When Should You Consider Bariatric Surgery? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on November 12, 2015

When Should You Consider Bariatric Surgery?

Carrying excess weight, especially to the level of obesity, negatively impacts almost every aspect of your health – from reproductive and respiratory function to mood and memory. Additionally, being overweight or obese puts you at risk for a litany of serious and even deadly health conditions.

Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancers. Carrying extra pounds puts stress on your bones and joints, wearing them down at a faster rate. The various systems within your body have to work harder as well. Essentially, obesity decreases the quality and length of life.

However, losing weight can change that – losing a little as 5 to 10 percent of body weight can provide significant health benefits to people who are obese. Those who have a lot of weight to lose may turn to bariatric surgery, also known as weight-loss surgery.

Weight-loss surgeries are major, life-changing procedures. They can help you significantly reduce your weight, thus reducing your risk of weight-related health issues such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure.

But these procedures aren’t right for everyone – the benefits of surgery don’t outweigh the risk for some people. Here’s how to find out if bariatric surgery is right for you.

In general, weight-loss surgery could be an option for you if your efforts to lose weight through exercise and diet have been unsuccessful. It may also be an option for you if your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher, which is considered extreme obesity. If your BMI is 35 to 39.9, which is considered obese and you have a serious weight-related health problem like diabetes or sleep apnea, bariatric surgery may be an option. In some cases, you may qualify for certain types of weight-loss surgery if your BMI is 30 to 34 and you have serious weight-related health conditions.

Despite meeting these general guidelines for weight-loss surgery, you may still need to meet other medical guidelines in order to qualify for the surgery. Additionally, you will most likely have an extensive screening process to find out if you qualify.

A team of healthcare professionals, including a doctor, dietician, psychologist and surgeon, will evaluate you to determine if bariatric surgery is appropriate for you. The evaluation determines if the health benefits of the surgery outweigh its risks, as well as if you’re medically and psychologically ready for the procedure.

During the evaluation, healthcare professionals will consider:

  • Your medical conditions. Some conditions, such as heart problems and blood clots, can increase risks associated with the surgery or possibly worsened by surgery.
  • Your nutrition and weight history. They’ll look at your attempts to diet and lose weight as well as your weight trends, eating habits, exercise regimen, stress levels, motivation, time constraints and other factors.
  • Your motivation. Your team of healthcare professionals will assess your ability and willingness to follow through with their recommendations and to carry out the diet and exercise changes they prescribe. They also want to make sure you’ll be motivated to maintain these recommendations to keep the weight off.
  • Your psychological status. Depression, binge-eating disorder, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and other mental health conditions may contribute to obesity or make it difficult to maintain the health benefits of bariatric surgery. These conditions may not prevent you from having weight-loss surgery; it may be postponed until any mental health condition is treated and well managed.
  • Your age. There’s no specific age limit for weight-loss surgery, but the risks increase with age.

Bariatric surgery isn’t a miracle cure to obesity and it isn’t right for everyone. Having weight-loss surgery doesn’t guarantee you will lose all of your excess weight or that you’ll maintain your weight loss long term. It also doesn’t replace making changes to your diet and exercise habits – those are even more important following surgery. You can regain any weight lost following bariatric surgery if you don’t make and stick with necessary lifestyle changes.

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