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What Is Panniculus?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Panniculus is a medical term to describe a layer or membrane of tissue. This term is often used specifically in discussions of very large layers of lower abdominal fat, which may be separated by grade to better describe the extent of the fat and its impact on the patient. In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery because panniculus can pose health risks. Other patients may opt for surgical treatment for aesthetic reasons.

In terms like “panniculus adiposus,” the term refers simply to a layer of regular fatty tissue. All animals have deposits of fat, allowing them to store energy and absorb physical impacts. These deposits can become a problem if they grow especially pronounced. In the case of abdominal fat, it can start to grow over and beyond the abdomen, eventually covering the genitals and potentially extending even further, passing the knees. This can cause considerable discomfort for the patient.

A panniculus is a flap of excess skin, fat and tissue at the bottom of the abdomen.
A panniculus is a flap of excess skin, fat and tissue at the bottom of the abdomen.

One risk with panniculus is the tendency to form skin folds. These tend to be dark, moist, and warm, making them an ideal breeding ground for organisms like bacteria and fungi. Patients can develop severe skin infections, and may experience large ulcerations and lesions from unchecked growth of microorganisms. In addition to causing an unpleasant odor, this will expose patients to risks like septicemia, where an infection enters the bloodstream and can potentially cause multiple organs to fail.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to treat panniculus.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to treat panniculus.

The weight of panniculus can also distort a patient's posture and may cause strain on the back. Patients and doctors may also believe there is a dangerous growth like a tumor inside. It can be hard to perform diagnostic tests because the fatty tissue makes it difficult to identify structures inside the panniculus, and a patient may need invasive testing to find out more about what is happening inside.

Being significantly overweight before surgery can be dangerous.
Being significantly overweight before surgery can be dangerous.

Patients sometimes have a mild panniculus after pregnancy, until the body recovers and the skin rebounds, tightening back up over the lower abdomen. Major weight loss can also leave behind pockets of skin and loose fat, and patients may need surgery to remove skin folds once their weight stabilizes. This will make them feel more comfortable, reduce the risks of infection, and allow the natural contours of their bodies to emerge. Significant weight gain can also cause panniculus, and a surgeon may ask a patient to lose weight before performing surgery to remove the excess tissue, as being significantly overweight can be dangerous in surgery.

What Causes Panniculus?

Significant weight gain can cause panniculus.
Significant weight gain can cause panniculus.

Panniculus is characterized by a sheet of tissue in the lower abdominal area. Various weight-related factors cause the layer of tissue. It may be a result of obesity, pregnancy, or weight loss. In severe cases, the layer of fat may suspend past the abdomen to the knees or lower.

Common causes of panniculus are discussed below:


In obesity, panniculus may result from the excess weight resulting from the condition. The excess weight culminates in a layer of fatty tissue forming in the abdominal region. 

The subcutaneous fat usually overhangs, giving the appearance of swelling in the body tissues, which could lead to reduced mobility. As a result, the victim could eventually become bedridden as they lose the ability to move around freely.


Panniculus induced by pregnancy and weight loss are similar; they are characterized by extra skin hanging loosely and covering the genitalia or reaching up to the knees in some instances. In most cases, the abdomen retracts as the uterus regains shape after giving birth. 

However, in some instances, the physical transition after giving birth creates a pocket of skin in the abdomen, causing panniculus.

Weight Loss

The same goes for weight loss. As you gain weight, the skin grows to accommodate the extra fat and forms cellulite which deepens in appearance with weight gain and age. When you lose the extra weight, the excess skin forms a paunch known as the panniculus. 

With weight loss, the pockets of skin form at the abdomen and atypical body parts such as the neck, legs, ankles, and breasts.

Health Risks of Panniculus?

Panniculus is accompanied by various physical impediments that culminate in health risks. The health risks are outlined below:

Reduced Mobility

The layer of fat or extra-abdominal skin makes it difficult to move around and conduct daily activities. As a result, panniculus patients are often bedridden due to mobility difficulties, increasing their chances of mortality. 

The extra-abdominal weight could also lead to back problems as it distorts the patient’s posture.

Increased Microbial Infection Risks

Skin folds associated with panniculus also pose a significant health risk. The pockets of skin are an ideal breeding ground for disease-causing pathogens such as bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms cause a pungent smell on skin folds and expose the patient to the risk of sepsis, which may cause tissue and body organ damage.

Skin Conditions

The uncontrolled growth of microorganisms in areas affected by panniculus can also lead to skin-related problems. Patients often develop intertriginous dermatitis, an inflammatory skin disease caused by bacterial infections in the skin folds. The condition is usually painful and shows mild redness accompanied by skin erosion and crusting.

To avoid these health risks, panniculus patients must diligently care for and monitor the affected areas. They need to control the moisture on the skin folds to prevent contamination and the growth of microorganisms. 

Patients can control moisture by avoiding tight clothing, which may induce sweating, showering using pH-balanced soap, and cleaning the pouches regularly with disposable wipes. Such measures mitigate contamination.

How to Get Rid of Panniculus

If you have panniculus, you can have it surgically removed through an operation known as panniculectomy. The process involves the removal of the extra skin and adipose tissue. However, the procedure is not a weight loss solution. 

