BMI as a Qualifier for a Plastic Surgery Consultation
August 29, 2023
So you want to come in for a consultation, but you’re not sure if you’re a candidate for surgery. Lots of considerations must be made before you embark on this life-changing experience, so if you want some guidance on this first step, you’ve come to the right place…
Here at The Plastic Surgery Clinic, there are a few questions we like to ask prior to booking you in for an appointment. Think of it as your profile with us; we get to know you a little better so we can personalize your experience. We’ve recently streamlined our process to help determine if you qualify for a cosmetic procedure, so if you’re interested in seeing one of our lovely surgeons, just fill in our intake form and one of our coordinators will reach out to you!
Being informed prior to commencing your plastic surgery journey is still a good idea. So while you wait to hear back from us, here’s what you can expect.
About Your Consultation Intake Process
Your intake form will include questions about your health history, the medications you take, a list of prior surgeries, and any previous cosmetic operations you’ve had, amongst others. This is just our way of getting a brief preview into your overall health in order to best care for you.
After all, there are certain stipulations set in place when it comes to plastic surgery and we like to give patients a good idea of what to anticipate during consultations. Our intake process also employs our surgeons with an informative synopsis so they can cater your appointment to best suit your individual needs.
One particular qualification patients sometimes have questions about is our Body Mass Index (BMI) guidelines. In order to be considered for a consultation, patients must be at a BMI of 30 or lower.
Why BMI is a Consideration for Plastic Surgery
Safety is paramount at The Plastic Surgery Clinic, which is why we advise that patients be at or below a 30 BMI before coming in for cosmetic surgery. A team of our medical professionals including esteemed plastic surgeons and anesthetists came together to set these guidelines to ensure patient health and well-being.
From a cosmetic perspective, we want patients to be at or around their goal weight prior to undergoing surgery because significant weight fluctuations will impact your post-operative results. Like most rules in life, there are exceptions. For patients who have already experienced a weight loss of over 80 lbs, we can book a consultation if BMI ranges between the 30-35 mark.
We get some concerns from patients about whether or not BMI is an accurate measure of patient health. It’s a valid concern because people’s health varies and it’s a complex thing that is sometimes hard to quantify.
When we approach the matter from a medical context, it is important to have a unit of measurement by which to qualify patients, however, and BMI has been in the running for a long time. Like most things that are over a century old, it’s changed over the years, but it’s a solid option as far as measures of health go.
Today, the World Health Organization uses BMI as just one of many metrics of health. When it was finally standardized, plenty of studies were conducted to determine the efficacy of BMI.
BMI is Imperfect, But it’s Still Important
So what does the science say? What’s the big deal with BMI? For starters, studies have shown that there are comorbidities that can be found in patients with high BMIs. This is just a fancy way of saying that nothing exists in a vacuum when it comes to healthcare. The research shows that when patients have high BMI, they may also experience other health concerns such as diabetes, cardiovascular issues, respiratory issues, and the likes.
This isn’t to say that a high BMI leads to health issues, or vice versa. In science, we don’t always know which came first—the proverbial chicken, or the egg—so we settle on agreeing that matters are correlated to one another, and not necessarily caused by each other. The fact remains that patients with higher BMIs can be more at-risk because of these other underlying health concerns.
Another major concern that arises when patients have a high BMI is in regards to the use of general anesthesia. Various studies have shown that the risks of GA increase as patient BMI increases. This is linked to my earlier point regarding concurrent health conditions.
Patients with high BMIs have been shown to experience respiratory difficulties under anesthesia which can be worsened by the position patients rest in during surgery (i.e., laying on your back) as well as the components of the anesthesia itself. Patients with increased BMIs are also at risk of arrhythmias, which is when your heart skips a beat—and not in a good way.
In terms of recovery, certain studies have found a high BMI to be correlated to higher instances of postoperative complications. Things like seromas, risks of infection, and delayed wound healing may arise.
While we recognize that BMI is an imperfect measure in many circumstances, it is relevant when applied to safety protocols for elective surgery. Surgery can be risky, and our team’s job is to minimize those risks as much as possible. We would never want the costs of an operation to outweigh the benefits.
Ultimately, our goal is not to make assumptions about people’s health, but to use the quantitative measures available to us to provide the best surgical outcomes in the absolute safest manner possible.