The Link Between High BMI and Surgical Risks

Written by WD Staff, Skin Care Specialists on September 6, 2019 2 Comments

BMI and surgery risks

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of an individual’s overall body fat. The BMI value is calculated as body mass (weight) divided by the square of their body height as follows:

BMI = weight (kg) / [height (m)]2

Not into math? You can use this this free calculator to find out what your current BMI is.

Higher BMI values often correlate to a higher body fat percentage. The World Health Organization designates adults with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 as “healthy”, 25 to 29.9 as overweight, and anything above 30 as being obese.

Body mass index can be an indicator of a patient’s eligibility for surgery and is often used by many surgeons for this purpose.

High BMI’s and Surgical Risk

There is a scientific link between surgical complications and high BMI’s. Patients with higher BMI values are more prone to both complications during their plastic surgery procedures and post-operative problems during their recovery. These potential problems include delayed wound-healing, blood clots (venous thromboembolism), and infection. Anesthesia complications, in particular, are of greater concern for high BMI individuals as airway complications can lead to serious injury.

Due to these issues, many surgeons will use a system of BMI guidelines to determine whether an individual is eligible for undergoing elective plastic surgery:

Patient BMI Surgical Risk Level (Cosmetic Surgery)
25 – 29   low risk
30 – 35   relatively low risk (when overall healthy)
35 – 40   potentially high risk; eligibility is determined case-by-case
over 40   high risk; patient ineligible for surgery

BMI less than 35

Patients in this BMI range generally have very little risk of complications for an elective surgical procedure, as long as they suffer from no other medical conditions. Individuals in this range can also expect a relatively smooth recovery.

BMI between 35-40

Patients in this range may still be eligible for cosmetic surgery, but will require an individual assessment which focuses on their previous health issues. Frequently we ask patients in this range to lose weight in order to become eligible. Patients with conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes may not be approved for surgery.

BMI more than 40

Patients with a BMI greater than 40 typically do not qualify for elective cosmetic surgery as their risk of surgical complications are usually unacceptably high. Individuals in this tier should focus on improving their health and body weight before seeking plastic surgery.

Does a High BMI Mean I Can Never Have Plastic Surgery?

A high BMI does not mean that elective cosmetic surgery will always be impossible. We’ve treated individuals who worked to reduce their BMI through various lifestyle changes like diet modification and increased exercise after being disqualified from a procedure. It is possible to seek the services of a nutritionist and/or a trainer to help accomplish your target weight range.

If you’re interested in plastic surgery but currently have a BMI greater than 40, it is recommended that you work with your primary care provider on a healthy weight loss program.


WD Staff

A united group of skin care specialists from Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, Austin's leader in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery. Articles posted under WD staff are authored through combined contributions from our entire team, including Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Aestheticians, Physician Assistants, Aesthetic Nurses, and Patient Coordinators.

2 Responses to “The Link Between High BMI and Surgical Risks”

  1. Avatar September says:

    This is very helpful. This fall a surgeon declined to do lipo on me and pushed me toward losing weight. I was disappointed at first but I think makes sense. I’m trying to get closer to my target goal and then will go for a reassessment.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Glad to hear this article was helpful September. We wish you well and hope you continue on your weight loss path. Going back in for a reassessment makes sense, we have many patients who are unable to have lipo right away and use the initial “rejection” as fuel to lose weight through healthy eating and exercise. We’re sure you can do it too!

      WD Staff

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