Obese patients suffering from panniculus are usually required to conduct weight loss exercises before being operated on.

Panniculectomy aims to slim down the tummy by eliminating fat deposits. If the protruding belly results from muscle laxity, the patients may need a tummy tuck to restore the abdomen shape.

Liposuction may sometimes be recommended for fine-tuning and getting rid of additional fats. Nonetheless, liposuction is not enough to get rid of panniculus. It is a follow-up procedure to panniculectomy.

Panniculectomy surgery effectively rids patients of health risks, increases their mobility, and improves their quality of life. It also has cosmetic benefits as it enhances the appearance of the patient's abdomen and areas affected by skin folds. However, the surgery is associated with some complications.

Complications Associated with Panniculectomy

Although a panniculectomy is an effective way to get rid of panniculus, most patients experience some discomfort after the procedure. They may feel discomfort when moving as the motion strains the repaired area. Similarly, they may experience complications such as:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Wound infections
  • Dehydration
  • Seroma formation
  • Adipose tissue necrosis

Nonetheless, the complications are manageable, and patients typically recover fully from the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the term "panniculus" mean?

In medicine, a layer of fatty tissue found underneath the skin is referred to as a panniculus. It is also referred to as subcutaneous fat and covers the body's abdominal region. It comprises adipose tissue that stores energy and helps insulate the body. Panniculus also aids in protecting and cushioning the muscles and organs.

What are the signs of panniculus?

An abundance of abdominal fat is the most typical sign of panniculus. The skin may look stretched and sagging as a result of this. Due to the additional weight and pressure, panniculus can also result in back pain and movement issues. The fat may occasionally become inflammatory, resulting in redness and pain.

What are the causes of panniculus?

Overeating and a lack of exercise are the usual causes of panniculus. Panniculus can also be the result of hormonal imbalances, such as those caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome or menopause. Certain drugs, including steroids and birth control pills, can occasionally produce panniculus.

What is the remedy for panniculus?

Panniculus is often treated with a mix of diet and exercise. The amount of fat held in the abdomen region can be decreased with a balanced diet and frequent exercise. Surgery or liposuction may be advised in more extreme circumstances to eliminate the extra fat.

Is it possible to prevent panniculus?

Panniculus can be prevented in a number of different ways. A balanced diet low in calories and saturated fat can assist to lessen the amount of belly fat that is accumulated. Regular physical exercise, such as walking or swimming, is essential to help burn calories and reduce fat. Finally, avoiding drugs that can make fat build-up is another way to avoid panniculus.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

Discussion Comments


I used to be extremely overweight. I had a very well-paying job, but because of responsibilities at home, I had no me time. I ended up overeating to comfort myself in times of stress, which were frequent.

I finally decided it was time to do something about my sad personal situation. I told my husband that I had to have an hour to myself for exercise every day, and he would have to help out around the house. When he learned about my plan to lose weight, he was happy to help.

Immediately after starting my diet and exercise routine, I opened a savings account to put aside money for the surgery I knew I would need in the future to get rid of my panniculus. If I was going to go to all the trouble of getting a new body, I wanted it to be awesome.

Within a year, I had enough money in the account for the surgery. I decided to keep losing weight for another year, though. I wanted to get all of the fat out of the way so all the doctor would have to remove would be excess skin.


@Perdido - As the uterus retracts back to its old shape, so does most of the abdomen. This won’t happen in every case, though, and your sister-in-law really needs to start exercising as soon as she can.

I started doing core strength training workouts and yoga for new moms about four weeks after having my baby. My doctor told me that since I hadn’t had any complications with the birth, my body should be ready for exercise.

This was essential in helping my body regain its muscle tone and shape. If I hadn’t exercised, I probably would still have my panniculus.


My sister-in-law has a panniculus because she gave birth three weeks ago. She has been asking everyone she knows about how to lose the extra skin, and almost everyone has told her that it will go away on its own.

Is this true? Does the panniculus just resorb into the body, or is there something she needs to do to help it along? I’m sure that right now is the best time for her to take action, because some people I know still have their panniculus years after giving birth. She is still in her twenties, and she doesn’t want to be stuck with unattractive flab for the rest of her life.


One of my coworkers has panniculus. She is severely overweight, and daily activities like walking from one side of the building to the other are difficult for her.

She recently went on a diet, and she has lost twenty pounds so far. She got motivated to lose weight when the boss called her in his office to discuss personal hygiene. The odor from her panniculus was becoming offensive, and he thought that she just wasn’t showering.

Embarrassed but not in a position to quit her job, she found a reason to stick to her diet. After she loses the fat and the skin folds are all that are left behind, she plans to have them surgically removed. It will take awhile, though, because she currently weighs about four-hundred pounds.

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    • A panniculus is a flap of excess skin, fat and tissue at the bottom of the abdomen.
      By: whitestorm
      A panniculus is a flap of excess skin, fat and tissue at the bottom of the abdomen.
    • In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to treat panniculus.
      By: Kot63
      In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to treat panniculus.
    • Being significantly overweight before surgery can be dangerous.
      By: Николай Григорьев
      Being significantly overweight before surgery can be dangerous.
    • Significant weight gain can cause panniculus.
      By: sommaiphoto
      Significant weight gain can cause panniculus.