American Society of Plastic Surgeons
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Why some plastic surgeons are now offering weight loss medications

plastic surgeons are now offering weight loss medications

You might raise an eyebrow at the thought of your plastic surgeon prescribing semaglutide weight loss medications like Ozempic, especially if they're one of the go-to experts for liposuction in your area. It does sound a bit counterintuitive at first. Yet, when you look closer, the picture becomes clearer.

Here's why – being significantly overweight can disqualify a person from getting plastic surgery.

"The reality is there are so many people that I say 'no' to that need a mommy makeover, but their BMI is high," said ASPS Member Surgeon Michael Hakimi, MD, FACS.

Obesity can increase the likelihood of adverse reactions to anesthesia, infections, slower wound healing and complications such as blood clots or pulmonary issues. In fact, 40 percent of Americans are obese.

"In the past, I used to tell them, 'Listen, you have to come back when you lose the weight,'" said Dr. Hakimi. "Nowadays, I tell them that they need to lose weight, but I also have something to offer them to help them lose the weight."

Weight loss medications

Dr. Hakimi is among many plastic surgeons prescribing semaglutides. The medication was initially developed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but has gained widespread attention for weight loss.

Semaglutides like Ozempic belong to a class of drugs known as GLP-1 receptor agonists, which mimic the action of the glucagon-like peptide-1 hormone in the body. This hormone is involved in regulating blood sugar levels and decreases appetite. When used for weight loss, semaglutides slow down how quickly food is digested, which makes a person feel fuller longer after eating, reducing overall appetite and calorie intake.

Patients can achieve significant weight loss when the medication is used alongside lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise. Dr. Hakimi oversees his patients' weight loss journey on a semaglutide medication and said it helps them become better candidates for the procedure that they want to get in the future.

"My hope is that these patients that are coming for a tummy tuck that I would have said 'no' to in the past, now I help them lose the weight," said Dr. Hakimi. "They might come back next year for a tummy tuck when their BMI is normal."

Achieving better, safer outcomes

Dr. Hakimi said being able to offer his obese patients weight loss medication also helps keep them in his practice and ensures they achieve better outcomes and long-term healthy lifestyles. He can oversee patients' journeys to healthier weights and then perform surgery under safer conditions, which can also lead to better surgical outcomes.

"They are happy that they're losing the weight, they feel like they have more control over their lives, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to operate on more patients when their BMI is in a safe range," said Dr. Hakimi.

Doing it right with semaglutides

ASPS Member Surgeon Smita Ramanadham, MD, said she has noticed an increase in plastic surgeons who offer weight loss medications. She does not prescribe semaglutides in her practice but might be open to it in the future.

"If it can help that patient get within their normal healthy range for BMI so that they have better outcomes for surgery, I think it all makes sense as part of the overall services that we offer," said Dr. Ramanadham.

However, Dr. Ramanadham said the administration of weight loss medications needs to be overseen by a medical provider who evaluates the patient first and monitors them during their weight loss journey.

"As long as it's done under the right parameters and it's done safely, then I think it can be done well," said Dr. Ramanadham.

What you should know about semaglutides

If you're considering getting semaglutide medications from your plastic surgeon for weight loss, there are several important factors to keep in mind.

Getting a medical evaluation

Ensure you get a thorough medical evaluation. Semaglutides affect glucose metabolism, so your plastic surgeon must assess your overall health, medical history and potential adverse effects and risk factors.

Understanding the purpose

Recognize that semaglutides are mostly used to manage type 2 diabetes and obesity. It should be considered part of a comprehensive weight management plan that includes diet, exercise and behavioral changes, not as a standalone quick fix.

Knowing the side effects

Be aware of potential side effects. Common ones include gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation. There are also rarer, more severe risks like pancreatitis, gallbladder disease and the risk of thyroid tumors, including cancer.

Being aware of the price

Understand the costs involved. Semaglutides can be expensive, and insurance coverage varies. Some plans may not cover semaglutides if used solely for weight loss, so discuss payment and insurance options with your provider.

Using semaglutides on your plastic surgery journey

If you think semaglutides might be right for you to achieve a healthier BMI before your cosmetic procedure, ensure that your plastic surgeon understands the medication and its use in weight management. They should be well-informed about the latest research, guidelines and clinical experience with the medication.

The thought of your liposuction surgeon doubling as your weight loss medication prescriber might initially have you raising an eyebrow, but it's a combination that is making more sense these days. With obesity creating an obstacle for those dreaming of plastic surgery, some plastic surgeons are no longer turning people away, but handing them a lifeline to come back healthier.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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