8 questions to ask when considering bariatric surgery
The decision to have weight loss surgery is a very important one that will affect you for the rest of your life. It is a decision to not only have the procedure, but also make the lifestyle changes required to lose weight and maintain the weight loss.
Weight loss surgery — also known as bariatric surgery — is not a quick fix to help you lose weight, although it will do that. The goal is to achieve your desired weight loss, improve your health and most important, maintain the weight loss.
To reach these goals, you have to relearn how and what to eat. You’ll need to find time in your busy life to add dedicated time for exercise. Finally, you have to make a commitment to do these things for the rest of your life.
It isn’t always easy, but the rewards make the work worthwhile. Here are some commonly asked questions about bariatric surgery to help you decide if the procedure is right for you.
1. Am I candidate for weight loss surgery?
The first thing to consider is whether you’ve really tried to lose the weight without surgery. Weight loss should start with a healthy diet and exercise. This doesn’t work for a lot of people, but everyone should start there.
If your BMI is greater than 40, you qualify on that alone.
If your BMI is between 35 and 40, you generally only qualify if you also have a couple of medical problems associated with obesity. The most common conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, arthritis and some forms of cancers. The list is long — ask your doctor for more information.
2. What surgery is best for me?
The decision of which surgery to have is really up to you. Your surgeon will provide information about the procedures, but you have to pick the one you feel most comfortable with.
There are several different procedures, but the most common are the sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass. Both are proven to result in excellent weight loss that can be maintained. The fine points between the two procedures should be discussed with your surgeon.
There are a few medical problems that may make one surgery better or safer for you. Your surgeon can help you work through this.
3. What are the risks with weight loss surgery?
Your surgeon will go into great detail about the risks. In general, the risk for a major complication is 3 percent or less. These complications include bleeding, infection, blood clots in the legs or lungs, leakage from stomach or bowel, heart attack and death.
Weight loss surgery is very safe and is commonly performed. The risks listed above are the same for most surgeries performed on the abdomen.
4. What can I expect after I have surgery?
Most people spend one to two days in the hospital and are generally walking within four hours of surgery. You can shower the following day.
You’ll be on a liquid diet for a couple of weeks and can return to solid foods about 30 days after surgery.
You should avoid strenuous activity or lifting greater than 20 pounds for 30 days. Most people are driving and have returned to work within two weeks.
5. How much weight can I expect to lose?
Most patients lose between 50–80 percent of their excess body weight over a year or so. For example, if you are 100 pounds overweight, you can expect to lose 50–80 pounds.
6. Can I still get pregnant?
Yes, you can still get pregnant. In some cases, patients who have been struggling to get pregnant most of their lives find it easy to get pregnant after surgery. It is commonly recommended that you wait approximately 18 months after surgery before trying to get pregnant.
7. What will my life be like after surgery?
After the first month, you will return to a relatively normal life. You will be losing weight and your medical problems will be much easier to control. You’ll be able to do more things and not feel as tired or worn out afterwards.
You will be able to eat regular foods — you’ll just eat smaller portions. You’ll find exercise is getting easier. You will be excited to step on a scale and see your progress.
8. I’d like to have the surgery. What should I do next?
The first step is to start eating healthier (good food choices and portion control) and exercising. You will be doing this for the rest of your life, so there is no time like the present.
Make sure all of your health issues are under control and your health maintenance is up to date. For example, if you need a colonoscopy or mammogram, get that done.
Talk to your doctor and ask for more information. You can attend a free bariatric surgery seminar to learn more, including whether the surgery is covered by your insurance.
About The Author
James Sebesta, MD, is a board-certified surgeon specializing in bariatric surgery. He treats obesity, gastroesophageal reflux disease, abdominal wall hernias, breast cancer, as well as other gastrointestinal surgical diseases. Dr. Sebesta is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a Fellow of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons. In his free time, he enjoys fishing, outdoor sports and watching his children’s sporting events.More stories by this author