Who is a Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?

by Dr. William Fuller, Bariatric Surgeon

Find out who can benefit from weight loss surgery

For many people, the best thing they can do to improve their overall health is lose weight. Even people who are only a few pounds over their fighting weight can benefit. The health benefits from reaching a normal weight are amazing, particularly for those who are significantly overweight or obese.

The candidates

Having a body mass index above 30 dramatically impacts both quality of life and health. A BMI above 35-50 is considered morbid obesity and above 50 becomes extreme obesity. People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and even cancer. Many of these people spend years trying to take off the weight through diet and exercise but have no success. In those cases, bariatric surgery can be life-extending.

The risks and benefits

It’s important to note that a bariatric procedure is usually only considered after more conservative weight loss methods have failed. There are different types of bariatric surgeries, but they all involve dramatically reducing the portion sizes which patients can consume by altering gastrointestinal anatomy. Some of these procedures also dampen the hormonal signaling that encourages eating. For people with severe weight issues, this is a good outcome. Bariatric surgery is very safe, but there are still risks.

It’s worth repeating that bariatric procedures are very serious surgeries that are usually only considered when other efforts have failed. Generally, the patient has severe obesity making them at risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes or another serious condition. In those cases, the risks posed by the surgery are greatly outweighed by the risks of being obese.

Emotional preparation

Another important factor is emotional wellbeing. The whole point of bariatric surgery is to help patients change their eating habits. It’s critically important that they have the motivation to accomplish this. Continuing with the same diet could have disastrous health consequences. In addition, depression and other mental health conditions can lead to binge eating. So, for those looking into bariatric surgery, psychological status is an important consideration and being evaluated prior to surgery is wise.

Motivation

Most of all, I cannot overstress the importance of being a motivated patient. Weight loss surgery is not the easy way out. It will require a deep commitment to the process before, during and after the procedure. However, for people who make that commitment, bariatric surgery can go a long way toward restoring good health.

This health and wellness tip was provided by William Fuller, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Management.