Eric Schlesinger, M.D., FACS, a board-certified bariatric surgeon and the medical director of the Bridges Center for Surgical Weight Management at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, breaks down some of the things you need to know about weight-loss surgery.
Who should consider it
Typically, a patient must be morbidly obese in order to qualify for weight-loss surgery. A person is considered morbidly obese if he or she has a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher and is at least 100 pounds overweight. A person with a BMI of 35 or higher with two or more serious health issues related to weight may also be a candidate.
Types of weight-loss surgeries
There are several different types of surgery for weight loss, including the adjustable gastric band, gastric bypass, vertical sleeve gastrectomy and duodenal switch procedures. For side-by-side comparisons of the procedures, visit bridgesaz.com/downloads/Bridges_TypesBariatricSurgery.pdf.
How to choose a surgeon
When you are considering a surgeon, you will want to ask what type of procedures he or she performs, if they are board-certified, and if the surgery will be performed in a designated Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence (COE) by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).
Risks of weight-loss surgery
Complications from bariatric surgery — such as wound infections, abdominal bleeding, staple/suture leakage, respiratory failure, pulmonary problems or other surgery-related issues — occur in less than five percent of the procedures performed. Longer-term negative affects of bariatric surgery can include such issues as ulcers, anemia, vitamin deficiencies, temporary hair thinning and symptomatic gallstones. Depending on the type of procedure, additional negative affects can include abdominal cramping, faintness and headaches. However, many of these risks can be eliminated and/or minimized with a proper nutritional diet and regular physical exercise.
Benefits of weight-loss surgery
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bariatric surgery is the only proven weight loss method for those suffering from morbid obesity (BMI of 40 or more). Obesity is a factor in many health issues and diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, male- and female-related cancers, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, depression and more. People that undergo weight loss surgery may find that obesity-related health conditions improve or are even eliminated as a result of the surgery. With a comprehensive program that provides life-long follow up, counseling and education, the resulting weight loss, and all of its benefits, can last a lifetime.
The costs of weight-loss surgery
Many insurance plans now cover bariatric surgery, especially if the patient has health issues related to weight. There is a complex authorization process, therefore it’s important to find a bariatric program, like the Bridges Center, that can help you with obtaining authorization.