A growing number of medical experts are backing proposals to use body fat percentage as an indicator of obesity rather than the traditional body mass index or BMI. Once it becomes a “mainstream standard,” the criteria used to filter out “bad candidates” from “good “candidates” in plastic surgery will likely also change.
One recent study titled, “Percentage Body Fat as a Risk Factor for Surgical Complications,” has suggested that obese patients—based on body fat ratio—are at higher risk of developing complications following surgery.
The study involved 438 patients aged between 18 and 64 who had elective surgery (e.g., general, aesthetic, and orthopedic) whose body fat percentage was measured using a technique called bioelectrical impedance analysis.
Obese patients were identified as those having body fat levels greater or equal to 31 percent in women, while 25 percent in men. Fifty-two individuals meanwhile had experienced complications.
Patients who fell under the category of obese experienced higher rate of complications after their surgery compared to those considered as non-obese (14.1 versus 6.8 percent). However, there was no significant difference in terms of post-op risk when BMI was instead used to identify obese individuals (14.9 versus 10.2 percent).
While the study did not divulge the reason behind the higher complication rate experienced by obese patients, separate studies have shed some light to issue. For instance, some experts believe that the high levels of deeper visceral fat—which is linked to obesity—prevent it to efficiently access the blood supply where the nutrient-rich blood flows.
Another study involving breast reduction patients who were 200 pounds overweight has shown that they faced a higher risk of delayed recovery and healing problems (e.g., infection and skin necrosis) than normal-weight patients.
Aside from higher risk of complications after surgery, patients with high body fat percentage may not enjoy predictable results. For instance, liposuction—wherein the excess superficial fat sitting just underneath the skin is suctioned out—is ineffective in removing the deeper visceral fat that covers the abdominal organs.
In fact, the consensus among medical experts is that any attempt to surgically remove the deeper visceral fat is downright risky. Thus anyone who wants to shed the extra pounds has to follow healthier lifestyle choices—or as a last resort—to have a bariatric surgery.
And because people with a high body fat ratio are also at risk of significant weight fluctuations, any attempt to surgically contour the body will only provide short-lived results. While theoretically most procedures can be repeated more than twice, it will only lead to higher risk of skin asymmetry and scarring.