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Many people who have lost a significant amount of weight find that they are left with excess hanging skin. One area where this excess skin is common is in the pannus, also known as the abdominal apron. This area refers to the excess fat and skin located in the lower abdomen, which often hangs just below the belt line. The pannus can cause difficulties with back pain and hygiene, making day-to-day tasks difficult as it hangs in the way. A type of abdominoplasty procedure known as panniculectomy may be appropriate for those with excess skin and fat in the pannus.

Are You a Candidate?

Good candidates for panniculectomy are those who have lost a significant amount of weight and have noticed the presence of excess skin and fat which hangs below their belt-line. Ideal candidates are those whose weight has remained stable for the past 6 months and who are in good overall health. If you have recently had gastric bypass surgery or adjustable gastric banding surgery, then you are advised to wait for at least one year before undergoing panniculectomy to ensure that your body weight has stabilized and that any health issues arising from obesity, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are under control.

The Procedure: How its Done

Although both the tummy tuck and the panniculectomy each target the abdominal region of the body, they are two fundamentally different procedures. While an abdominoplasty removes excess fat and skin and tightens the abdominal muscles, a panniculectomy more specifically targets the area of excess tissue located underneath the belly button.

This surgical procedure requires 3 to 5 hours, and is performed with general anesthesia. The surgeon creates a horizontal incision running from hip to hip, along with a vertical incision which runs downward from this line to the pubic region. While extensive, these incisions allow the surgeon free access to the underlying tissues of the lower abdomen. Through this incision, excess overhanging fat and skin are surgically removed. When much of the excess tissue is fat rather than skin, lipoplasty may be used in addition to traditional surgical techniques. The remaining tissues are smoothed into aesthetically pleasing contours. Then, the remaining skin is sutured together along the incisions.

A panniculectomy can be performed as a stand-alone procedure or combined with a traditional tummy tuck, body contouring, or other procedures such as a thigh lift.

Important Safety Information

Panniculectomy surgery is considered to be major abdominal surgery, and as such does carry a risk of complications. Risks that can arise include reactions to the general anesthesia, infection, bleeding, fluid collection, and blood clots. Scars are also likely, although the positioning of the incisions means that resulting scars are usually covered by clothing.

Recovery Time

Most panniculectomy patients spend at least one night in the hospital recovering. After returning home, it can take several months for the area to heal completely. During the initial recovery phase, lasting several weeks, you may experience swelling, bruising, and discomfort. Patients are advised to wear an elastic compression garment which supports the tissues as they heal. Avoid putting any pressure on the area, which means restricting movement, especially strenuous exercise, for several weeks following the surgical procedure. Many panniculectomy recovery patients are back to work within about 3 weeks of the surgery.

Panniculectomy Cost: Will it be Covered by Insurance?

The cost of panniculectomy usually ranges from about $8,000 to $12,000 which is more than the cost of tummy tuck surgery. This figure includes the surgeon’s fee, the facility fee, and the anesthesia fee. The cost can vary depending on the amount of excess tissue present, whether the procedure is being combined with other surgical procedures, and other factors. Although panniculectomy is considered cosmetic surgery, in some cases health insurance will cover this procedure, if it has been deemed medically necessary, such as when the pannus is causing back problems or other health issues.