Bariatric Surgery FAQ
What is Bariatric Surgery and who is a candidate?
Bariatric surgery works as a surgical weight loss tool. Various techniques are used to assist patients toward achieving a healthier weight and lifestyle. Bariatric surgery is suitable for morbidly obese individuals and is not meant for individuals who are merely overweight. For individuals facing morbid obesity, losing weight is a more serious matter so surgical techniques may be employed where lifestyle changes may not be possible or may not deliver the necessary results to maintain the patient’s health.
For patients who are unable to lose weight via lifestyle changes that involve diet and exercise, Bariatric surgery may offer important benefits. Candidates should have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more in most cases and 35 or more if the patient is facing serious weight related health concerns such as heart problems, severe sleep apnea, or diabetes.
There are two different techniques used during Bariatric surgery to assist with weight loss: restriction methods and malabsorption methods. Restriction methods involve surgically altering the shape of the stomach and other digestive organs to prevent excessive food intake. Patients thus feel full faster and for longer periods of time. The amount of food that may be ingested is drastically reduced which supports weight loss.
Malabsorption methods involve altering the structure of the digestive tract to divert the movement of food past the areas which play a large role in the assimilation of calories, fats, and nutrients as well. Both techniques have their own unique set of risks; however malabsorption techniques warrant a more intensive dietary plan to ensure that patients still acquire necessary nutrients to maintain health.
Patients may opt to undergo gastric bypass surgery which surgically alters the digestive tract, or they may opt to undergo gastric banding which involves the use of specific medical devices which restrict the size of the stomach and thus are a restriction based method. The latter is a less invasive procedure which is reversible; however weight loss occurs slower and more gradually. Patients must consider their specific situation and discuss the benefits and risks of either procedure type to make an informed decision.
What may I expect after Bariatric Surgery?
Most individuals who choose to undergo Bariatric surgery are delighted with the results because of the immense health benefits. With the loss of excess body weight, weight-related health conditions are alleviated such as high blood pressure, difficult mobility, sleep apnea and other breathing conditions, back pain, asthma, and heart burn to name just a few.
For patients who chose to undergo surgical gastric surgery, weight loss may occur at a more rapid rate which means that the results of the surgery are more immediately evident. However, each patient’s body is unique and weight loss will occur at different rates for everyone. For patients who chose to undergo gastric banding procedures, weight loss may occur at a more gradual pace due to the nature of the procedure. Banding procedures are more flexible however and may be altered to best meet the needs of the patient.
To maintain healthy weight loss, a commitment to lifestyle changes in diet and exercise is critical. Individuals who choose to use Bariatric surgery as a tool to acquire a healthier weight must integrate a healthier lifestyle over the long term to experience optimal results. The specific changes that may be best for the individual should be thoroughly discussed with the practicing physician and a nutritionist.
What risks may be associated with Bariatric Surgery?
Some of the risks that may be associated with Bariatric procedures include internal bleeding, hernias, nutritional deficiencies, stomach stretching which permits weight gain, band erosion in banding procedures, and leakage of stomach contents. Patients who choose to undergo malabsorption procedures may also experience what is called “dumping” which occurs when the contents of the stomach prematurely moves through the small intestine causing sweating, upset stomach, diarrhea, and nausea.
This is not an exhaustive examination of every risk associated with weight loss surgeries. Patients should discuss the list of benefits and risks of Bariatric surgery with their surgeon to have a complete and sound understanding of what may occur before, during, and after the procedure. This will help to ensure a healthy recovery and satisfactory results.
Will health insurance providers cover the costs of Bariatric Surgery?
Speaking directly with the healthcare insurance provider in question is the best way to gain accurate and relevant information related to insurance coverage of surgical costs. Each healthcare insurance organization is different so coverage policies will vary. Information regarding whether or not the practicing physician offering Bariatric surgery is part of an accredited weight loss surgery program or is Board Certified may be helpful since some healthcare insurance providers opt to cover costs for patients who undergo treatment with accredited programs or Board Certified physicians. Researching the weight loss program, getting to know the physician(s) involved, and asking plenty of questions will contribute to more informed decisions when concerning costs and insurance coverage.
Disclaimer: This information is intended only as an introduction to this procedure. This information should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor does it guarantee results of your elective surgery. Further details regarding surgical standards and procedures should be discussed with your physician.
By BariatricNetwork.org Staff
Updated: February 2, 2009