Patients who have body contouring plastic surgery after bariatric procedures maintain “significantly greater” weight loss than those who do not, according to new research.

The study, conducted at Henry Ford Hospital in the US, followed 94 patients who underwent bariatric surgery between 2003 and 2013. Of these, 47 participants had plastic surgeries such as abdominoplasty, brachioplasty and thigh and buttocks lifts to remove inelastic excess skin and tissue after substantial weight loss and to reshape or recontour their bodies.

The researchers examined each patient’s Body Mass Index (BMI) both before the bariatric surgery and 2.5 years following the operation. “Of the patients who underwent contouring surgery, the average decrease in BMI was 18.24 at 2.5 years, compared to a statistically significant 12.45 at 2.5 years for those who did not have further surgery,” says Dr Donna Tepper, plastic surgeon and senior author of the study.

“Bariatric surgery has a measurably significant positive impact on patient illness and death,” Dr Tepper says. “However, even with the technical and safety advancements in these procedures, their long-term success may still be limited by recidivism. There is a high incidence of patients who regain weight after the surgery.”

“As plastic and reconstructive surgeons, we are encouraged by the idea that improved body image can translate into better long-term maintenance of a healthier weight, and possibly a better quality of life for our patients,” says Dr Tepper.

She says future studies will look at changes in BMI after five years, as well as how different types of contouring procedures may maintain weight loss. Findings were presented in Chicago in Oct 2014 at the annual conference of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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