Australians are getting fatter. Approximately one third of us are obese which amounts to approximately 5.2 million Australians. As more of us become dangerously overweight, more Australians than ever are opting for surgery to help them lose it. Whether it’s lap band, gastric sleeve or just through sheer hard work, many do manage to lose the weight but that’s only half the battle. Patients often find themselves even more depressed than they were before they lost the weight because of the huge amounts of excess, sagging skin that leaves them feeling like a deflated balloon. They can also experience a whole new set of medical problems and emotional issues if this goes unmanaged. Dr Matthew Peters, Director of Plastic Surgery at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and co-owner of Valley Plastic Surgery in Brisbane counts his body contouring procedures as some of the most rewarding and was happy to chat with us about why removing excess skin is such an important final step in the weight loss journey.
The Excess Skin Issues
When skin is stretched to the point of no return it won’t bounce back once the fat underneath it disappears. It will simply droop down, often giving the patient massive overhangs that can cause the following issues:
- Discomfort – skin rubbing against skin can lead to skin irritation including rashes and in some cases infections and even ulcers
- Poor skin hygiene – skin overhang can make the underlying skin hard to clean which can lead to bad odours and possible skin breakdown
- Psychological – depression, social anxiety, embarrassment, fear of intimate relationships – these are just some of the emotional issues that having excess skin can trigger
- Function – excess skin can affect the way you walk, sit, ride a bike, ride a horse, exercise
- Cost – the excess skin can be very hard to manage with current fashion choices, often necessitating the purchase of expensive shapewear undergarments
According to Dr Peters, these issues are very real and are major concerns to all of his patients who present for body contouring surgery following massive weight loss.
Body contouring surgery collectively refers to a number of procedures that may be required to remove excess skin. One or a combination of procedures may be required to remove the excess skin, and depending on your surgeon and individual circumstances, you may have more than one procedure.
The procedures usually referred to as body contouring procedures include:
- Abdominoplasty (Tummy tuck)
- Thigh Lift / Body lift
- Brachioplasty (Arm Reductions)
- Back bra lift
- Mastopexy (breast lift) +/- augmentation
- Face and neck lift
Dr Peters says that, “it depends on the patient, their individual circumstances and medical history,” as to how many and which procedures can be done in the one operation. Where possible, Dr Peters prefers to break up the operations to decrease the time the patient spends under general anesthesia therefore decreasing the risks. “Sometimes it can be advantageous for the patient to combine a number of procedures into the one operative episode, and I do take into account their personal situation and the amount of surgery actually required. It can be possible to do an abdominoplasty with a breast lift, for example, however combining a body lift with a bilateral brachioplasty and a breast lift can mean a very long time on the operating table, which can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis, as one example of an unwanted and potentially avoidable complication.”
According to Dr Peters, the main things patients ask in relation to body contouring procedures is how much tissue will be removed and how long it will take to recover and return to work and their new life. “Everyone is different and all I can ever do is provide them with a guide based on my experience to date. It is very rewarding though to observe significant changes in their body shape and personal behaviours though throughout their recovery, a situation that I feel very privileged to be part of.” Dr Peters regularly sees his patients move from a position of negativity when he first meets them through to outright enthusiasm upon reaching their final post-surgery look. “I see many of my patients finally achieving a lifelong goal – some have climbed mountains, others have been excited about the simple act of being able to tuck a shirt into jeans for the first time. Learning that my patient has finally been able to achieve whatever it is that is important to them through the combination of their hard work to lose the weight, and my surgical techniques to tidy it all up can be very satisfying.”
If you’d like to find out more about body contouring procedures or would like to arrange a consult with Dr Matthew Peters you can contact his clinic on (07) 3488 8118.