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Case Report: Surgical Removal Of A Muffin Top

"Muffin Top" Excision

At ten months of age I had a life-threatening condition that required risky abdominal surgery. The pediatric surgeon had to open my belly from end to end, right above my umbilicus. I lost most of my colon in the process, but the only apparent long term effect was an impressive seven-inch scar. After forty years of living, the scar had become “stuck,” resulting in a preponderance of skin slowly increasing its droop over the old gash. Basically, I had a non-clothing-induced “muffin top” and no amount of diet and exercise would improve it.

So off I went to the plastic surgeon, knowing that he couldn’t erase the scar but could improve the contours of my abdomen. In effect, I could retain my current appearance (that of a woman who had a permanent belly indentation caused by a lifelong history of wearing high-waisted pants that were two sizes too small) or I could opt for surgery and embody the look of an athlete who had picked a fight with Zorro. The choice was clear. I would settle for the long slice on a thin belly.

The problem with being a doctor under the knife is that you know exactly what the other guy is doing. This procedure was completed under local anesthesia, and so I was chattering away with my surgeon the entire time. Although it took us at least half an hour to numb the area, I could still feel every tug and pull, hear the click of forceps, and the crunch of clamps. It was a little unnerving to have one’s abdominal flesh wide open to the world – something I’d only expected of my patients previously. So my surgeon snapped a photo for my blog (see above) though I opted out of looking at the image in the middle of the procedure. I have my limits.

So why am I sharing this with you, dear readers? Well, I do have a few tidbits of advice for anyone who is planning to undergo a substantial cosmetic surgery under local anesthesia. I hope these are helpful:

1. Wear a comfortable pair of undies. The unisex/unisize disposable options available at the surgical suite do provide comic relief – if you think you’ll be needing that. The pair that I received were the color and texture of surgical booties and about the right size for a guy in the WWE.

2. Try not to kick the surgical assistant(s) during the numbing portion of the procedure (or during any other portion come to think of it). Let’s face it, lidocaine hurts. Each injection feels like a bee sting, and if you’ve got a lot of surface area to cover, you’re going to be spending the first half hour (or more) squeezing something with great vigor. Which leads me to my next tip:

3. Find something firm to grip during the procedure. I found the surgical table arms to be nicely padded and an adequate thickness for death grips. I did wonder if I should have brought one of those “stress balls” with me, or perhaps a pair of hand grip strengtheners from a local gym (see image to the left).

4. Be prepared to make small talk with your surgeon for an hour or more. Preparing some “talking points” in advance could have made my patter more amusing, I suppose. But the art of distraction is a valuable asset in wide-awake surgeries. Your nervousness may actually make you a little extra charming, so don’t worry about what you say. Just do what it takes to keep your mind off the situation.

5. Don’t put your hands in the sterile surgical field. At certain times during the procedure your surgeon is likely to happen upon a spot that isn’t fully numb. You will probably respond with a squeal (or kick) and a loud “Ow!” The surgeon will then ask you what you are feeling and you must resist the urge to show him/her by pointing at it. Many an abdominal wound has been accidentally poked by well meaning patient fingers. Be careful! Just say you feel something sharp and the surgeon will know where it hurts… because he/she just did something to cause the reaction!

6.  Get detailed post-op wound care instructions. You’ll probably exit the surgical suite with a lot of gauze and tape all over you, and it will occur to you later on that you haven’t the faintest idea when it’s safe to remove it. Can it get wet? Should you remove the steri strips? When do the stitches come out? When should you begin to use silicon scar gel? Do you need neosporin? Make sure you ask these questions before you’re released back into the wild.

7. Ask about movement restrictions and exercise precautions. You may be surprised by how restricted your movement should be in the first two weeks after surgery. I guessed that back flips would be counter-productive in my case, but didn’t realize that I couldn’t “walk fast” or twist at the waist. Make sure you understand what you can and can’t do to optimize your healing.

8. Take some pain medicine at least an hour before the local anesthetics are due to wear off. This was my biggest mistake. I asked if the wound would be painful later on and my surgeon denied any knowledge of potential post-op pain. So, six hours later when I felt as if someone had attacked my belly with a blow torch, I found some comfort in a maximum dose of ibuprofen and a vodka martini (and for those who know me well – yeah, I couldn’t finish the martini because it tasted gross).

9. Keep the scar protected and moist. Healing skin loves to be moist, especially early on. Ask your surgeon how best to accomplish that.

10. Get the stitches out on time. Don’t leave them in too long or you will be at risk for a larger or thicker scar. Disolvable stitches are convenient, but they do cause more inflammation which can lead to larger or more robust scar formation.

11. Tell your surgeon that you love the results (if they’re good!!) He/she will really appreciate the feedback.

I’m very pleased to report that my abdominal recontouring was a success, and I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes if you’ve got one coming up. Now I must strive to keep a new muffin top from growing by eating a healthy, calorie controlled diet (excluding real muffins!?) and exercising regularly. 😉

Are People Undergoing Body Contouring Following Bariatric Surgery?

A study on this topic was presented at the recent American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) annual conference in Denver.   The article is also in the October issue of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal (reference #2 below).

The article notes that more than 220,000 bariatric procedures are done annually in the United States.  This number (IMHO) is likely to increase as these procedures have become an major tool in the treatment of obesity which now affects a third of adults in this country.

Massive weight loss, regardless of whether by bariatric procedure or by diet/exercise, will often leave the individual with excess skin.  This excess skin can be both a cosmetic and functional issue for the individual.

Jason Spector, MD and colleagues designed their study to “explore demographic features and patient education regarding body contouring procedures in the bariatric surgery population.”

Their study consisted of Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

Don’t Believe The Hype About SmartLipo, A Laser Liposuction Procedure

It frequently amazes me how patients can be wowed by technology and advertising hype. The attraction of newer technology in particular helps part many people from their money at times. The SmartLipo system is one of the laser-assisted liposuction systems on the market. I have blogged on it before having used it quite a bit a few years ago.

The system is being marketed with phrases like “almost anyone can be a good candidate for SmartLipo.” That is simply BS.

I saw an attractive young woman in the office who had had Smartlipo on her lower back. It looked like the Geiko Gecko had done it. Her smooth contour had been made irregular and discolored despite the fact that the surgery had happened quite a while prior. Her ribs had been a bit exposed by the loss of some of the fat that would normally have laid over them. Early lipo results do change, but this wasn’t something that was going to improve over time. I have seen worse but this was so unnecessary.

SmartLipo Led to a Dent

Why did this happen? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Truth in Cosmetic Surgery*

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