Weight-loss surgery offers many benefits to people who find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight — the return of fertility, improvement of complications from Type 2 diabetes, and reduced cancer risk.
After losing a large amount of weight, however, struggling with excess skin can hold you back from enjoying life.
Excess skin may lead to health problems such as rashes, infections and joint pain. It also can affect your body image, which can cause low self-esteem. In these cases, excess skin removal surgery may be a good option.
There are several factors that lead to having loose skin after weight-loss surgery. The length of time spent overweight is one of them. When you are overweight for many years, the skin’s elasticity won’t “snap back” to its original size. Age and genetics also determine the quantity of excess skin after dramatic weight loss. Eating healthy and regular exercise may help a little, but it doesn’t make all of the excess skin go away.
“There is really nothing you can do — a lot of it is genetics,” says Dr. Larry Pollack, a plastic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital, who performs these procedures. “How the skin reacts after weight-loss surgery is really unpredictable.”
For the best results, you should wait a minimum of six to 12 months after weight-loss surgery before skin removal. This will allow you time to reach and maintain a healthy target weight and to address any underlying emotional issues that lead to overeating.
If you are significantly overweight prior to excess skin removal surgery, the risk for infection increases because wounds can take longer to heal. Also, if you are overweight prior to surgery, it can lead to bad scarring and disappointment with the end result.
“If you have the surgery before you get to your ideal body weight, you’ll end up with loose skin again and you may have to repeat the surgery,” says Dr. Pollack. “You want to be within 5 to 10 percent of your ideal body weight prior to surgery.”
This is important to know because insurance may only cover a medically necessary excess skin removal surgery once, for each area of the body. If another excess skin removal surgery is needed in the same area, it may not be covered.
According to Dr. Pollack, realistic expectations for results should be set between you and the surgeon. Surgery allows you to gain more freedom in what you can wear and can increase mobility, but there still may be areas where loose skin can’t be removed or it may take several surgeries on different areas of the body to achieve desired results.
After surgery, you may remain in the hospital up to two days. It may take six to eight weeks before the incisions are close to completely healed. After this time period, you may be approved by your surgeon to resume your regular activities.
Learn more about weight-loss surgery options at Sharp Memorial Hospital.