By Sacha Obaid
Abdominoplasty, a cosmetic procedure more commonly known as a “tummy tuck,” is a surgical technique intended to remove excess fat and skin from the surface of the abdomen. While this procedure was not previously viewed as a treatment for obesity, the results of a recently published study in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery suggest that tummy tucks may lead to sustained, additional weight loss for obese and near-obese patients. Though additional study is needed, these findings could dramatically alter the way that tummy tuck surgeries are used in the future.
Below, we discuss the implications of this exciting new discovery for the treatment of patients struggling with obesity.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes
A flabby belly is more than just a side effect of an unhealthy diet. The presence of excess body fat can cause long-term detriment to your health, bringing about changes in your appetite and metabolism that could put your health at serious risk. Because tummy tuck surgery physically removes what has been called “the most dangerous fat on your body,” and as, the study suggests, many patients were able to sustain the weight loss after a tummy tuck, and in several cases in the study, continue to lose weight, it could be help in an overall strategy to combat both the appearance of excess fat and the health consequences of obesity.
Lose the Weight – Bariatric Procedures
For many seriously obese patients (those with a BMI generally 40 or higher), the road to a healthier lifestyle begins with bariatric surgery, also known as a gastric bypass. These surgeries, which reduce the size of the stomach, can be remarkably effective at helping obese patients gain control over their diet and help them lose significant amounts of weight. Tummy tucks are often performed later, after the major weight loss has occurred, to correct sagging skin and remove any remaining fat deposits.
The study suggests that tummy tucks might also provide long term weight management benefits without the BMI restrictions. According to Dr. Moulton-Barrett and colleagues, “Whether or not long-term weight reduction is associated with abdominoplasty has been little investigated and remained controversial.”
Would Insurance Ever Cover Tummy Tucks?
Since tummy tucks have traditionally been viewed as a non-vital procedure, insurance companies have generally been unwilling to provide coverage for them. With this new data in hand, however, plastic surgeons and patient advocates may be able to make a legitimate argument that tummy tucks are medically necessary for obese patients, increasing the likelihood that insurers will provide coverage for more of these procedures in the future.