Patients who shed more than 100 pounds either through diet and exercise or bariatric surgery are at higher risk for complications following body contouring procedures, according to researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

For example, major weight loss was a significant risk factor for wound complications in body contouring surgery, the new study showed.

The findings are published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

kenkel-jeffrey-2011Researchers led by Jeffrey Kenkel, MD, a Professor and Acting Chairman of Plastic Surgery at UT Southwestern in Dallas, compared surgical complications seen among 450 patients who underwent body contouring.

Of the 450 study participants, 124 lost 50 pounds or more before their surgery. Patients included men and women in all age groups who completed body contouring procedures including body lifts, tummy tucks, thighplasty, arm lifts, breast lifts, breast reduction, and liposuction.

Patients who lost more than 100 pounds were found to be at higher risk for complications, regardless of weight loss method. Post-bariatric surgery patients, however, had the highest rate of complications. Gastric sleeve or Lap-Band patients had a lower risk of complications compared to patients who underwent gastric bypass, the study showed.

Nutritional Shortfalls in WLS Patients May be to Blame

One reason why post-bariatric patients have more complications is nutrition. Following bariatric procedures, many patients consume less than 1,000 calories daily, which leads to lower protein levels and nutritional deficiencies. Their bodies adapt to their new nutritional state, which then changes when the body becomes stressed by surgery.

“It is imperative that patients account for their dietary deficiencies and prepare their bodies for surgery,” says Kenkel, alsi the Director of the Clinical Center for Cosmetic Laser Treatment and Chief of Plastic Surgery at UT Southwestern University Hospitals. “Nutrition plays an important role in skin healing, collagen production, and the generation of new blood vessels, all of which are important during recovery.”

UT Southwestern plastic surgeons currently conduct nutritional assessments and administer protein and vitamin supplements.“Surgeons should monitor these patients carefully and make sure their vitamin and protein supplements are complete,” Kenkel says. “We can also enhance recovery by tailoring pre-operative care to the patient’s weight loss amount and method. As our understanding of these risks advances, we are able to provide the growing number of body contouring patients the best possible circumstances for a safe recovery.”