After weight-loss surgery, people who get cosmetic procedures to remove excess tissue may have a better quality of life than those who don't get this additional work done, a recent study suggests.
Researchers focused on what's known as body contouring surgery, which can range from a little bit of liposuction to a complete upper or lower body lift that removes substantial amounts of tissue. Body contouring is becoming more common, particularly for patients who lose around half of their weight after bariatric surgery and have substantial amounts of tissue hanging from their arms, legs and bellies that prevent them from looking and feeling like they want after shedding all those excess pounds.
"The obvious direct reason for a patient to seek body contouring surgery is to get rid of a tummy apron and some fat rolls, but when we look a little deeper into why patients are willing to undertake expensive and sometimes risky procedures, some other reasons emerge," said senior study author Dr. Stefan Danilla, a plastic surgeon at Hospital Clinico Universidad de Chile in Santiago.
"Our research shows that the right procedure can improve self-esteem, self-image, sex life, social performance and physical symptoms," Danilla said by email. "That improvement is shown as soon as three months after surgery and can last for years after."
For the study, researchers asked 112 women patients who had already undergone weight-loss surgery how they felt about their body and quality of life before they got body contouring procedures. Then, researchers followed up with 57 of these patients about four months afterwards and checked in with 84 of the women again more than two years after they got body contouring done.
The patients averaged about 40 years old at the start of the study and most of them were at a healthy weight or slightly overweight.
To assess participants' quality of life, researchers asked them about body satisfaction, sex life, self-esteem, social performance and physical symptoms. Scores could range from 0 to 100, with higher marks indicating greater quality of life.
Women's average quality of life scores rose from 44 before body contouring to 86 in short-term assessments done from one to nine months after these procedures. They had a similar improvement in quality of life score of 84 in assessments done from one year to 2.7 years postoperatively, researchers report in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.
The primary shortcoming of the study is the lack of male participants, the authors note. Only two men at the hospital where the study was done had body contouring procedures during the period when researchers were asking patients to join the study, and both men declined to participate.
Another limitation is that the results are limited to one hospital in Chile, and the impact of body contouring on quality of life might be different elsewhere, especially because many of women's perceptions about their appearance are shaped by what's culturally acceptable or desirable where they live.
Researchers also lacked data on how any surgical complications might impact the extent to which women perceived body contouring as beneficial for their quality of life.
Even so, body contouring may appeal to many patients who are surprised or disappointed to discover they don't necessarily look thin or conform with an ideal body type after weight loss surgery helps them shed most of their excess pounds, said Dr. Daniel Kalbermatten, a plastic surgeon at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland who wasn't involved in the study.
"Often they lost many pounds but look worse and not at all as before weight gain," Kalbermatten said by email. "It helps them find themselves."
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