Deciding on whether or not to get weight loss surgery is a big decision, one that will affect the rest of your life. But after trying can’t-miss diets, exercise fads, and any number of other weight-loss systems, you may be thinking a weight-loss procedure may be your only hope. Before making the decision, though, you should know the requirements for weight loss surgery.
There’s no denying it: weight loss surgeries like gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and others along with a healthy diet and regular physical activity give you the best chance at losing significant amount of excess weight. However, bariatric procedures aren’t for everyone, as there are both physical and emotional specifics you need to meet before undergoing surgery.
What Are the Requirements for Weight Loss Surgery?
These requirements are in place to ensure you meet the criteria for weight loss surgery. And while weight is a major factor, there are other considerations:
- Understanding the Risks
- BMI (body mass index)
- Overall Health
- Comorbidities (illness/disease/etc.)
- Psychological Evaluation
- Commitment to Change
Understanding the Risks
Bariatric surgery is safer than gallbladder surgery and is accepted by the medical field. Many patients have insurance coverage for the surgery as well. While Bariatric surgery is very safe there are still risks with any kind of surgery. You need to understand just how much weight you’ll lose, the lifestyle changes you need to make, and the lifelong commitment required for bariatric surgery. Understanding what can happen physically if you don’t follow the process and the potential emotional issues you could face will ensure that you are prepared to undergo a life-changing procedure.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
In the past, those with a BMI of 40 or higher, or a BMI of 35-39.9 with obesity-related health conditions, were considered candidates for this procedure. Recent changes have dropped those numbers, however, allowing more patients to qualify. Those numbers are now a BMI of 35 or higher is needed without health risks and between 30-34.9 with health issues.
In the past, age was often a consideration for a bariatric procedure because of its open-surgery nature. With the advances in laparoscopic and robotic surgery, bariatric surgery is much safer, less invasive, and requires much less healing time. Still, age is a consideration when considering a weight loss program. There isn’t much data when it comes to those younger than 13 and obesity, so that is generally the starting point. Patients over the age of 65 or even 70 have also qualified for weight-loss procedures.
No matter the age, a medical evaluation serves an important purpose in assessing your overall health status when it comes to bariatric surgery. The evaluation may include a variety of procedures such as blood tests, physical examinations, and consultations with various healthcare professionals.
Your medical history is an important part of the evaluation. Are there past health problems (beyond those caused by obesity) that could complicate the procedure? Have you had other weight-loss surgeries? Does family history make losing weight that much harder for you?
Even though laparoscopic procedures are quite noninvasive, you’ll need to make sure your body can handle not only the surgery but you can handle the lifestyle changes that must be followed.
These are illnesses or diseases that can be attributed to being obese or morbidly obese, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, and heart disease. Having one or more of these conditions can increase the likelihood of being considered a candidate for surgery, although they aren’t necessarily a requirement.
A psychological evaluation can help uncover any underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to your weight struggles. It can also help determine whether you have realistic expectations for the surgery and if you’re mentally prepared for the changes that come with it.
The evaluation can identify any potential post-surgery problems that may arise from psychological factors, such as emotional eating or depression that could affect healthy exercise habits. For many patients, the surgery is the easiest part of the weight loss journey–it’s the emotional part of the process that’s much more difficult.
Commitment to Change
Perhaps the most important part of the surgery, a commitment to healthy eating and exercise for the rest of your life is required for the best long-term weight loss and meeting your goals.
Bariatric surgery is not a quick-fix solution or something that you can go through multiple times. You need to be able to follow the pre-op diet, stick to an all-liquid diet for two weeks after, and follow a long-term diet and exercise regimen for essentially the rest of your life. If not, your weight loss results will be variable, your body may not get the nutrients it needs, and you could end up injuring yourself.
In addition to talking over the bariatric surgery requirements, you’ll need to speak with your primary care physician to make sure you’re able to undergo a procedure. Certain medications you’re taking or physical limitations could all become factors when it comes to gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, duodenal switch, and other procedures.
To see if you’re a candidate, first watch our online seminar where Dr. Marina Kurian discusses the procedures, benefits, and requirements of bariatric surgery. Then schedule a consultation to find out if weight-loss procedures are for you. We can even work with your insurance company to see what kind of coverage you have and if it covers these procedures.