Abdominoplasty may produce lasting weight loss, according to a pilot study in the February issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Neuroendocrine mechanisms may be driving this sustained weight loss, report the researchers who were led by Rex Edward Moulton-Barrett, MD, of Alameda Hospital in Alameda, Calif.

The researchers evaluated short- and long-term weight loss after abdominoplasty in 20 women. The average amount of abdominal tissue resected among these women was approximately 5 pounds.

One year later, 14 of the women had sustained weight loss–greater than the weight of the tissue resected. For these women, the average body mass index (BMI) decreased from about 30 before abdominoplasty to 23 one year later. Thus, on average, the women moved from obesity into the normal-weight range.

The other six women also had some degree of weight loss after abdominoplasty. However, 1 year later, they had regained weight and increased BMI.

Long-term weight loss was more likely for women whose initial BMI was 24.5, the study showed. Of the 14 women with sustained weight loss, just one had an initial BMI of less than 24.5. Sustained weight loss was also more likely for women with a greater amount of excess abdominal tissue removed during abdominoplasty. Twelve of the 14 women with long-term weight loss had more than 4.5 pounds of tissue resected.

Are Neuroendocrine System Changes Responsible?

Three-fourths of women reported an increased feeling of satiety, either after eating or throughout the day, after undergoing abdominoplasty.

“Satiety appears to be a prominent contributing factor, as does the amount of fat resected,” the researchers conclude. “We hypothesize that the increased satiety seen in our patients is related to changes in the neuroendocrine system.” Similar to the phenomenon seen following certain bariatric surgeries, removing fat cells from the abdomen may lead to reduced levels of hormones affecting appetite, which are secreted by fatty tissues.

However, further studies would be needed to confirm this hypothesis, they note. “Whether or not long-term weight reduction is associated with abdominoplasty has been little investigated and remained controversial.”