Seroma Development following Body Contouring Surgery for Massive Weight Loss: Patient Risk Factors and Treatment Strategies

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The most common complications following body contouring surgery for massive weight loss include delayed wound healing and seroma. The authors investigated risk factors for seroma in this patient population and describe treatment strategies.


A retrospective review of 222 patients who underwent body contouring surgery for massive weight loss from March of 1997 to December of 2005 was performed. Risk factors assessed included age, sex, medical conditions, tobacco use, body mass index, weight of skin excised, and surgery performed.


Within this group, there were 187 women and 35 men, with a mean age of 42 years. Weight loss was achieved by open (n = 167) or laparoscopic (n = 35) gastric bypass surgery, or diet (n = 20). Average body mass index at contouring was 33, ranging from 20 to 69. Surgical areas addressed alone or in combination included the abdomen (n = 205), thigh (n = 71), arm (n = 69), back (n = 59), and chest (n = 57). Average weight of skin excised at surgery was 9.6 lb, ranging up to 49 lb. Seroma occurred in 31 patients, placing the risk at 14 percent in this series. Seroma risk in abdominal panniculectomy was 12 percent; in circumferential belt lipectomy, the risk was 18 percent; and in thigh lift, the risk was 4 percent. On multivariate statistical analysis, the major risk factor for seroma formation was weight of skin excised, with seroma risk increasing 9 percent for each additional pound of skin excised.


The most important risk factor for seroma is weight of skin excised at the time of surgery. Treatment strategies include aspiration, drain placement, sclerosis, and surgery.

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