What is a Safe BMI for Surgery?


Sometimes, patients are disappointed if they learn they need to lose weight before having plastic surgery. We don’t tell people this to be gatekeepers. It’s about your safety. We want all our patients to stay safe, recover well, and have great results. If you heard you need to lose weight before your procedure, you may wonder, “What is a safe BMI for surgery?”

Please remember that this article isn’t a substitute for seeing a doctor or plastic surgeon. It is purely for education purposes as there are so many individual factors. Still, we hope this article serves as a starting point in your research and helps you initiate conversations with your plastic surgeon.

Why is BMI a Factor?

If you are like many people, you may wonder why BMI is even a factor for surgery and how to qualify for plastic surgery.

A high BMI makes it challenging to calculate the appropriate dose for anesthetics, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASAHQ). High body weight also increases the risk of complications due to sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and other weight-related conditions.

 This is why medical professionals recommend a healthy BMI range before having elective surgery like plastic surgery. When in doubt, your best bet is to have an open conversation with your surgeon about your specific situation. Your overall health and medical history are also factors for your plastic surgeon to consider. 

Who is a Good Candidate for Elective Surgery?

You may have heard medical professionals refer to people who are “good candidates” for plastic surgery. BMI isn’t the only consideration. Surgeons treat the whole person.

A good candidate for elective surgery, particularly cosmetic procedures, is someone in generally good health. This is because the body’s ability to heal and recover afterward is crucial for optimal results.

If you are a smoker, please quit a couple of months before your operation. This is because smoking interferes with the healing process.

Your surgeon will also want to know about any underlying health conditions that could complicate the surgery or recovery.

In addition to physical health, a strong candidate is someone with realistic expectations about the outcomes of the surgery. You should understand the procedure, the risks involved, and the recovery process.

Remember, each procedure may have its own set of specific criteria, so it’s always best to have a detailed consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon to determine whether you may be a good candidate. Research the difference between a board-certified plastic surgeon vs cosmetic surgeon before selecting your surgeon. If all else is well, your surgeon may have different advice specific to your overall health.

What is a Safe BMI Range for Surgery?

Each hospital and doctor may have informal or formal standards that vary a little depending on the procedure and risk of complications. A study found that a BMI over 30 appeared to be an independent risk factor for death during the month after surgery, longer hospitalizations, and other complications, according to Annals of Gastroenterological Surgery. The risk is even higher with higher BMIs.

The safest BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9. Of course, BMI alone doesn’t tell the whole story since very athletic people may be fit and healthy with a higher BMI than you would guess by their appearance. However, the higher the BMI, the harder it is to dose anesthetic, leading to more risk and greater discomfort and pain. 

If your plastic surgeon suggests you lose weight before scheduling surgery, we hope you take that advice to heart. It isn’t just to add obstacles; it’s to help ensure safety and good results.

What to Do if Your Plastic Surgeon Asks You to Lose Weight

Losing weight before elective surgery helps both during surgery and the recovery process. Here are a few strategies that might help:

Adopt a balanced diet. Meet with a dietitian or primary care doctor to figure out how much you need to restrict portion size or calorie intake to lose weight safely. A balanced diet means consuming a variety of foods from all food groups in the proper proportions. Prioritize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats. Portion control is essential for weight loss since even healthy foods can contribute to weight gain if you overeat them for your metabolism.

In addition to a healthy diet, regular physical activity also helps. Aim for a mix of cardio exercises, like walking or cycling, and strength training. If your doctor clears you for exercise, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise each week. Always talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you’re preparing for surgery.

 Remember, losing weight should be a gradual process. Rapid weight loss can lead to muscle loss and other health issues. Aiming to lose 1-2 pounds per week is generally recommended, but your doctor may temporarily recommend more to give you a jump start toward your operation.

Maintain these healthy habits post-surgery to aid in recovery and maintain your results. You may be able to eat at maintenance levels once you are near your goal weight, but how much you can eat depends on your body’s metabolism and nutritional needs. Always consult with your doctor, certified trainer, or dietitian for personalized advice. 

As you reach a healthy BMI range, get back in touch with your plastic surgeon to get the ball rolling. Your doctor may want to see you again for an update on your progress and overall health.

Schedule a Consultation With One of Our Plastic Surgeons

If you are thinking about plastic surgery and haven’t seen a surgeon yet, schedule a consultation. It is crucial to understand what is a safe BMI for surgery. Besides we offer a variety of procedures for plastic surgery after weight loss. Even if you know your BMI is too high, there are additional factors to consider. Talk to us about your goals and next steps.  

Charlotte Plastic Surgery serves the Charlotte, NC community. For decades, we have offered quality care to Charlotte residents who want to look their best. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.