Understanding Bariatric Surgery for Healthy Weight Loss

Is there something you’re not doing because your weight is holding you back? Maybe you find you lack the stamina to enjoy a brisk morning walk with your spouse. Or, a seat on a roller coaster proves to be too restrictive for a comfortable ride with your children. If you are struggling with your weight, there is hope.

In 2017 alone, the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery estimates that 228,000 people underwent bariatric surgery.

“Bariatric surgery refers to any surgical procedure that physically alters the stomach, small intestines or other component of the digestive system to promote weight loss,” explains Michael Lee, M.D., a bariatric surgeon at Lee Bariatrics, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “The various types of bariatric surgeries each accomplish weight reduction through a different technique.”

Bariatric surgeries are often performed through laparoscopic procedures in which a small camera and surgical tools are inserted through tiny incisions in the abdomen. Because of the minimally invasive nature of laparoscopic surgeries, the risk of injury or complication is reduced and patients are able to recover more quickly and with less discomfort than is possible through traditional open procedures.

“There’s a significant amount of information out there about bariatric surgery, but not all of it is credible, and some of it is even dangerous,” Lee says. “There are many things to consider, and your doctor should look at the whole picture — your medical history, your personal preferences, and the possible drawbacks of one procedure over another — before making a recommendation on a course of action. You may be advised to first try a strict diet and exercise plan if you have not already. If this doesn’t work for you or is not possible, weight loss surgery may be your best treatment option.”

 

Are you a candidate for bariatric surgery?

If you are struggling with chronic obesity and have yet to find success losing weight or keeping the weight off, you may be a good candidate for bariatric surgery. For patients who meet the National Institutes of Health guidelines, which recommend either a body mass index (BMI) of 40+ or a BMI of 35 with serious accompanying health issues — such as hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, or type 2 diabetes — bariatric surgery may be an option.

With that said, the Food and Drug Administration has approved gastric band surgeries for those with a BMI of 30 or more. The only way to truly know if you are a good candidate for weight loss surgery is to discuss it with a qualified bariatric surgeon.

“Bariatric surgery isn’t for everyone and it isn’t a quick fix; it’s a lifestyle change and a lifetime commitment,” Lee says. “However, for patients who fit certain criteria it can help them reach their weight loss goals and experience a healthier lifestyle. I’ve had patients with type 2 diabetes reduce or totally eliminate the need for insulin after surgery. It can be very transformative for the patient.”

Lee uses the following criteria when meeting with a potential candidate to determine if bariatric surgery is a good treatment approach:

  • The individual is medically obese or struggling with a medical weight-related condition, such as type 2 diabetes.
  • The individual is knowledgeable of the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery.
  • He or she is willing to adjust eating habits following the surgery.
  • There is a demonstrated commitment to making lifestyle changes to keep the weight off.

“It’s a common misperception that bariatric surgery should be considered only after all other weight loss options have failed,” Lee adds. “Truth is patients overweight by more than 80 pounds have a very high failure rate, near 98 percent, in maintaining weight loss over the long term without bariatric surgery. It’s often more effective to have weight loss surgery earlier in life before the comorbidities associated with obesity can cause additional health issues.”

If you are struggling with obesity, start your weight loss journey today by visiting TexasHealth.org/Find-A-Physician.

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