With the growing popularity of gastric bypass surgery to treat morbid obesity, body contouring after gastric bypass surgery has become a focus of the plastic surgery community. Previously, many plastic surgeons would not perform body contouring after gastric bypass surgery due to the high complication rates; however, new surgical and safety techniques are increasing interest among patients.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), 106,000 body contouring procedures were performed in 2004. Massive weight loss patients, who accounted for nearly 56,000 procedures, continue to drive the growth in body-contouring surgery.

According to Ernest Manders, MD, ASPS member, body contouring after gastric bypass surgery is safe and can be performed with significantly fewer complications than previously thought.

“Before bariatric surgery and body contouring, many of my patients were not even able to work, they often did not have good self images, and didn’t participate in life as most of us do,” says Manders. “After a panniculectomy (a procedure which removes excess skin and fat below the abdomen) I’ve seen many patients ready to be employed again, go shopping, and even take care of grandchildren. This surgery isn’t just a beauty surgery—it rehabilitates people so they can have a full life.”

For most severely obese people, bariatric surgery is not aesthetic—it’s lifesaving. According to Stan Hoehn, MD, of the Bariatric Center of Kansas City in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, it is important for plastic surgeons to discuss body-contouring procedures with these patients.

“I’m very upfront about it,” says Hoehn. “It is a matter fact. If you lose 150 pounds from an elastic organ such as skin, you’re going to have saggy skin.”