Post-bariatric surgery body contouring in the NHS: a survey of UK bariatric surgeons

J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2012 Apr;65(4):426-32. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2011.09.047. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


Background: Following massive weight loss, patients are left with folds of redundant skin that may cause physical and psychological problems. These problems can be addressed through body contouring procedures such as abdominoplasty and the thigh lift. Despite an exponential rise in the number of bariatric surgery procedures performed in the United Kingdom, there are no national guidelines on the provision of body contouring procedures after massive weight loss. We conducted a survey of UK Bariatric Surgeons to determine the pre-operative counselling that patients receive on this issue, their opinions towards post-bariatric surgery body contouring and current referral patterns to Plastic Surgery. By exploring the relationship between Bariatric and Plastic Surgery, we aimed to identify how the comprehensive treatment of patients undergoing bariatric surgery could be improved.

Method: A questionnaire was sent to 86 surgeon members of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society. Questionnaires were analysed from the 61/86 respondents (71% response rate).

Results: 92% of the responding surgeons feel that patients face functional problems relating to skin redundancy after massive weight loss, and a high percentage of patients complain about this problem. However, only 66% of surgeons routinely counsel patients about these problems before they undergo bariatric surgery. 96% of respondents feel that body contouring for these patients should be funded on the NHS in selected cases. However, it is difficult for patients to access consultation with a Plastic Surgeon and there are no explicit guidelines on the criteria that patients must fulfil to undergo body contouring surgery on the NHS. At present, these criteria are locally determined and represent a postcode lottery.

Conclusion: The NICE guidelines on obesity recommend that patients undergoing bariatric surgery should have information on, or access to plastic surgery where appropriate, but this standard is not being achieved. National guidelines on post-bariatric body contouring surgery are needed to improve the comprehensive treatment of these patients. The clinical and cost effectiveness of bariatric surgery has been well established. Further studies focussing on the outcome of body contouring after massive weight loss could support this becoming and integral part of the bariatric surgery pathway.

MeSH terms

  • Bariatric Surgery*
  • Counseling
  • Data Collection
  • Dermatologic Surgical Procedures
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • State Medicine
  • Surgery, Plastic
  • United Kingdom