Lasting Change – Plastics after Bariatric Surgery – Part 2
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Part 1 of this blog series opened the topic of addressing the needs of bariatric surgery patients and others who have lost significant amounts of weight. Removing the excess skin remains a sparsely researched and rarely discussed topic but fortunately, things are starting to change. (Yeah!)
For ease of reference, I’ll refer to the surgery to remove excess skin as Body Contouring. We’ve set the foundation, so now let’s explore patient AND researcher perspectives. Let’s go!
What do bariatric surgery patients – the ones who are directly affected by excess skin – really think about body contouring surgery after having a major weight loss?
Five things come up for us:
- Body contouring is reconstructive surgery. Calling it “cosmetic surgery” feels like an insult to what we’ve been through.
- Approximately 88 percent of bariatric surgery patients want body contouring surgery according to a study out of Toronto, Canada (Reference). From my own discussions with patients, the 88 percent number is conservative and is likely even higher.
- We’ve already changed our lives with the help of bariatric surgery or other drastic means, and we recognize that body contouring surgery (or surgeries) are MAJOR surgeries that include risk and potentially lengthy recovery times.
- Cost is THE major barrier to having body contouring surgery.
- They/We know that removing the excess skin provides both physical and mental benefits. Aren’t both equally important?
The Researchers…. YES, there are some!
On a hot summer day in Scottsdale…and I do mean HOT (108°), I was roaming around the Internet and for whatever reason, came upon a mind-boggling research study. Try not to judge me for being a science geek.
Anyway, I came across this medical study from doctors and researchers in Geneva, Switzerland, that was the first study I had heard of as having been done about plastic surgery post-bariatric surgery (Reference).
The gist of the study is that the research team believed that body contouring could decrease weight regain, leading to better long-term weight control after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (and maintenance of the bariatric surgery benefits) and they created a study to prove or disprove their hypothesis. And (imagine that!) they proved that in fact it DOES.
Their conclusion as written in the abstract is “The authors demonstrated that patients with body contouring present better long-term weight control after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Therefore, body contouring must be considered as a reconstructive operation in the treatment of morbid obesity.”
Hallelujah! There it was in black and white. I felt as if the skies had parted.
Since then, I’ve found references to the Swiss doctors’ research in the journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, another in The Bariatric Times, and OAC Board Member, Michelle Vicari, alerted me to it just having been formally presented to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons on Monday, October 13th in Chicago. My hope is that the study continues to gain attention during ObesityWeek, November 2nd – 7th in Boston.
Fortunately, the Swiss Study wasn’t the only one out there.
Another study, this time from of Canada, was specific to cost being a barrier and the impact on the psychological well-being of WLS patients. They concluded “Bariatric surgery patients who desire body-contouring surgery perceive cost as a major barrier. Patients undergoing bariatric surgery may experience improved physical quality of life but not mental quality of life; however, body-contouring surgery may improve aspects of depression and anxiety.”
What people who have had major weight loss have known intuitively and all too personally, has been validated. Whew!
I’ll stop here with my research quotes so that your eyes don’t glaze over but for the record, I did find other studies from Utah, Philadelphia, and antidotal supportive information from a surgical team in Italy. All the research leads us down the same path, body contouring after major weight loss helps to maintain the weight loss and improve the physical and emotional quality of life for those affected by the disease of obesity.
Reconstructive Surgery or Cosmetic Surgery?
In part 1 of this blog series, I promised to address the question of whether body contouring after major weight loss should be considered cosmetic surgery.
The best reference I found for this (besides my own opinion of course) is on the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery’s Web site:
“The procedures, techniques, and principles of cosmetic surgery are entirely focused on enhancing a patient’s appearance… Because the treated areas function properly, cosmetic surgery is elective… Plastic surgery is intended to correct dysfunctional areas of the body and is reconstructive in nature.”
Jumping over to the American Society of Plastic Surgeon’s site, in order to find Body Contouring after Major Weight loss you have to (currently) look under the Cosmetic procedure section. Yet they state “after weight reduction surgery, or any substantial amount of weight loss, the skin and tissues often lack the elasticity to conform to the reduced body size.”
Enough quoting for today.
Didn’t we all learn in high school biology that skin is the largest organ in the human body?
If the largest organ in our body is not conforming to our body size, it is dysfunctional….and it is NOT cosmetic surgery. If it’s not cosmetic surgery, it should not be considered elective surgery. The only electiveness about it should be whether the individual chooses to have the procedure or not.
Remember my 108° day? Do you think wearing compression garments (girdles/shapers/etc) forever is the right solution for me?
I’ll get off my soapbox now.
In the final part of this blog series, I’ll combine my own ideas with yours so that we can collectively brainstorm where we can take this next.
What can we do with this information? What can YOU do?
Please add your ideas and comments below.
Part 3 Now Online!
To view Part 3 of this blog series, CLICK HERE.
About the Author:
Tammy Farrell, CPC, CPA, CFE, is a professional wellness coach who specializes in working with fellow bariatric patients in Scottsdale Arizona and nationally via phone calls, webinars, and Skype. Tammy’s company, Believe In Action Coaching, provides personalized guidance, group programs, and workshops as well as free monthly support groups, newsletters and resources for her community. As a mom to two young boys, Tammy loves to keep them active and curious about the world around them.
Disclaimer: This blog post does not reflect the views of the OAC, the National Board of Directors or staff. Information contained in this blog post is based on scientific research that has not been validated. The OAC does not endorse any merchandise or program mentioned in this blog post.