You’ve tried everything to lose weight, but you’re still having trouble. Could it be time to consider weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery?
According to bariatric surgeon, Dennis Smith, MD, FACS, FASMBS, the average patient has been considering bariatric surgery for about 18 months before coming in to see him.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bariatric surgery shouldn’t be chosen lightly.
“Patients need to be willing to make changes in their lifestyle,” Dr. Smith says. “The surgery sets patients up for success, but if they don’t make the changes, they won’t lose as much as they could, or they may gain weight back,” he continues.
When weighing your options for weight loss surgery, you’ll need to find out if you’re a candidate for the procedure and if your insurance will cover it.
Am I a Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?
According to Dr. Smith, there are established criteria for who qualifies as a candidate for bariatric surgery. The criteria were set forth by the NIH in 1991 and are still in use today.
Generally, people qualify for bariatric surgery if they have a BMI (body mass index) of over 40 or a BMI between 35 and 40 with a medical condition that can be attributed to the excess weight such as joint problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight by the square of your height with the metric system.
An easy way to determine your BMI is to find a BMI chart or calculator online.
“It’s common for people with excess weight to have medical problems associated with it,” says Dr. Smith. Most of these problems are conditions that will improve or resolve with weight loss, including sleep apnea, diabetes, coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. Depending on your insurance plan, bariatric surgery may be covered for conditions like high cholesterol, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or severe osteoarthritis.
Many insurance plans require those considering bariatric surgery to first try a diet supervised by a medical professional — a physician, nutritionist or dietitian — for a certain time period prior to authorizing bariatric surgery. At AdventHealth, we have a team of registered dieticians to help patients make these lifestyle changes.
“A supervised diet is a wonderful way to allow patients the opportunity to practice their new lifestyle habits before bariatric surgery so they’ll be more prepared to continue their healthy practices for life following their surgery,” says Dr. Smith.
How Much Weight Will I Lose with Bariatric Surgery?
The amount of weight that patients lose after bariatric surgery varies from patient to patient and to some degree can be estimated in advance, but each individual patient has the most influence over their success. Dr. Smith describes bariatric surgery as a tool. “And like any other tool, using it wisely will improve the results, especially long-term,” he says.
Our team here at AdventHealth trains patients how to use their bariatric operation to the fullest. If they eat the recommended types and portions of food, supplement with the right vitamins and minerals, exercise and stay mindful of their health, they’ll improve their chances of lasting success.
“Each operation has a different expectation for weight loss and it will also differ from patient to patient. This can be discussed with your provider when you have your initial consultation,” Dr. Smith says.
Is Bariatric Surgery Safe?
Dr. Smith explains that there is a public misconception that bariatric surgery is dangerous. However, bariatric procedures are largely very safe and effective.
Today, most of the procedures are performed as minimally invasive surgery, an approach that emerged in general surgery in the 1990s. This means that surgeons use long, thin tools and a few small incisions on the skin to perform the operation. Without a large abdominal incision, patients heal quicker and experience less pain. The advent of robotic surgery has taken this even further. Most patients leave the hospital the day after their operation and are back to their normal activities in one or two weeks.
World-Class Care Right Here in Central Florida
If you’re considering weight loss surgery, we can answer your questions and help you find the support and expertise you need. Learn more about our bariatrics program and world-class multidisciplinary team here.