INTRODUCTION: Bariatric surgery has emerged as an effective method of combating the morbid obesity epidemic. However, the massive weight loss that follows may result in contour changes that can affect body image and quality of life. Our study examines the effects and consequences of bariatric surgery and subsequent body contouring on body image and quality of life. METHODS: Patients were prospectively followed up through their experience with bariatric surgery and subsequent body contouring surgery. Using 2 validated survey instruments, the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire and the Short Form 36 (SF-36), patients completed questionnaires preoperatively and at 6, 12, and 24 months postoperatively. Mean scores were determined by repeated measures analyses of variance F tests. RESULTS: One hundred seventy-five patients were surveyed before bariatric surgery, with noted declines in survey completion at 6, 12, and 24 months. Appearance Evaluation scores improved significantly at all intervals (P = 0.0033), as did Body Area Satisfaction Scale and Appearance Orientation scores (P = 0.0079 and P = 0.044, respectively). While Overweight Preoccupation and Self-Classified Weight scores decreased over time, only the latter was significant (P < 0.0001). The composite SF-36 score for patients awaiting bariatric surgery (54.1%) with postoperative scores at 6 (67.6%,), 12 (at 74.0%), and 24 (76.7%) months being significantly higher (P < 0.0001).The body contouring group consisted of 41 patients who primarily had lower body procedures, with 31 patients surveyed at 6 months and 27 patients at 12 months. For this cohort, Appearance Evaluation and Body Area Satisfaction Scale scores both improved significantly (P = 0.0001 and P = 0.0005, respectively) whereas Appearance Orientation scores declined significantly (P = 0.0055). Both Overweight Preoccupation and Self-Classified Weight scores decreased with only the latter being statistically significant (P = 0.0286). Postoperative SF-36 scores at 6 (72.9%) and 12 (64.5%) months were no different than patients awaiting body contouring (71.3%). CONCLUSIONS: Using 2 validated survey instruments, we show that patients undergoing bariatric surgery have improvements in body image and quality of life. Subsequent postbariatric body contouring surgery results in further improvements in body image. Our findings provide measurable evidence for the value of body contouring after significant weight loss, which may favor greater insurance coverage for this patient population.
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