Could you be a candidate for tummy tuck surgery if you’re obese? Maybe.
A Comparison Study
One recent bit of research shows that being obese is not necessarily a contraindicator for surgery. In other words, if you’re not at your ideal weight and a flabby, saggy belly is holding you back, you may be able to have abdominoplasty safely.
This conclusion, published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), was reached via a study by a colleague in New York. Tummy tuck surgery, he found, causes no more complications in obese patients than it does in people of normal weight.
This plastic surgeon studied the results of 82 patients he had operated on over a seven-year period. 21 were classified as obese while the rest were non-obese. All underwent surgery at his practice with the same technique. Though the obese patients experienced a slightly higher rate of post-operative seromas requiring drainage, the difference wasn’t seen as statistically significant.
One aspect of abdominoplasty this doctor emphasized is that the procedure carries a relatively high rate of complications, no matter who the patient is. This is borne out in our experience in New York: tummy tuck patients do tend to have more post-op issues that need watching due to the extensive nature of the procedure. (But we are very careful and our complication rate is low.)
A Slightly Different Take
Another researcher, also a member of the ASPS, and his colleagues studied a cohort of 42 obese tummy tuck patients. This time the goal was not to compare two groups of different weights, instead the doctors wanted to determine the rate of complications for obese patients and explore their satisfaction with the results.
Most of the 42 patients studied underwent abdominoplasty—surgery that tightens up weakened belly muscles in addition to eliminating fat pockets and excess skin. A few had a procedure called a panniculectomy, a procedure that removes a hanging flap of skin and fat from the abdomen without muscle repair.
It may seem surprising to learn that almost half the 42 patients experienced a complication, but most of these were resolved in an office visit. A few had an issue, such as excess fluid or poor wound healing, that required additional minor surgery. The key here is that these complications were all quite treatable.
What’s more, even with the high rate of complications, the doctors found that patients were satisfied with their results. 94% reported being happy with their surgical outcome and a whopping 97% said they would choose to have the procedure again.
The View from New York
Tummy tuck surgery is simply more invasive than most cosmetic procedures. Plastic surgeons manipulate muscle, fat and skin at the same time, and liposuction is commonly involved. Typically there’s more discomfort after surgery than with other procedures and the healing process takes a bit longer.
But the satisfaction rate of patients who elect abdominoplasty is high. The “worth it” rating on RealSelf is usually right around 95%–and that’s based on more than 27,000 experiences. Most patients who write abdominoplasty reviews on the site are moms whose pregnancies took a toll on their bellies or weight loss patients.
And that’s an important factor in our view. Sometimes we work with patients who are pursuing good health, including losing weight, but their saggy belly prevents them from being active and exercising the way they want to. Some may have lost weight but still have excess skin and fat that contribute to pushing their BMI into the “obese” range.
Both research teams remarked that plastic surgeons prefer to operate on people at or near their ideal body weight for a variety of reasons—not just risks of complications. (And certainly any board certified plastic surgeon would not agree to operate on someone as a weight loss strategy.) But with complications generally quite minor and satisfaction so high, we agree that it doesn’t make sense to exclude obese women and men in a blanket manner.
In our practice in New York, tummy tuck patients are evaluated on a case-by-case basis and many factors are taken into account. When you choose to consult us, your health will be our top priority. If abdominoplasty can safely improve your quality of life, that’s when you’ll get the thumbs up. Call us to make an appointment: 212-570-6080.
Photo by Laura Tancredi from Pexels