If you are clinically defined as obese and cannot lose weight on your own, you might be a candidate for bariatric surgery.
This is a serious decision, one that requires not only adequate research, but ongoing discussions with your doctor. Here are the basic facts to consider before making an appointment to speak with your doctor about bariatric surgery.
What Is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery refers to weight loss surgery, which comes in a few varieties. According to the Mayo Clinic, one type seeks to reduce the amount of food you can eat, usually by decreasing the size of the stomach. The other variation reduces the amount of nutrients the body can absorb by altering the small intestine.
Who Is a Good Candidate?
Bariatric surgery is usually a last resort, which means it takes a lot to qualify for this procedure. According to WebMD, most patients need to have a BMI of at least 40. However, it is possible to be considered a good candidate with a BMI of 30 or more if you have any weight-related conditions that are serious or life threatening. For example, if you have diabetes, severe sleep apnea, or debilitating arthritis, you have a chance of qualifying for bariatric surgery. Of course, you first need to show that you have already tried to lose the weight by dieting and exercising.
What Type of Doctor Performs the Procedure?
If you get bariatric surgery, you will need to work with a team of doctors, each with a different specialty. UpToDate reports that a bariatric surgeon will be in charge of the actual operation. But prior to surgery, you might meet with a counselor to make sure you are mentally prepared for the procedure. You can also expect to talk to a nutritionist so you are aware of the types and amounts of foods you can consume afterwards.
What Is the Recovery Period Like?
The Mayo Clinic asserts that you will likely not be permitted to eat for a day or two after surgery, since your stomach needs at least that amount of time to begin recovering. After that, you will most likely need to follow a special diet for up to 12 weeks, starting with liquids and working your way back to solid foods eventually. You can expect regular checkups with your doctor in the time following the surgery, especially during the first six months.
What Are the Side Effects?
The main side effects of surgery include weight loss and the inability to eat as much as you once could. However, you might also feel cold, tired, and moody during the first six months after the procedure. Nausea, vomiting, hernias, and infections are some possible complications that a minority of patients experience after bariatric surgery. More serious problems, such as blood clots and heart attacks, are possible, but rather rare.
For more information about talking to your doctor about your weight, read our Patient Guide for obesity.