Complications and side effects
Understanding the types of complications you can have will help you decide whether surgery is right for you. It will also help you learn to prevent, recognize, and manage complications if they do occur. Use the following tool to learn about possible side effects and complications of surgery, including information on how to prevent, identify, and manage symptoms.
Explore the possible complications and side effects to learn more.
Minimize your risk of complications
- Follow the meal plan after surgery, including taking vitamin and mineral supplements every day
- Keep up with a regular physical activity routine
- Attend all follow-up care appointments
Common questions about excess skin
Excess skin is a very common side effect of surgery. Everyone reacts differently to having excess skin, but it’s important to be prepared for it and learn strategies to adjust, cope, or (possibly) remove it.
Does everyone have excess skin after surgery?
Think of your skin like a balloon. When you first blow it up, it’s small and tight, but as the air is let out it doesn’t return to the original shape. After surgery, your fat cells will shrink as you lose weight, but your skin still has the same surface area. That’s what causes loose or excess skin. You will have a lot of changes between 6 and 18 months after surgery. Your appearance depends on several things, including:
- How much weight you lose
- How quickly you lose weight
- Your age
- Your genetics
- Whether or not you exercise or smoke
How will excess skin affect me?
Possible medical issues
Possible psychosocial issues
- Poor body image
Can I prevent or minimize excess skin after surgery?
A lot of factors determine excess skin, and not all of them are in your control. However, there are several things you can do:
- Lose weight before surgery.
- Follow the staged meal plan after surgery. Following a balanced diet will help you keep weight off, retain lean muscle, and feel good. Getting enough protein can help you maintain and build lean muscle, which can somewhat minimize loose skin.
- Take your vitamin and mineral supplements every day. Making sure to take your vitamin and mineral supplements every day is key. Vitamins such as C, A, E, K, and B-complex, and minerals such as zinc are all important for skin health.
- Stay hydrated with water. After completing your post-surgery diet progression back to solid foods, you should be drinking at least 64 ounces (8 cups) a day. Drinking plenty of water makes your skin healthier and may make your skin more elastic (tight).
How can I manage excess skin?
Your skin is an organ, just like your liver, heart, and kidneys. Taking care of it is important.
- Keep your skin moisturized.
- Use sunscreen.
- Keep your skin, especially the sagging areas, clean and dry.
To keep skin folds dry, try the following tips
- Use antiperspirant sprays or roll-ons. (Test a small area of skin first to be sure it doesn’t cause irritation. Do not test if the skin is already irritated.)
- Try absorbent powder, including cornmeal (available in the pharmacy foot care section).
- Use a hair dryer on a cool setting 2 to 3 times a day.
Certain types of clothes can help minimize the appearance of excess skin after surgery.
Excess skin removal surgery
Even if you follow all the recommendations, it’s realistic to expect that you will still have some excess skin after surgery. For some people, this is totally fine, but it may really bother others. In such cases, some people are interested in excess skin removal surgery. Not all patients qualify for excess skin removal.
Some examples of common areas considered for surgery include:
- Abdomen: Excess abdominal skin that covers the genital region.
- Upper arm: When holding arms at 90 degrees, the excess skin from the upper arm hangs substantially below what a plastic surgeon would consider normal.
- Other areas (thighs, trunk, back) that show similar degrees of severity to those described above may also be considered
Excess skin removal surgery versus cosmetic surgery
Excess skin removal surgery is not cosmetic surgery. The primary aim of reconstructive excess skin removal surgery is to remove abnormal skin. Cosmetic surgery goes a step further, enhancing normal appearance according to the patient’s preferences.
If you are eligible for excess skin removal surgery but also wish to further enhance your appearance, surgeons can perform cosmetic enhancements for an additional cost.
Check with your health plan to see what’s covered for you.
Even if you follow all the recommendations, it’s realistic to expect that you will still have some excess skin after surgery. For some people, this is totally fine, but it may really bother others. If you do not have abnormal excess skin but wish to explore options that will reshape normal skin or remove fat to improve your appearance, cosmetic surgery (often called body contouring surgery) may be an option for you.
Important things to know
- Wait until your weight stabilizes. For the best results, you should wait until your weight stabilizes at your new size for several months (usually about 18 months after surgery). Otherwise, as you continue to lose weight, you are likely to develop more excess skin. Your weight should be stable for at least 6 months before you consider body contouring surgery.
- Recovery can be painful. Many people who have had body contouring surgery say that the recovery is worse than from metabolic and bariatric surgery. In some cases, you may have to be off work for a month or more to recover fully.