Am I a Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?
It’s important to understand that your decision to undergo weight loss surgery is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life. But weight loss surgery is not for everyone; you must first qualify for bariatric surgery, as your doctor will explain to you. Before making an appointment to see a surgeon specializing in weight loss surgery, you should discuss your weight loss options with your primary care doctor who will likely suggest that as a next step, you meet with one of our surgeons for an in-depth discussion about your options.
Your doctors may want you to do one or all of the following before considering surgery for weight loss: participate in a formal, doctor-supervised dietary regimen and weight loss program; consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist; and/or consider using medications to help with your weight loss. If these approaches have failed in the past, then weight loss surgery may be an option for you.
It is important to consider both the risks and the benefits of bariatric surgery. While it can be a life-saving procedure for many, there are risks and potential complications of weight loss surgery, as with any surgical procedure. We will communicate very clearly and carefully with you before, during, and after your surgery about both the benefits and risks.
Bariatric surgery generally follows the criteria for bariatric surgical candidates established by the National Institutes of Health. The criteria for bariatric surgery that you must meet to be qualified as a candidate include the following:
- Age—while most patients are between the ages of 18 and 65, we can treat adolescents age13 and over if they have achieved full bone growth, and some patients over 65 if they are medically cleared for surgery.
- Body mass index (BMI)—You must have a body mass index greater than 40, or greater than 35 plus one or more weight-related health problems such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, or sleep apnea.
- Unsuccessful previous weight loss attempts—you have been unable lose weight through non-surgical methods.
- Understanding—you have a clear understanding of the surgery and its risks.
- Cause of obesity—your obesity should not be the result of a medical condition such as hypothyroidism or another hormonal disorder, which could be treated with medication.
- Commitment—you understand and agree to participate in lifelong follow-up after weight loss surgery and follow a balanced diet, practice healthy eating habits, and exercise.
What is body mass index (BMI)?
Your body mass index, or BMI, is a number used by doctors as a yardstick to determine who is a candidate for weight loss surgery. Your BMI is calculated based on weight and height. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a free BMI calculator here.
It’s About You
Even if you qualify for bariatric surgery based on the criteria above, you have to consider your goals and your ability to follow through. For example, it is important if you have a bariatric procedure that you make a lifelong commitment to making changes in your diet. This includes consuming sufficient protein, taking vitamin and mineral supplements such as a multivitamin, B12, iron, and calcium, and avoiding sweets and fatty foods.
Keep in mind that no one knows you as well as you know yourself. Think very carefully about your answers to the following questions as you consider having weight loss surgery:
- How much weight do I want to lose?
- Do I want a reversible procedure?
- What compromises am I willing to make to lose weight and improve my health?
- What are my expectations for life after surgery?
- Based on my current age, weight, health issues, habits, and lifestyle, does surgery make sense for me?
Once you have seriously considered the questions above, have tried other options to lose weight, and once your doctors qualify you for surgery, we welcome you to contact one of our expert bariatric surgeons to continue your weight loss journey.