Weight loss surgeries are now the most commonly performed procedures in the United States and are the only proven method of long-term, sustained weight loss. Across the country, more than 230,000 people undergo one of the major procedures, and most enjoy their results—a lifetime of healthy weight management. Despite the popularity of bariatric surgery, many patients have questions before considering taking the next step. Here are the most commonly asked questions about weight loss surgery.
Q. Am I eligible for bariatric weight loss surgery?
A. Weight loss surgery is not for everyone. People who have small amounts of weight to lose (typically fewer than 50 pounds) are not the best candidates for bariatric surgery and benefit from less invasive procedures. Generally, those with a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or higher are good candidates for surgery. If you have a BMI of 35-40 and two or more comorbidities, you can be approved for surgery. Common co-morbidities include:
-High blood pressure
-Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetic status
-Gall bladder disease
In addition, you will need to show that you have attempted to lose weight prior to surgery. You can usually prove this by showing evidence of gym memberships, weight loss support group memberships, and fitness training.
Q. How much weight will I lose with bariatric surgery?
A. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The amount of weight you lose depends on a variety of factors including which procedure you select, your starting weight, and your dedication to making lifestyle changes. In general, you can expect to lose:
-50% of your excess weight in the first year. Your excess weight is determined by subtracting your ideal weight from your current weight. If you currently weigh 350 pounds, and a healthy weight is 150 pounds, you have an excess weight of 200 pounds. Within the first year following surgery, you can expect to lose about 100 pounds.
-You will continue to lose weight for about two years, reaching your goal weight at about the 18 month-24 month mark.
People who start out at lower weights will lose fewer pounds, but the percentages are generally the same. In addition, failing to adhere to the new diet plan can cause you to lose less than the ideal amount of weight.
Q. What are the most common complications and risks of weight loss surgery?
A. As with any medical procedure, there are certain risks related to bariatric surgery. Not all patients experience side effects, however. Some of the most common risks and side effects include:
-Nausea and pain during overeating
-Low levels of weight loss
-Dumping syndrome, which can lead to dizziness and fatigue
-Inability to eat certain foods
-Vitamin or iron deficiency
Many of these risks can be mitigated with lifestyle changes. Your surgeon will teach you how to eat to avoid nausea and give you a diet plan that helps you to keep the weight off. In addition, staying current with your post-surgery appointments will help your doctor to catch these potential problems before they start.
Q. How long does it take to return to work after surgery?
A. This will vary from patient to patient. In general, patients who get the least invasive procedures like the gastric balloon and band will be able to return to work within one week. For procedures like the gastric bypass and gastric sleeve, most people find that they need about 2-4 weeks of recovery time.
The type of work you perform matters as well. Patients with desk jobs can return to work sooner than those who work physically demanding jobs.
Q. How long will I have to remain in the hospital following the surgery?
A. Most patients will go home the next day after surgery. In general, you will be cleared to leave if you are:
-Able to take in fluids
-Using the bathroom without problems
-Not experiencing excessive nausea or vomiting
-Able to walk without assistance
Q. What can I expect immediately following the surgery?
A. When you wake up in the recovery room, your surgical team will work to manage your pain. Most patients will experience some pain, but with a pain management plan, it should not be severe. We will make sure you remain comfortable while you rest and recover. At some point immediately following surgery, your nursing staff will encourage you to walk, use the bathroom, and shower.
Q. What do I need to achieve success after surgery?
A. There are several steps that you will have to take to ensure long-term success after surgery
-Exercise is the key to maintaining your weight loss following surgery. Start slowly, exercising for about 15-20 minutes a day
-Immediately following the surgery, the doctor will assign you a set of dietary guidelines that are important for you to follow. The better you are at following them, the longer you will be able to maintain your weight loss
-Make sure you’re getting enough protein, water, and nutrients daily. You will also need to take bariatric vitamins regularly
-Stay away from slider foods that can cause weight regain. These include things like soda, alcohol, snacks, and sugary foods.
Q. Can I get pregnant after weight loss surgery?
A. Doctors will strongly advise that you prevent pregnancy for at least two years following surgery. Your body is still healing and your weight is not stable in the first 24 months. After this point, you will safely be able to nourish a growing fetus.
In addition, many women find it easier to get pregnant following bariatric surgery. Weight gain may cause you to start ovulating normally, leading to pregnancy. Consult your doctor before planning a pregnancy post-surgery.
Q. Will I just keep losing weight until I waste away completely?
A. In the weeks and months following surgery, you will be losing weight rapidly. You may see a loss of up to 30 pounds in a month in the beginning. Within the first six months, you may be down by 100 pounds, leading to a fear that the weight loss will never stop. This is not likely.
First, your weight loss will slow and plateau eventually. Your body will adjust to your new smaller stomach and your metabolism will slow. As your body gets smaller, your caloric needs will decrease and your weight loss will not be as drastic. Your stomach pouch will stretch slightly, allowing you to eat more food. Few patients will lose weight to the point of malnourishment.
If you are considering the gastric band, your doctor can adjust the band to slow your weight loss as necessary.
Q. Will I have loose skin?
A. Most patients who are morbidly obese will experience loose skin as they lose weight. Your doctor can recommend plastic surgeons who can help you to reconstruct your body after surgery.
Q. Will exercise get rid of loose skin?
A. While regular exercise can definitely help to tone the body and improve your overall appearance, it can’t cure the loose skin issue.
Q. I’m used to eating large portions. Will I be uncomfortably hungry after surgery?
A. In the first 4-6 weeks following surgery, most people have no appetite at all. Gradually, the appetite returns, but since the surgery has removed the part of the stomach responsible for hunger, you will be less hungry than before. Most patients easily adjust to the smaller portions over time.
Q. What are the age requirements for bariatric surgery?
A. The American Society of Bariatric Surgery recommends bariatric surgery for patients 18 and older. While many children suffer from the harmful effects of obesity, they often lack the maturity to follow the guidelines required for success. While patients under the age of 18 can get approval for surgery, it is important that they are ready to take on the commitment to lifelong lifestyle changes.
Q. Does insurance cover bariatric surgery?
A. If you meet the basic requirements of BMI and co-morbidities, your insurance company should approve you for surgery. In some cases, they will deny you, even if you meet the requirements. Our team of financial experts will help you to appeal the decision, presenting the right amount of evidence to get approval.
Q. If insurance won’t cover it, are there self-pay options?
A. There are several options available if you are unable to get approval from your insurance company. Our office has partnerships with healthcare lending companies that can help to cover the costs of surgical weight loss. In addition, we offer in-house payment plans that allow you to easily pay for your procedure.
Ready to get started?
If you are ready to take the next step toward a transformed life and a new body, Dr. Suggs and the Alabama Bariatrics team is ready to help. We have a team of surgical staff, financial counselors, nutritionists, and psychologists who can help you enjoy life-long weight management. We offer several surgical weight loss options to meet your needs, no matter how much weight you need to lose. Call us for a free consultation today.