Is An Abdominal Panniculectomy Safe?

Q: I have a prominent ‘apron’ and it’s getting difficult to navigate. I had twin girls last year and would just like to have a lap to hold them in. I am not expecting to be a size six overnite but I just need to get rid of this extra baggage. I have read about the operation ‘abdominal panniculectomy’ and it sounds exactly like what I need. I would like to have that operation but just want to be sure it it safe since I have a young set of twins. What complications have you seen with this operation and how quickly does one recover?

A: The abdominal panniculectomy is essentially an amputation operation of the overhanging apron. It should not be confused with its cousin, an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck. While they are seemingly similar procedures as they do recontour the abdominal wall, how it is done and what the final result looks like is different. The goal of a panniculectomy is to get rid of the overhang, not to create a slim waist or flat stomach. That simply is not possible given the large anatomy of the abdominal pannus. Getting rid of the pannus will improve back and knee pain as well as skin hygiene underneath the skin flap. In most panniculectomies, it is best to eliminate the belly button (umbilicus) so there is less potential for wound healing problems after surgery.

The most common complications after abdominal panniculectomies are fluid collections (seromas) and wound healing problems of the incision. They are so common it is fair to say that 100% of panniculectomy patients will experience them. Most of them they don’t require further surgery to solve but sometimes they do. Major medical problems, such as blood clots, pneumonia or heart problems, are not common. But most panniculectomy patients are often overweight and may have other accompanying medical problems. This is why a good medical work-up before surgery with approved clearance by your doctor is very important.

It is best to think of complete recovery after a panniculectomy as taking up to four to six weeks.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana