May 20, 2004 at 9:58 PM CDT - Updated June 27 at 8:33 AM
Total Body Lift
This year, more than 140,000 people will have gastric bypass surgery to lose weight. But with the massive weight loss comes an often unexpected and unwelcome change.
Maria Beal has been heavy for as long as she can remember. "I was a pretty confident 340 pound woman", says Beal.
But Maria knew she had to lose weight for her health, so she had gastric bypass surgery. She says: "By August, I was down 65 to 70 pounds. By October, I was down 100, 105." But with the weight loss came another problem -- excess skin. And more than the cosmetic, it brings medical problems.
"Infections that can be troublesome to dangerous," says Dennis Hurwitz, M.D., a plastic surgeon at The Hurwitz Center for Plastic Surgery in Pittsburgh. "They lead to cellulitis and abscess."
Typically patients undergo multiple surgeries to remove all the skin, but Dr. Hurwitz performs a procedure he calls "a total body lift." "In our fast-paced life today, with people wanting to get back to work and avoiding long post-operative convalescence, repeatedly going to surgery, this is working for them," he tells Ivanhoe.
He cuts around the hips and buttocks and removes the excess skin then does the same around the back and below the arms. A new study found this large operation is no more risky than several small ones -- just maybe a little more painful.
"There was not a spot on me that didn't hurt," Maria says. Her husband, Greg, says, "When you see the final picture, and you see the results that have become from all this, she will tell you herself that it is worth it."
Dr. Hurwitz points out the patient must be in good general health and must not be a smoker in order to undergo total body lift. Also, people who are still massively obese are not good candidates. He says the eight- to 10-hour procedure costs between $25,000 and $40,000 in surgeons fees and is generally not covered by insurance.