In recent years, rates of obesity have skyrocketed in the United States and in other developed countries. Thats led to a lot more dieting, exercising and weight-loss surgery. Thousands of people have managed to lose their excess weight, but for those who lost the most weight, theres another problem: excess skin. When someone loses 10, 20 or 30 pounds, their skin can shrink and tighten up, but when a person loses 80, 100, 150 or 200 pounds, there is just too much skin for it to tighten and disappear. The only way to get rid of it is to remove it, and thats exactly what plastic surgeons from Washington University School of Medicine are doing, as they use surgery to literally help the formerly obese shed their old skin.
IN RECENT YEARS, RATES OF OBESITY HAVE SKYROCKETED IN THE UNITED STATES AND OTHER DEVELOPED COUNTRIES. THATS LED TO A LOT MORE DIETING, EXERCISING AND WEIGHT-LOSS SURGERY. AND SOME PEOPLE HAVE MANAGED TO LOSE THAT EXCESS WEIGHT. THE PROBLEM IS WHEN SOMEONE LOSES A LOT OF WEIGHT, THAT PERSON OFTEN IS LEFT WITH A LOT OF EXCESS SKIN, SO PLASTIC SURGEONS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS ARE SPENDING MORE OF THEIR TIME HELPING THE FORMERLY OBESE LOOK MORE NORMAL BY SURGICALLY REMOVING THAT SKIN. JIM DRYDEN HAS MORE
IF YOU LOSE 10 POUNDS, YOUR SKIN IS ELASTIC ENOUGH TO SHRINK A BIT AND TIGHTEN UP, BUT WHAT IF YOU LOSE 80, OR 100 OR 200? WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY PLASTIC SURGEON TERRY MYCKATYN.
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Theyre typically patients who have lost at least 80 to
90 pounds, and in many cases, I would say the average is
more like 100 to 120 pounds that we see. And in those
individuals, you have this tremendous amount of extra skin,
and so youre basically looking at cutting out skin.
MYCKATYN SAYS ALTHOUGH THIS TYPE OF SURGERY OFTEN IS CONSIDERED TO BE COSMETIC, THERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT HEALTH COMPLICATIONS THAT EXCESS SKIN CAN CONTRIBUTE TO.
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The major issues with that are, theres one is the weight.
It can cause back pain, for example, and also that skin can
become irritated. You can get dermatitis or, basically skin
irritation or infection. Some people actually get infections
to the point where there are patients who have to actually go
to E/Rs to get intravenous antibiotics to treat this.
ONE OF MYCKATYNS PATIENTS, KELLY VALENTINE, RECENTLY LEFT A GOOD DEAL OF SKIN BEHIND. FOLLOWING GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY SEVERAL YEARS AGO, VALENTINE LOST 240 POUNDS. SHE HAD WAY TOO MUCH SKIN FOR IT TO CONFORM TO HER NEW, THINNER BODY. IN FACT, MYCKATYN REMOVED MORE THAN 18 POUNDS OF SKIN FROM HER BELLY, HER ARMS, BREASTS, THIGHS AND BACK.
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Before I had the skin-removal surgery, I still looked
overweight. I still looked chunky because I had all of
this extra skin hanging there, so Id have to buy bigger
clothes, and he fixed that for me.
VALENTINE SAYS THE SURGERY IMPROVED HER APPEARANCE, BUT IT DID MORE THAN THAT.
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I noticed lately, like within the last year or two, that I
was getting like skin rashes underneath the folds. There was
boils. You would get boils in, like, your upper thigh area
because the skin just hung over, rashes, yeast infections.
So I thought, Well, I guess its time to go under the knife
and get it taken off. Its either that or stop exercising,
and I didnt want to gain the weight back.
MYCKATYN SAYS THESE TEND TO BE LONG OPERATIONS, AND THERE ARE SOME RISKS OF INFECTION, CLOTTING OR BLEEDING. PLUS, COMPARED TO OTHER COSMETIC PROCEDURES, THESE OPERATIONS HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO LEAVE LONGER OR MORE NOTICEABLE SCARS.
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But what we try to do is we try to hide those incisions. Around
the belly, we put it in a place that could be concealed by a
bathing suit or underwear. On the arm, we put it on the inside
of the arm. In the thighs, we put it up high in the groin or
in the inside of the thigh. We work very hard to conceal the
scars, but there are a fair number of them. Scars are definitely
a variable any time you have surgery.
BOTH THE SURGEON, MYCKATYN, AND THE PATIENT, VALENTINE, SAY THE SURGERY TO REMOVE EXCESS SKIN CAN CHANGE A PATIENTS LIFE ALMOST AS MUCH AS THEIR ORIGINAL WEIGHT-LOSS. AND BOTH BELIEVE THAT AS MORE AND MORE EXTREMELY OBESE PEOPLE MAKE THE DECISION TO LOSE WEIGHT, THERE WILL BE A GREATER AND GREATER DEMAND FOR THESE TYPES OF OPERATIONS. IM JIM DRYDEN