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Surgical weight loss patients show dermatologic concerns after surgery

Recovering from bariatric surgery can be difficult. In addition to the lifestyle and behavioral modifications needed for success after their procedure, patients are also confronted with rapidly changing bodies. During this process, patients may experience a number of dermatologic challenges, which can have a significant impact on their quality of life.

In a new study, co-authored by Penn State College of Medicine Doctor of Public Health students Eiman Khesroh and Melissa Butt, and Master of Public Health student Jocelyn Simmers, a team of interdisciplinary researchers examined the prevalence and impact that skin disturbances have on post-bariatric patients.

The study, led by Butt and Dr. Andrea Rigby at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Surgical Weight Loss Clinic, analyzed 103 adult, bariatric surgery patients, who had surgery less than four years ago and lost an average of 103.9 pounds.

During the fall of 2020, patients completed skin health questionnaires and dermatology quality of life assessments. Butt examined patients’ answers and found relatively high levels of skin disturbances that affected their quality of life. Butt also mentored Khesroh and Simmers in conducting a cross-sectional survey study in a clinical setting.

The researchers found that patients with loose (54.2%) and irritated (43.7%) skin expressed that these conditions have a moderate to severe impact on their quality of life. Overall, the results showed that dermatologic concerns had a moderate impact on a patient’s quality of life regardless of their total weight loss or the time that elapsed since their procedure. Despite these findings, only 5.8% of patients were referred to post-surgical dermatologic care.

“The interdisciplinary collaboration between surgeons, a psychologist, dermatologists and public health students allowed us to address a significant gap in post-bariatric care and encourage providers to be more cognizant of these challenges for patients,” said Butt. “It was a pleasure to be able to bridge the gaps between surgical weight loss and dermatology, as well as to see fellow students gain exposure to and take an active role the research process.”

Ann Rogers and Matthew Helm of Penn State College of Medicine also contributed to this research.

Read the full study published in the journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases

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