Health Cover Stories

Take Shape: SLUCare Physician Group

Anyone who’s lost 100 pounds or more doesn’t want unsightly sagging skin getting in the way of their new appearance. That kind of weight loss, however, dramatically changes a person’s body. Whether the result of diet and exercise or weight reduction surgery, excess skin left behind can leave a misshapen appearance. That’s where body contouring comes in as a way to restore attractive proportions. “The patients may stand on a scale and know they’ve lost weight, but when they look in the mirror, they can still feel something is missing,” says Dr. Sumesh Kaswan, a SLUCare plastic surgeon. “Body contouring completes the process they started to not only be healthy, but also to look and feel better.” The procedure also addresses medical issues, such as chafing or infections, caused by excess skin.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight, 35 percent are obese and 6 percent are morbidly obese. Not surprising, weight-loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, has exploded in popularity, with about 250,000 people having the procedure each year. “It was relatively uncommon 15 years ago,” Kaswan says. “The country is getting more obese and, with the invention of minimally invasive procedures, we are encountering more people who have these surgeries.” Patients can lose 50 to 300 pounds or more and, “after reaching their new normal weight, they may notice deformities, like excess skin or skin rolls,” Kaswan says. About 20 percent of post-bariatric patients undergo body contouring.

Body contouring procedures include tummy tucks and lifts of the face, breasts, thighs and arms. With so many corrective options available, it’s important for patients to work with their doctor to set priorities during the pre-op assessment. Surgery is typically limited to six or eight hours to decrease bleeding risks, and that allows time for just two or three areas of the body, Kaswan says. “If the patient is willing to have multiple surgeries, then we can figure out which additional areas to do in a second surgery,” he notes.

Body contouring is performed by plastic surgeons and typically involves an overnight stay in a hospital. Patients should line up a good support system at home, Kaswan advises, because they’ll need help with personal care for the first week after surgery. Also, drains in the areas of excised skin will be used for two to three weeks, and patients can expect to be on pain medications during that time as well. Most people return to work in about a month and can resume all pre-surgery activities by six weeks.

Anyone interested in body contouring should seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon with whom they feel comfortable. A reputable plastic surgeon will help a patient set realistic expectations prior to surgery, Kaswan says. Body contouring is “a skin-for-scar tradeoff,” he adds, cautioning that there are limits to what the procedure can achieve. “We do surgeries in such a way that scars are usually hidden or not noticeable, but we cannot take the excess skin without leaving any scars,” he says. “Most people feel it’s worth it and are extremely happy with their results.”

Pictured: Dr. Sumesh Kaswan
Photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group

[Dr. Sumesh Kaswan practices at 3660 Vista Ave., Ste. 108. For more information, call 314.577.8793 or visit slucare.edu/recontour.]

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