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Body Contouring After Major Weight Loss

Smoother Body Contours with Alabama Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgeons

Dramatic weight loss carries many benefits for people who have had bariatric weight reduction surgery or otherwise lost substantial amounts of weight. For these men and women, the skin and tissues often lack the elasticity to conform to the new, reduced size of their body.

Body Contouring Following Major Weight Loss removes excess sagging fat and skin while improving the shape and tone of the underlying support tissue. The result is a more normal appearance with smoother contours. The results are generally long-lasting if you maintain your weight and a good level of fitness.

Body contouring after major weight loss may include procedures such as a body lift, breast lift, arm lift and thigh lift depending on your needs. Birmingham, Alabama board-certified plastic surgeon William Hedden, M.D. or Stephen Gunn, M.D. and our cosmetic surgery staff can help you decide on the procedure or combination of procedures that will work best for you.

Body Contouring Candidates

In general, good body contouring candidates are:

  • Adults whose weight loss has stabilized.
  • Healthy people without medical conditions that impair healing or increase surgical risks.
  • Non-smokers with a positive outlook and realistic goals.
  • People who are committed to leading a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and a good level of fitness.

Your Body Contouring Consultation

By choosing a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) for your body contouring procedure, you can be assured that you are choosing a highly-trained, board-certified plastic surgeon. ASPS Member Surgeons must meet rigorous standards for training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery.

The procedures necessary to achieve your goals will be defined along with a plan for the timing of these procedures. Plastic surgery procedures that may be recommended for body contouring include:

During your consultation for body contouring after weight loss, be prepared to discuss:

  • Why you want the surgery, your expectations and desired outcome.
  • Medical conditions, drug allergies and previous medical treatments.
  • Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
  • Previous surgeries.

Your body contouring surgeon will:

  • Evaluate your general health and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors.
  • Examine your body and take detailed measurements.
  • Take photographs for your medical record.
  • Discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment.
  • Discuss the likely outcomes of body contouring and any risks or potential complications.

Be sure to ask questions at your consultation. It is very important to understand all aspects of your body contouring procedure. It's natural to feel some anxiety, whether preoperative stress or excitement about your anticipated new look. Don't be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.

Body Contouring Risks and Safety Information

The decision to have body contouring surgery is extremely personal. You will have to decide if the benefits of body contouring will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable.

The risks of body contouring include:

  • Bleeding Infection.
  • Fluid accumulation.
  • Poor wound healing.
  • Skin loss.
  • Blood clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism.
  • Excessive or widened scars.
  • Numbness or other changes in skin sensation.
  • Anesthesia risks.
  • Unfavorable scarring.
  • Residual skin laxity or contour irregularity.

These risks and others will be fully discussed prior to your consent. It is important that you address all of your questions directly with your plastic surgeon. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any risks and potential complications.

Preparing for Body Contouring Surgery

In preparing for body contouring surgery, you may be asked to:

  • Get cleared for surgery by your bariatric surgeon or primary care doctor.
  • Get a lab test.
  • Take certain medications or adjust your current medications.
  • Stop smoking well in advance of surgery.
  • Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements, as they can increase bleeding.

Body contouring surgery should be performed in an accredited office-based surgical facility, licensed ambulatory surgical center or hospital. If a component of your body contouring is performed as an outpatient procedure, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and stay with you for at least the first night.

Body Contouring Procedure

Anesthesia choices for body contouring surgery include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.

Body Contouring After Major Weight Loss Incisions

All body contouring procedures require large incisions to remove excess skin. In many cases, these incisions may be extensive.

Incision length and pattern depend on the amount and location of excess skin to be removed as well as personal preference and your doctor's surgical judgment. Advanced techniques usually allow incisions to be placed in strategic locations where they can be hidden by most types of clothing, but this is not always the case.

Body contouring is often performed in stages. Your condition and goals, as well as your plastic surgeon's best judgment, will influence how your surgical plan is defined.

Body Contouring After Major Weight Loss Procedures

Body Lift

A complete Lower Body Lift treats sagging buttocks, abdomen, waist, hips and outer thighs in one procedure. Incision patterns vary and may include a circumferential incision around the body to remove the "belt" of excess skin and fat.

Body lift before and after with incision locations
Body Lift before/after and incisions

Breast Lift

The Breast Lift incision patterns for lifting of sagging breasts are determined based on the amount of excess skin to be removed. These may include one or a combination of incisions in a circular pattern around the areola, in a line extending from the areola to the breast crease and horizontally along the breast crease. Breast implants also may be recommended to enhance breast shape and size.

