Massive weight loss, defined as loss of 50 percent of excess weight, often results in laxity and redundancy of the abdominal skin, causing disabling rashes, pain, physical limitation, back strain, and cosmetic deformity. The heavier the panniculus, the more marked the symptoms. Panniculectomy can treat these symptoms, but the approach must be customized because of complex medical and surgical histories related to obesity and the size of the panniculus. The aim of this study was to analyze a series of massive panniculectomies greater than 10 pounds following massive weight loss and to investigate the outcomes achieved.
All patients undergoing massive abdominal panniculectomy by a single plastic surgeon at an academic hospital from October of 2000 to December of 2003 were retrospectively studied. Seven men and 17 women qualified: one woman had a two-stage abdominal panniculectomy, each time with greater than 10-pound abdominal skin resections. All but one patient had gastric bypass. Average weight loss was 171 pounds, with an average maximum body mass index of 70.5 and a minimum body mass index of 43.7 (morbid obesity is defined as a body mass index greater than 40). Patient presentation was regularly complicated by abdominal scars. Abdominal panniculectomy was performed with conservative undermining. Hernias were repaired at the time of surgery. Routine prophylaxis against thromboembolism was performed.
Average abdominal skin resection was 16.1 pounds, ranging from 10.3 to 49 pounds. Hernia repair was necessary in 13 patients. Additional surgery performed at the time of panniculectomy included skin reduction surgery of the back (40 percent), chest (32 percent), inner thigh (28 percent), and arm (28 percent). Blood transfusion was necessary in five of the cases (20 percent). Length of stay averaged 3 days. Complications included wounds requiring debridement, dressings, vacuum-assisted closure therapy and/or delayed primary closure (20 percent), and seroma requiring drain replacement or dressings (28 percent). Uncomplicated healing occurred in 44 percent of cases.
Massive abdominal panniculectomy is challenging to plan, execute, and manage after surgery. The authors present their approach to these patients, with acceptable results.