Body contouring: Is it safe? Who’s a good candidate?

“Body contouring” refers to sculpting the body by eliminating fat, shaping areas of the body and tightening the skin. This process includes a broad spectrum of procedures and surgeries based on a person’s physical state and their areas of concern.

At Ohio State, your first office visit would include a comprehensive evaluation from a board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in body contouring. They’ll work with you to come up with a personalized treatment plan based on the available surgical options and the person’s individual needs. If there are multiple areas of the body in which you want to focus, the surgeries can be combined in one procedure, but they could require several different operations to get the best, safest results.

Who’s a candidate for body contouring?

Massive weight loss or post pregnancy body changes sometimes cause excess skin and fat deposits that can be troublesome. Depending on the amount of weight loss, age of the patient, and skin type, the elasticity of the skin can end up damaged and weakened, resulting in loose, hanging skin. There could also be localized areas of fat that remain after weight loss that may need treatment.

Whether someone loses weight through dieting, medication, exercising or bariatric surgery, this excess skin can negatively affect daily activities and well-being, such as…

  • inability to wear certain clothing or difficulty finding clothing that fits properly
  • skin rashes, infections or open wounds that may occur along skin folds from skin rubbing
  • unpleasant odor from moisture that develops between skin folds
  • a “deflated appearance” of the breasts and buttocks
  • pain, itching, pinching and chafing from extra skin hanging
  • difficulty with mobility due to heaviness of excess skin
  • depression or loss of confidence

Body contouring procedures can help treat excess skin on the face, neck, chest, back, abdomen, arms and legs.

What to expect before body contouring surgery

Our team at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center evaluates patients with a 360-degree approach to develop a treatment plan that’s individualized to each person. On your first visit, a plastic surgeon will ask you questions about your lifestyle and medical history, including past surgeries. They’ll perform a physical examination and discuss surgery options to achieve your goals. The surgeon will also request blood tests and other diagnostic tests ahead of time to determine the best surgical approach for you. Based on all your information, your plastic surgeon can create a timeline and plan of action to safely achieve your desired look.

Weight management for overweight or obese patients is essential to being a suitable candidate for body contouring. If someone is still actively losing weight or needs to lose additional weight, it’s important for weight loss to stabilize prior to surgery.

If you’ve undergone bariatric surgery, it may take 18 months for your weight to stabilize. Typically, we perform surgery when weight has remained stable for six months. It’s also important for post-bariatric patients to incorporate the necessary protein, calories, vitamins and minerals into their diet as prescribed by their bariatric team to ensure they’re able to heal effectively following surgery.

Body contouring is a journey, and the approach is different for everyone.

How long does the body contouring process take?

The process of body contouring varies from patient to patient depending on the extent of the body contour plan. Often, body contouring plans will include multiple procedures to safely address the patient’s treatment areas and allow time for the body to heal. If everything lines up from the initial consultation and you’re a good candidate, the operation is scheduled at one of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s surgery facilities.

What does recovery entail after body contouring surgery?

Body contouring patients can expect some swelling and pain in the initial days after surgery. During the first few weeks, it’s recommended to take it easy. Any rigorous physical activity can cause problems with healing. However, patients are advised to get up and walk around throughout the day to reduce the risk of blood clots, take deep breaths to expand the lungs, and avoid strenuous activities.

It typically takes about six to eight weeks to fully heal, but someone who has a more sedentary job, or light duty work available, can be allowed to get back to work within one to three weeks depending on the type of surgery performed and the person’s recovery.

Under the guidance of your plastic surgeon, you can gradually get back to your exercise regimen and more normal routine during the healing process.

What are the risks of body contouring surgery?

As with any surgery, there are risks, which may include infection, bleeding, scarring, blood or fluid accumulation under the tissues, asymmetry, skin numbness, wound separation and tissue loss. At Ohio State, we minimize risks and improve outcomes with proper patient selection based on the patient’s medical history and a thorough physical examination that’s necessary to address all areas of concern as safely as possible.

What else should patients keep in mind?

Body contouring procedures may qualify for insurance coverage if the issues related to the excess skin cause functional disability that interferes with your daily life activities or causes health-related problems such as rashes, skin infections or open wounds. You can do some homework after your visit by contacting your insurance carrier to determine whether the procedure is covered.

After your consultation, our staff can inform you of the CPT (current procedural terminology) codes associated with the procedure we would perform. Your health care insurance provider can let you know if your procedure is covered by your plan based on this code, and they can also inform you of the qualifying criteria for coverage. If the surgery isn’t covered by your insurance, you can appeal to your insurance for review. If declined by your insurance, our patient coordinator can offer you a cosmetic fee quote if you wish to pay for the procedure.

As with any operation, it’s a priority to evaluate the risks versus the benefits before deciding on the best course of treatment. And, importantly, a board-certified plastic surgeon who has experience in this type of procedure is highly recommended.

Want to learn more about body contouring surgery?

Schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

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