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Panniculectomy for Excess Abdominal Skin

A panniculectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the pannus or apron of the stomach – the hanging skin and tissue that many patients develop after losing a significant amount of weight – typically after a pregnancy or bariatric surgery. This part of the anatomy can be difficult to manage without surgical removal.

A panniculectomy is often performed for medical reasons. For many, this excess skin causes complications, including rashes and sores and can be particularly difficult to clean properly. As a result, its removal may be covered by insurance. And while the panniculectomy is not considered a cosmetic procedure, there are certainly cosmetic benefits to it. However, it is important for you to verify your benefits by calling your insurance company as well as speaking to the practice at which you wish to have surgery.

How A Panniculectomy Works

During surgery, you will be under general anesthesia and an incision will be made from one hip bone to the other. The excess skin and tissue will be cut away and the remaining skin will be sutured back together. Your surgeon will endeavor to make the incision across a natural fold in the abdomen or along a bikini line to make the scarring less obvious after surgery. Much like the scar from a C-section or open surgical procedure, it will take time to lighten and disappear. The time it takes for the scar to go away largely depends on your healing patterns. Depending on the location of the excess skin and tissue, your belly button may be repositioned, and this possibility will be discussed during consultation with your surgeon.

Risks of Panniculectomy

It is important to remember that a panniculectomy remains major surgery with all of the risks inherent of both a surgical procedure and being placed under general anesthesia. Therefore, much like other surgeries, your surgeon will do a preoperative work up to ensure you are a good candidate for the procedure. Risks will be discussed during consultation, but may include less than desired cosmetic results, infection, blood loss, pain and in very rare cases, death.

A panniculectomy should not be considered until you have stabilized at your normal weight. For pregnancy this means the final pregnancy, for bariatric surgery this means waiting at least until you reach a weight you can maintain long term. Stretching of the abdominal skin after a panniculectomy can cause the condition to recur and will reverse some of its benefits, maybe even requiring an additional procedure.

Differences Between a Panniculectomy and an Abdominoplasty

A panniculectomy is different from an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck because it does not involve the tightening of the muscles for cosmetic purposes. A tummy tuck is rarely, if ever, covered by a standard health insurance policy. However, some cosmetic surgeons will perform an abdominoplasty alongside a panniculectomy.

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