Top 10 Questions Patients Ask About Having Bariatric SurgeryMay 13, 2020
The decision to have bariatric surgery can change your life. Bariatric surgery can help you to achieve your desired weight loss and more importantly improve your overall health. However, it is also a decision to commit to lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and exercise. Overall, the success of weight loss and the general improvement in health makes the effort worthwhile.
Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix and while it will help you lose weight initially; sustained weight loss will require a commitment to these changes for the rest of your life.
Here are the top 10 questions patients ask about having bariatric surgery. If you're considering bariatric surgery, reading through these questions and answers can get you on the road to researching surgery to see if surgery is the right decision for you.
Top 10 Questions Patients Ask About Having Bariatric Surgery
1. Am I a candidate for bariatric surgery?
Have you tried diet and exercise to lose weight? If so and you haven’t been able to achieve or maintain your desired weight loss, then bariatric surgery may be a good option for you.
To qualify for bariatric surgery, your body mass index (BMI), which is based on the ratio of your height to your weight, must be greater than 40. If you don’t know your BMI, you can use BMI calculators available online.
If your BMI is between 35 and 40, you may still qualify for bariatric surgery if you have an obesity-related medical condition such as diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Even if you do not have one of these more common obesity-related medical conditions, it is beneficial to speak with your doctor to see if you qualify.
2. Is bariatric surgery safe?
Yes, bariatric surgery is safe and is more common than you may think with over 228,000 bariatric procedures performed in the United States in 2017.
According to many studies, bariatric surgery is comparable to some of the safest procedures performed, including gallbladder surgery, appendectomy, and knee replacement. The risk of major complications is less than 4.0% and the risk of death is about 0.1%. Some of these complications include bleeding, leakage from the stomach or bowel, blood clots in the legs or lungs, and heart attack; however, your surgeon will review these risks with you in greater detail.
3. How does bariatric surgery work?
In general, there are a few ways in which bariatric surgery helps you lose weight. The first is restricting the amount of food you can eat. By making your stomach smaller during surgery, it takes much less food for your stomach to feel full. The changes that are made to the stomach also reduce the amount of hunger hormones your body makes which helps you lose weight. Some surgeries also have a malabsorption component as well. What this means is that not all the calories you eat are absorbed by your intestines, which leads to additional weight loss.
Food and calorie restriction are the most important aspects of initial weight loss, however, a healthy diet and regular exercise will be required to maintain your weight loss.
There are several kinds of bariatric surgery available. You should discuss the options with your surgeon to decide which procedure is best for you.
4. How much weight will I lose with bariatric surgery?
This depends on a number of factors including which bariatric procedure you choose. In general, most patients lose between 50-80% of their excess body weight following bariatric surgery. For example, if your BMI is 40, you are approximately 100 pounds overweight and can expect to lose about 50-80 pounds. With most bariatric procedures this weight loss occurs in the first 6-12 months.
5. Will I gain all the weight back?
It is important to remember that bariatric surgery is a tool, not an easy fix, for weight loss. Surgery will help you lose weight initially, but it is up to you to maintain that weight loss through lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Following surgery and your initial weight loss, you will experience increased energy which will make exercise easier. You will need to find time in your busy schedule to stay committed and make exercise a regular habit. A healthy diet is also important for maintaining weight loss.
If you find yourself starting to slip in your commitment to a healthy diet and exercise and regaining weight, there are options to help. Your surgeon can help with access to nutritionists, support groups, and gym discounts. In general, about 30% of patients will regain some of their weight.
6. Will I ever be able to eat normally and go out to dinner again?
Yes, after the first few months you will be able to eat regular foods, you’ll just eat smaller portions. Your obesity-related medical problems will improve as will your energy and overall health.
7. Will everyone know I had bariatric surgery?
The majority of weight loss will occur in the first 6-12 months following surgery so people may notice a change in your appearance, but it is your choice to share your decision about bariatric surgery.
Whether you tell friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and others is your decision, but we recommend having a good support system in place as bariatric surgery and weight loss is tough. Having a caring and supportive friend or family member will be beneficial in a successful weight loss journey.
8. Will I have a lot of excess skin after I lose weight?
Most patients do not require skin removal surgery after bariatric surgery, but some may. Several factors that can influence excess skin are age, genetics, and hydration. Additionally, it is recommended to start weightlifting approximately 6 weeks after surgery to help prevent excess skin and to build lean muscle. Many weight loss surgeons work closely with plastic surgeons for those patients who might require skin removal after successful weight loss and maintenance
9. Can I get pregnant after bariatric surgery?
Yes, you can still get pregnant after having bariatric surgery and with some patients, it is actually easier to get pregnant after the weight loss they achieve with bariatric surgery. We recommend you wait at least 18-24 months after surgery before trying to get pregnant. It is important to share with your obstetrician that you had bariatric surgery and continue close follow up with your surgeon in order to ensure a safe pregnancy.
10. How long will I be out of work?
We generally recommend that you take 1-2 weeks off of work after bariatric surgery. During the first few weeks, you will be on a liquid diet and working to learn how to keep yourself hydrated. Additionally, you should avoid strenuous activity or lifting greater than 15 pounds for 1 month.
ABOUT THE AUTHORMegan Jenkins, MD is a minimally invasive surgeon specializing in robotics, advanced laparoscopy, bariatrics, and general surgery at NYU Langone Weight Management Program in New York City. She is from Upstate New York and graduated from the University of Rochester with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and math. She completed medical school and general surgery residency training at New York University. This prestigious surgical training program provided intense exposure not only to a broad spectrum of disease but also to the latest and continually emerging technology.