What to think about if you are considering bariatric surgery?

By Anthony Maffei, MD  |  12/12/2014

If you are obese and have tried diet and exercise to lose weight with little to no success, then bariatric surgery (also known as weight loss surgery) may be a viable option for you.

To help you make this decision, here are some things to consider.

What is the surgery procedure?

There are several types of procedures that may involve one or both of the following: creating a small stomach pouch that limits the amount of food a person can eat or rerouting the small intestine so that food skips a portion of it. These procedures are known as gastric bypass, gastric banding and sleeve gastrectomy.  You and your doctor can determine which procedure is right for you.

What impact may the surgery have on your lifestyle and relationships?

Bariatric surgery is not the magic remedy for obesity. Instead, you should view bariatric surgery as a component of your weight loss regimen along with healthy lifestyle changes including exercise and dietary changes.

What is your BMI?

To qualify for bariatric surgery, you must meet the following body mass index, or BMI, criteria:

  • A BMI greater than 40 or 100 pounds overweight.
  • A BMI of 35 and greater and at least one weight-related health problem including hypertension, sleep apnea and Type II diabetes.
  • If your weight is between 30 and 34 BMI, you are not likely a candidate for this procedure.

You can calculate your BMI here

What are the health risks?

The risk of health complications rises if you have a high BMI. In many cases, your doctor will discuss your health risks. Those who have high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes may be specifically at risk if they are overweight. By having bariatric surgery, those conditions may improve. Frequently, individuals who lose weight find themselves taking less and less medications to treat their obesity-related conditions.

What happens after the surgery?

Following the procedure, you will be placed on a restrictive, liquid diet, mostly protein shakes, for about three weeks. You will also attend nutrition classes led by registered dietitians and check in with your doctor every two to three months for the first year to monitor your progress.

Overall, bariatric surgery can be a useful tool to help you break the vicious weight gain cycle and help you achieve long-term weight loss and improve your overall quality of health and life. Studies have shown the following:

  • More than 90 percent of bariatric patients are able to maintain a long-term weight loss of 50 percent excess body weight or more.
  • A review involving 135,247 patients found that bariatric surgery caused diabetic improvement in more than 85 percent of the population and remission in 78 percent.

What are the next steps?

Once you have established that you are a candidate, you will be required to attend preoperative counseling sessions before committing to the surgery. To learn more about, we invite you to attend an upcoming complimentary weight loss surgery educational seminar at a Health Quest hospital.

Dr. Maffei is a general surgeon from Advanced Surgeons on the medical staff of Putnam Hospital.  Revised on 3/18/2015