Breast lift before and after with incision locations
Breast Lift before/after and incisions

Arm Lift

Sagging skin in the upper arms is treated with an Arm Lift incision from the underarm area extending along the inside or back of the upper arm. Additional incisions on the arms may be necessary anywhere excess skin has formed sagging pockets.

The smoother, tighter contours that result from upper arm contouring are apparent almost immediately, although initially obscured by swelling and bruising. The ultimate scar will be more obvious when the arms are raised.

Arm lift before and after with incision location
Arm Lift before/after and incision

Thigh Lift

Reshaping of the thighs with a Thigh Lift is achieved through incisions in the groin that can extend downward to the knee along the inner portion of the thigh.

Improving the contours of the outer thigh may require an incision extending from the groin around the hip. Through these incisions your plastic surgeon will tighten tissues for smoother thighs.

Thigh lift before and after with incision location
Thigh Lift before/after and incision

Body Contouring Recovery

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself. Carefully following all instructions is essential to the successful outcome of your surgery and recovery. These instructions may include:

  • How to care for the surgical site(s).
  • Medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential for infection.
  • Specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health.
  • When to follow-up with your plastic surgeon.

During your recovery from body contouring surgery, dressings or bandages will be applied to your incisions following the procedure. Small, thin tubes may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid that may collect.

It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion or motion during the time of healing. You may be instructed to avoid bending, straining or lifting for several days to weeks.

Where tightening of the abdomen or thighs is involved, your plastic surgeon may also instruct you to avoid standing fully upright and stressing any internal sutures as they heal and to sleep with pillows elevating your knees.

To minimize the risk of DVT (blood clots in the legs) you will need to drink plenty of fluids and be up and walking as soon as possible.

Be sure to ask your plastic surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your body contouring after major weight loss recovery period:

  • Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
  • What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
  • Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery, and when will they be removed?
  • Are stitches removed, and when?
  • When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
  • When do I return for follow-up care?

Body Contouring Results

The results of body contouring following aggressive weight loss are visible almost immediately. However, it can take 2 years or more to see the final results.

The results of body contouring are generally long-lasting provided you maintain a stable weight and general fitness. It is natural to lose some firmness as your body ages. However, most of your initial improvement should be relatively permanent.

You must accept visible scars in your goals to achieving a body contour that matches your new weight and proportions.

Although good results are expected from your body contouring surgery, there is no guarantee. In some situations it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single procedure and another surgery may be necessary.

Body Contouring Words to Know

  • Areola: Pigmented skin surrounding the nipple.
  • Arm lift: A surgical procedure, also known as brachioplasty, to correct sagging of the upper arms.
  • Breast implants: Medical device placed in your body to enhance an existing breast size or to reconstruct your breast. Breast implants can be filled with either salt water (saline) or silicone (elastic gel).
  • Breast lift: Also known as mastopexy, surgery to lift the breasts.
  • Breast contouring: A surgical procedure following massive weight loss to improve shape and tone and remove excess fat and skin.
  • Circumferential incision: A surgical incision around the body to remove the "belt" of excess skin and fat and additional incisions that may resemble a bikini bottom pattern.
  • General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
  • Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
  • Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection to help you relax.
  • Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision to relieve pain during an operation.
  • Lower body lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the abdomen, buttocks, groin and outer thighs.
  • Macerated skin: Excess skin that hangs and becomes wet or infected underneath.
  • Medial thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the inner thigh.
  • Outer thigh lift: A surgical procedure to correct sagging of the outer and mid-thigh.
  • Sutures: Stitches used to hold skin and tissue together.

Procedure Information © American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Body Contouring After Weight Loss at Hedden & Gunn Plastic Surgery may include plastic surgery procedures such as Body Lift, Breast Lift, Arm Lift and Thigh Lift.

Birmingham, AL Office & Surgery Suites

Hedden & Gunn Plastic Surgery
140 Village Street
Birmingham, AL 35242
205-980-1744 or 800-HeddenMD
American Society of Plastic Surgeons American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Hedden and Gunn Plastic Surgery

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Questions About Body Contouring?

Please contact Hedden & Gunn Plastic Surgery in Birmingham, Alabama today for more information about Body Contouring After Major Weight Loss.

To schedule your consultation at the earliest possible date, please call 205-980-1744.

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