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Lipodystrophy Treatment

Is Plastic Surgery an Option?


Updated April 22, 2014

Lipodystrophy is a concern to many HIV positive people. And there are some lipodystrophy treatments that do help. One such lipodystrophy treatment is plastic surgery. Is plastic surgery an option?

Lipodystrophy Treatment - Plastic Surgery

Tummy tucks, nose jobs and breast enhancements are all the rage these days. Don't like your hips? Have them resculptured. Love handles getting out of hand? Just suck out a little of that extra fat. Skilled plastic surgeons can do wonders for our appearance and our self esteem. But is plastic surgery a viable option for those suffering the physical and emotional effects of lipodystrophy? Actually, several types of plastic surgery are now being offered that do help. But are the affects permanent. That remains to be seen. Here are a few surgical options.

  • Liposuction
    The process of suctioning excess fat from the body.

    • Effective in removing excess fat from behind the neck ("buffalo hump") but researchers are unsure if results will last. In some cases, fat accumulation returns to the same area or other parts of the body.

    • Can't be used to remove excess fat around abdomen unless it is subcutaneous (directly below the skin) fat. Unfortunately, abdominal lipodystrophy is often fat accumulation inside the abdominal cavity not subcutaneous.

    • Usually not covered by insurance.

    • Important Warning!

    • As with all surgical procedures, liposuction does involve some risk.

    Insurance Benefit Fact Sheets

  • Fat Transfer
    The process of transferring excess fat from the abdomen and buttocks to the face. Simply put, the process moves excess fat to places such as the face where fat has been lost. This procedure resolves the sunken cheeks that are characteristic of lipodystrophy.

    • Sometimes there is not enough fat in the abdomen or neck to transfer because lipodystrophy can diminished fat in these areas in some people.

    • There is some evidence that the mechanism that causes sunken cheeks will eventually redistribute the transferred fat causing the sunken cheek appearance to return after surgery.

    • There has been documented cases where fat redistribution did not reoccur as far out as two years after surgery.

    • Depending on the area where fat is transferred, the results can look unnatural or "lumpy" as the swelling around the transfer sites subsides.

    • The procedure is often viewed as cosmetic by insurance providers meaning the procedure will not be covered.

  • Implants
    This involves surgically inserting synthetic implants into the face, cheeks, or other areas of fat loss. These implants are much like breast implants that are surgically inserted to enhance the appearance of the breasts.

    • Implants are affective and longer lasting than fat transfer.

    • Again, because it is viewed as cosmetic, it is not covered by most insurances.

    • Important Warning!
      Considered a major surgery and therefore carries more risk than the other methods of surgical treatment.

    The exact cause or mechanism of lipodystrophy is not entirely clear. And without knowing the cause we are hard pressed to figure out what treatments are best. If you are noticing the signs of lipodystrophy, consult your physician. Together with your doctor, the treatment plan that works best for you can be developed.

    Important Warning!
    Never discontinue your HIV medications because of lipodystrophy without first talking with your doctor.

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