A panniculectomy is a medical procedure in which extra skin and fat are removed from an individual's abdomen and thighs. It is usually done after the individual has lost a large amount of weight. In addition to cosmetic reasons, there are also medical reasons for the procedure that include the reduction of rashes or infections.
The procedure is one that is usually undertaken anywhere up to a year after the dramatic weight loss. The loss must be a large one, and this typically occurs after not only a regular weight loss program of diet and exercise, but after a surgical process such as gastric bypass surgery; in some cases, women who have recently given birth after gaining a large amount of weight during pregnancy will also undergo the procedure. The weight loss results in folds of skin that hang down over the thighs from the abdomen. In extreme cases, this extra skin can cause the appearance of rashes and rawness where the folds rub. There can also be a risk of infection, which removing this skin helps to eliminate.
A panniculectomy is a different procedure than an abdominoplasty, more commonly known as a tummy tuck. While this surgery removes the extra skin in addition to some of the fat and muscle tissue to flatten the appearance of the abdomen, a panniculectomy only removes the skin folds. Both are typically done by a medical professional specializing in plastic surgery.
The procedure can take several hours to complete, and requires up to a week in the hospital followed by a long period of recovery afterward before the individual's lifestyle can return to normal. The panniculectomy is done by making several incisions in the area near where the skin is to be removed. After pieces of the loose skin are removed, the incision is sewn back together.
The risk of complications after a panniculectomy is high, but these complications are often not severe. An individual who undergoes the procedure will most likely be given a list of instructions to be followed in order to make the recovery process as quick and as painless as possible. There are usually restrictions on how much the individual can lift, along with restrictions on activities and movement. As the surgery is in a location that is difficult to immobilize, antibiotics, pain medications, and other prescriptions are often given. For some individuals, the medical professionals performing the surgery may insert drainage ducts to keep fluid from building up as the incision heals.