by Gloria R. Sue (@GloriaSueMD)
With an increasing number of patients undergoing weight loss surgery, there is now increased demand for body contouring procedures to improve the shape and tone of the body. These procedures include breast lifts, upper arm lifts, tummy tucks, buttock lifts, and thigh lifts to remove excess skin and sagging fat.
Patient expectations are important in body contouring surgery. This helps ensure that patients have realistic and appropriate expectations of outcomes following surgery. Having appropriate expectations helps improve patient satisfaction and quality of life.
A recent study by Poulsen et al. in the April 2016 issue of PRS Global Open sought to explore patient expectations in terms of appearance, quality of life, and experience of care in the setting of both bariatric and body contouring surgery. For this review, our focus will be on expectations regarding body contouring surgery. Interviews were conducted on patients in the United States and Canada who previously underwent body contouring surgery. Patients were asked to discuss their expectations with respect to their appearance, quality of life, and experience of care before and after body contouring surgery. These patient responses were then analyzed systematically.
With regards to appearance, most patients were satisfied with how it changed after body contouring surgery. While a few patients had negative unmet expectations (such as feeling that the scars were longer than expected), most patients had positive unmet expectations (such as looking younger than expected). Most patients did not expect fully the extent of the incision following body contouring surgery, and while the majority expressed disappointment when they initially saw their scars, many participants expressed that they were ultimately happy to exchange the excess skin for scars.
With respect to quality of life, most patients were positively surprised to find that they could be more physically active and had more energy than they expected. Patients were more confident and had more self-esteem after body contouring surgery, which for most patients was not an expected finding. Many also reported that their social life improved more than expected. However, many patients did not expect the level of discomfort that they experienced immediately following surgery.
Patients had varying expectations regarding their experience of care. Some patients were happy with the experience but most reported an unmet expectation with their experience with their healthcare providers. Many patients expected to be able to spend adequate time with their surgeon.
One of the most salient findings from this study is that patients undergoing body contouring surgery did not expect to look as good as they did after the surgery. However, patients also did not expect the recovery process after body contouring surgery to be as lengthy or difficult as it actually was. The authors of the study conclude that these two areas warrant additional patient education in order to minimize unmet expectations.