Evaluation for Bariatric Surgery

What is bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a type of surgery to help you lose weight. It is an option for some people who are obese and have not been able to lose weight with other methods. Your doctor might discuss bariatric surgery with you if you are obese, or if you are overweight and have a medical problem such as diabetes. Diabetes and certain other medical problems can get better with weight loss.

What are the benefits of bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery may help you lose a large amount of excess weight and keep it off. Excess weight can cause medical conditions such as:

  • Diabetes

  • Arthritis

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Sleep apnea

  • Liver disease

  • Infertility

  • Certain lung diseases

  • Certain cancers

  • Psychological problems

Weight loss will reduce your risk of some of these health conditions. If you already have one or more of these health problems, weight loss may lessen symptoms and help in other ways. In some cases, a health problem linked to weight may go away after weight loss.

Doctors most often recommend bariatric surgery to people with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater. BMI is a measurement that compares a person's height and weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 means overweight. A BMI higher than 30 means obese. Your doctor might also suggest bariatric surgery if your BMI is between 35 and 40 and you have a medical problem that may get better with weight loss.

People who get surgery tend to lose much more weight than people who get medical therapy for their weight loss. This means that surgery is more likely to help with medical conditions linked to obesity, such as diabetes or sleep apnea. But the results do vary. Some people can have large weight loss with medical therapy alone. And some people do not lose as much weight as they want after surgery.

What are the risks of bariatric surgery?

All surgery has risks. Your risks may vary according to your general health, your age, the type of surgery you choose, and the amount of weight you need to lose. Talk to your doctor about the risks that most apply to you. Risks of bariatric surgery include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Blockage of your bowels (intestinal obstruction)

  • Blood clots

  • Heart attack

  • Need for follow-up surgery

  • Gallstones (a later complication)

  • Nutritional deficiencies (a later complication)

  • Psychological difficulties after the procedure

  • Regain of some weight after surgery

Who evaluates me for bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery is not the only treatment for obesity. Your doctor may want you to try other treatments first. These may include working with a dietician or using a prescribed weight loss medication.

Your medical team will only do the surgery if they know it will give you health benefits. For the surgery to be a success, you will need to make lifelong changes to your diet and lifestyle. Your medical team will want to know that you are ready for the life changes that go with surgery.

You will need to go through an in-depth screening process to be approved for bariatric surgery. This is done to find out if you are ready for the surgery, and if it will help you. You'll also want to find out if your health insurance plan will cover the costs of the surgery. As part of your evaluation, you'll need to give some details about your weight and diet history.

To be approved for the surgery, you'll need to meet with health care providers such as:

  • Your surgeon, who must confirm that you are a good candidate for surgery

  • A mental health professional, who can assess your psychological health and readiness for the surgery

  • A registered dietician, who will look at your diet and eating habits and see if you are ready to make the needed changes

  • A primary care doctor, who can assess your general health and readiness for surgery

  • A heart doctor, who can make sure your heart is healthy for surgery

  • A lung doctor, who can make sure your lungs are healthy for surgery

You may need to work with these health care providers for several months before you can get approval. They need to make sure you are in good mental and physical shape for the surgery. You may need to work with your primary care doctor and a dietician to lose some weight and stop smoking in the months before your surgery. This helps reduce your risk of complications after the surgery. You might need to work with extra health care professionals if you have other medical or social problems. All of these health care providers must agree that the surgery is safe for you.

Checking your mental readiness is a vital part of the approval process. Bariatric surgery is a big personal commitment. The surgery will permanently change your eating habits. To get approved for the surgery, you'll need to show that you fully understand the risks and benefits. Support from your partner, family, and friends can also be important for your mental readiness for the surgery.

What tests do I need for bariatric surgery approval?

As part of the approval process, you'll need physical exams and testing. This is to make sure you are healthy enough for the surgery and recovery. You may need tests such as:

  • Blood tests to check for anemia, infection, hormone levels, kidney function, and more

  • Screening for nutrient deficiencies

  • Chest X-ray, to help evaluate your heart and lungs

  • Echocardiogram, if more information about your heart is necessary

  • Electrocardiogram, to evaluate your heart rhythm

  • Pulmonary function tests, to evaluate your lungs

Your health care providers may want to do other tests before approving you for surgery.

What are realistic weight loss goals?

It's important to have realistic weight loss goals going into the surgery. Most people do not lose all of their excess weight after surgery. Depending on the type of surgery you have, you may lose one-half to two-thirds of your excess body weight. Your doctor can give you a more exact idea of what you can expect.

Losing this amount of weight may help any medical conditions you have, even if you still carry some excess weight. You may be able to reduce or stop some of the medications that you take. You may also have more energy and a more positive self-image. Having a realistic weight loss goal can help keep you motivated. It can help keep you on track with your good eating habits. During your evaluation, your health care providers will give you a realistic idea of how much you can expect to lose after your surgery.