Panniculectomy Surgery to Remove Skin After Weight Loss

Woman looks at her loose abdominal skin from weight loss in the mirror
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A panniculectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a panniculus, or excess skin, from the lower abdomen. It is different from abdominoplasty which, in addition to removing excess skin and fat, tightens abdominal muscles. A panniculectomy is performed to relieve symptoms that occur from an overhanging apron of skin that interferes with everyday activities. It is not considered a cosmetic procedure.

Candidates

Candidates for panniculectomy typically have lost a significant amount of weight either through gastric or intestinal bypass surgery or with changes in nutrition and fitness habits. Other candidates may have the procedure due to the following:

Some patients may also be candidates for a standard abdominoplasty.

Before the Procedure

Patients will be evaluated by their surgeon prior to the procedure. They will be advised as to how they should prepare. Some of the instructions include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding certain medications
  • Washing techniques
  • Limiting certain foods or liquids
  • Timing of medications

The Procedure

The patient will receive general anesthesia in either a hospital or outpatient surgery center. An incision will be made that runs horizontally across the pubic area. Excess skin and fat will be removed through the horizontal incision. In some cases, the surgeon will also make an incision that runs vertically. Skin and fat above the belly button will be pulled downwards and sutured in place. The belly button will be shifted to a normal position. Drains will be inserted to prevent the accumulation of fluids.

Depending on how much skin and fat are removed, the panniculectomy procedure can take from three to five hours to perform. If it is combined with another procedure, such as abdominoplasty, it may take longer.

Recovery

A compression binder will be placed around the abdomen. Patients will experience pain for up to 48 hours after the procedure. Showering is permitted in the first several days. Vigorous physical activity is limited for up to four weeks after the procedure. In most cases, patients will be able to move around in public in four to five days. Most patients may be able to return to work within two weeks of the procedure.

Risks

While there are risks with any surgery and anesthesia, the risks associated with a panniculectomy include the following:

  • Accumulation of fluid under the skin
  • Separation of skin
  • Numbness in the surgical area
  • Scarring
  • Skin discoloration
  • Blood clots
  • Loose skin

The procedure may be covered by insurance, but patients should check with their carrier to see what the requirements are for coverage.

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Article Sources

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  2. American Society for Plastic Surgery. How should I prepare for a panniculectomy?

  3. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What should I expect during my panniculectomy recovery?

  4. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. What are the risks of a panniculectomy?