According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, body contouring “helps with skin removal after major weight loss. This surgery improves the shape and tone of your underlying tissue that supports fat and skin and removes excess sagging fat and skin.” However, there is more than one type of ‘body contouring’ on the market right now, including some that are non-surgical and non-invasive. This means that many more practitioners than just doctors are venturing into the world of offering solutions for body fat.
The Complications of Body Contouring
Some of these alternatives are likely prompted by the complications that became all too common in the earlier days of body contouring. In 2013 an article was published by the Journal of the American of Plastic Surgeons which analyzed these in almost 1800 surgery patients over a 5-year span. The findings indicated:
Minor wound complications occurred in 114 individual (6.3 percent), 122 patients (6.8 percent) suffered a major surgical morbidity, and 40 (2.2 percent) experienced a medical complication. Multiple comorbidities [including]… presence of bleeding disorder, preoperative albumin level and malnutrition were associated with an increased odds of minor wound complications. Inpatient procedures and functional status were associated with increased odds of major surgical morbidity.
[In conclusion] this study characterizes the 30-day morbidity rates in patients undergoing body contouring procedures… highlighting the critical importance of careful preoperative patient evaluation and underscoring the need for detailed preoperative counseling and risk stratification.
Non-Surgical Body Sculpting Alternatives
Since 2013 the technology and methods for body contouring and fat removal have greatly expanded. There are clinics that lump all of these alternatives into one broad category, to give their patients as many alternatives as possible. One clinic in Missouri even lists 5 different body contouring alternatives, defining the term as referring to “the use of various procedures to alter the shape of one or more areas of the body. Also called body shaping or body sculpting, it can involve surgical procedures or nonsurgical treatments. With surgical body contouring, the idea is to remove excess tissue, sculpt the underlying structures, and create the desired aesthetic appearance. Technologies commonly employed in nonsurgical body contouring include the following:
- Laser Therapy: A skilled practitioner can use a laser to smooth away unwanted fat deposits in the face, neck, arms, belly, back, buttocks, hips and thighs. How does it work? The laser’s energy liquefies the fat cells, destroying them. Depending on the specific treatment, the ruined fat cells might be suctioned away or left for the body to flush away on its own.
- Cryolipolysis: Sometimes dubbed fat freezing, cryolipolysis often works well for people who are close to their desired size who just want to tweak a few problem areas. Procedures that employ this technology use extreme cold to reduce localized fat deposits that reside just beneath the skin’s surface. The targeted cold triggers cell death of subcutaneous fat tissue, reshaping the body’s contours without damaging the overlying skin.
- Radiofrequency Energy: Lasers and freezing cold aren’t the only modalities available that can eliminate fat and cellulite without surgery. Some treatments utilize radiofrequency technology to zap deposits of fat cells on the abdomen, hips, thighs, and buttocks.
- Ultrasound Waves: Ultrasonic body contouring procedures target subcutaneous fat cells with sound waves at frequencies too high for the human ear to detect. These waves cause the cells to vibrate, shattering them into materials that can be disposed of naturally by the body.
Body Sculpting Surgical Processes
For those practicing body lift surgical procedures, the operations work as follows. Most frequently used after weight loss surgery, it is also sometimes used in conjunction with liposuction. According to WebMD, “it is long-lasting if you keep your weight stable.” A surgeon will make a cut along the abdomen, hips, thighs, arms, or neck, removing the excess skin. In many cases peoples’ buttocks are also augmented because the weight loss flattens them.
The procedure (or procedures) include anesthesia, which can be local or general depending on the extent of the surgery and your comfort. The incision (or incisions) that follow may be extensive depending on the goals of the person. The surgery is frequently done in stages, that may take several years and repeated surgeries, depending on the specific lifts involved and what enhancements are necessary to achieve the patient’s goals. Wound treatment following each surgery is critical and the patient may experience an extended period of down time with the opportunity for complications, as noted above. Good doctor/patient teams can dramatically reduce those risks.
Learning More About Body Sculpting Alternatives
The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, in recognizing that it is less expensive and safer for patients looking to lose weight and firm their bodies to use non-invasive techniques whenever feasible, has begun to heavily promote other options other than traditional surgeries. While this may detract from the business that some plastic surgeons see, there is room for both in the marketplace and it is unlikely that the need for surgery will be completely replaced. In fact, in cases where there is dramatic body changes, significant loose and/or sagging of skin, or a patient is trying to enhance, rather than simply reduce an area surgery, is still the best option.
New technologies and procedures are emerging all the time that can change the way our industry approaches fat loss and post-fat loss body shaping. Today the options are fairly extensive and provide great results. Learning more about those can help your become a trusted resource for people seeking help with their appearances. SCALE 2019 Music City will be a great place to learn, practice, and get a good look into the ever-growing world for cosmetic enhancements and weight loss that doctors, nurses, and aestheticians have available.