People who have experienced (or accomplished) significant weight loss find that they’re left with a pouch of loose, hanging skin in the lower abdomen. This pouch of skin is known as a pannus, which can be a small stubborn area of fat, or a large pouch that extends as far down as the legs. A pannus can weigh over 100 pounds. This troublesome condition should not be left untreated. It can cause back pain, skin rash, infection, and even odors and ulcers as a result of trapped perspiration in the folds of skin. A large pannus can affect a person’s ability to stand or walk.
This condition is treatable with a reconstructive procedure called a panniculectomy, which may be performed alone or in conjunction with an abdominoplasty, which tightens the abdominal muscles in addition to removing excess fat and skin. In some cases, panniculectomy is performed with a hysterectomy or hernia repair to help reduce the recovery times and operating costs of these abdominal procedures.
During a panniculectomy procedure, a horizontal incision is made across the abdomen, and a vertical incision from the bottom of the sternum to the pubic bone. Excess skin is then carefully removed and any existing hernias closed before the remaining skin is pulled together and sutured closed. Drainage tubes may be used to remove excess fat.
The panniculectomy is performed on an outpatient basis under general anesthesia. Surgery may take several hours, depending on the amount of skin to be removed, and patients are typically hospitalized for a few days following surgery.