Body contouring surgeries such as tummy tucks, breast lifts, arm lifts and thigh lifts are designed to be shaping procedures, not weight loss programs. All of these procedures are best performed after a patient has lost most of his or her excess weight before surgery. As a result, the weight of the specimens removed, and therefore, weight lost by the patient as a result of surgery, is usually not very significant. There are, of course, exceptions.
The majority of the tissue removed is composed of skin along with a layer of subcutaneous fat. In general, this tissue does not weight very much unless there is a thick fatty layer removed, such as from the lower abdomen. In some cases, in those patients who carry a disproportional amount of weight in their lower abdominal soft tissue, a skin and fat only procedure can be done. This is known as a panniculectomy in which a large transverse ellipse of skin and fat is removed with no repositioning of the umbilicus and no muscle tightening. In some instances, this procedure may be covered by insurance.
For a standard tummy tuck, the average tissue removed probably weighs 3-4 pounds and bulky specimens in large patients who have big resections can weigh 10-15 pounds. The tissue removed during a breast lift generally consists of a thin layer of skin only with negligible weight. The same is true of arm lift and thigh lift procedures.
Liposuction, on the other hand, can remove up to ten pounds during a procedure when multiple areas are treated and as much as five liters of fat is removed. Once again, liposuction is not a weight loss program and is best performed on those who have lost most of their excess weight through diet and exercise so that the surgeon can concentrate on areas that are hard to lose. It has been well documented in the literature that the long term benefits of liposuction, tummy tucks and all other body contouring procedures are best when performed on patients who have proven before surgery that they are capable of controlling their weight through diet and exercise programs. Patients who use cosmetic surgery to ‘kick-start’ their weight loss generally fail in the long run.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Those who are looking to find out what their weight should be can calculate an approximation by using the BMI formula. It is done by multiplying one’s weight in pounds by 703 and dividing this product by the square of one’s height in inches. For example, a person that is five feet eight inches in height and weighs 170 lbs would have a BMI of 25.84 (170 x 703 / 68 x 68). This individual would be slightly over weight as ‘normal’ is 20-25, over weight is >25 but <30, obese is >30 but <35, morbidly obese is >35 but <40 and severely obese is >40. Ideally, patients should try to have a BMI of less than 30 for elective cosmetic surgery.