massive weight loss is excess, sagging skin that will not vanish without surgical intervention.

Significant weight loss can be a monumental step in a person’s life. When patients shed 100 lbs or more, their overall health is greatly improved and their new physical capabilities are endless.

But one setback many patients face after massive weight loss is excess, hanging skin that will not vanish without surgical intervention. If any of your patients have lost a significant amount of weight and are thinking about undergoing cosmetic surgery, then I suggest walking them through the following steps to educate them about their surgical options and determine what is right for them.

Step 1: Decide whether a patient is a surgical candidate

If your prospective patient has lost 10% or more of his or her body weight in 6 months or less, then I consider this significant weight loss. As a result, the patient’s skin may not have had a chance to catch up with the rest of his or her rapidly shrinking body, so surgery may be an option for the sagging skin.

Another key factor that would make your patient a viable candidate for plastic surgery after significant weight loss would be maintaining weight reduction for 6 months to 1 year. In addition, the ideal prospective patient is a non-smoker who engages in a consistent routine of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Step 2: Choose the appropriate procedure(s)

After patients have lost a massive amount of weight quickly, there are a number of target areas that tend to have excess, sagging skin.

Upper Arms

A brachioplasty procedure can reshape a person’s arms. This arm lift procedure targets the under arm by removing excess skin and reshaping the area from the top of the arm to the elbow, which gives the arm more tone and definition.

Breasts

A mastopexy procedure gives the breasts a lifted, firmer appearance. During this breast lift procedure, excess skin is removed and the tissue surrounding the area is tightened to give the breasts a more youthful shape. A breast augmentation can also be done in conjunction with a breast lift, if the prospective patient desires it.

Midsection and Thighs

A body lift procedure can contour trouble zones that include the abdomen, buttocks, lower back, groin and complete thigh area where excess, sagging fat and skin are removed to create a smoother look. This procedure can even improve the dimpled, irregular skin patterns associated with cellulite. Talk about an added bonus!

Step 3: Educate the patient

To best achieve their aesthetic goals, it is important for prospective patients to know whether their plastic surgeon is board certified by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). I also communicate to my patients that certification by the ASPS means the cosmetic surgeon is not only experienced, but also committed to patient safety.

The location of a patient’s surgery is another key factor to consider. As we all know, complications can happen to the best of surgeons. Therefore, the patient must rest assured that his or her procedure will take place in either a reputable hospital or a surgical facility that is affiliated with a hospital.

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Our patients have worked hard for their significant weight loss. As their plastic surgeons, we can help them go one step further in their weight loss journey and ensure they are able to show off their new and improved bodies in the best possible way.

Robert T. Grant, MD, MSc, FACS, is Chief of the combined Divisions of Plastic Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. He is also Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. For more information about Dr. Grant or to contact him, visit his website at www.robertgrantmd.com.