How to plan and prepare for weight loss surgery.
It’s that time of year when millions of people make changes to better their health. For many, those changes include bariatric surgery. According to The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), there were 256,000 bariatric—or weight loss—surgeries performed in 2019.
However, potential patients may be unaware that planning and preparing for weight loss surgery can be a long process, taking several months, even up to one year.
To help those considering surgery, Registry Partners has compiled the following information outlining what patients should expect before, during and after bariatric surgery.
Before Deciding To Have Surgery
Weight loss (bariatric) surgery is a procedure that can be done in one day, but patients should understand that surgery is just one single tool in an overall larger plan that requires a lifelong change. Weight loss surgery success requires a daily commitment to those changes, as surgery alone will not produce permanent results. The process will likely include:
- Weight loss seminars before surgery
- Medically managed nutrition therapy (before and after surgery)
- Psychological assessment(s) with a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker
- Medical evaluations from other specialists on your healthcare team, such as cardiology consults and/or endocrinologist consults.
- Medical testing may include imaging studies, gastroenterology procedures to assess your internal anatomy, blood draws for lab studies.
- Some bariatric providers may ask the patient to sign an agreement before surgery to commit to attending a bariatric surgery support group for a defined period following surgery.
- Exercise plan/tracking
Other Important Considerations
Some health insurance providers may not pay for bariatric surgery, and those that do may have specific requirements. It is also important to consult with multiple physicians as testing might have to be submitted to your insurance provider for evaluation before determining if the surgery will be covered.
Patients considering weight loss surgery should consider accredited facilities over non-accredited facilities because it means the hospital has successfully met requirements that involve the submission of surgery data, ongoing quality review and improvement processes and inspection of their facility including rooms and equipment specifically designed for bariatric patients, training and continuing education requirements for surgeons and patient-centered services specifically focused on the needs of the bariatric patient, as well as care and outcomes monitoring and reporting.
Bariatric surgeons may perform surgery at more than one hospital. Patients will need to understand which hospital their surgeon may choose to perform their surgery. Hospital location may present concerns with travel distance or health care insurance coverage. In addition, your insurance provider may only cover the cost of bariatric surgery if it is performed at a certified or accredited hospital.
Questions To Ask Your Physician
- Is weight loss surgery an appropriate choice for me?
Not all patients who are overweight are candidates for weight loss surgery. Your physician understands your health and medical needs and is the best source to help you determine if bariatric surgery is a safe, appropriate option to help you reach your health goals.
- How will bariatric surgery affect my eating habits after surgery?
Patients considering weight loss surgery will need to understand how each procedure will impact what types of food they will be able to eat and what they will need to avoid, as well as the frequency of meals and portion sizes.
- What types of bariatric surgeries are available and suitable for me?
Numerous weight loss procedures can be performed. Each physician providing bariatric surgery must be trained on each type of procedure they plan to perform; some may only offer certain bariatric surgery options.
- How long will your planned weight loss surgery require you to be in the hospital and how long will you need to recover before returning to normal activities?
Hospitalization varies depending on the type of weight loss surgery. Knowing this will help patients plan not only for the surgery but also for the postoperative recovery.
- How often and for how long will I need to continue to see my surgeon after my surgery?
Follow-up office visits occur more frequently right after surgery and the schedule of those visits varies among surgeons and patients with unique health concerns.
Importance of Long-Term Follow-Up Care
Follow-up care is essential for patients after surgery as the body’s absorption of food will be altered:
- Routine lab work is essential for life following bariatric surgery to ensure proper nutrition, including adequate absorption of vitamins and protein.
- Monitoring of weight loss. The rate of weight loss and total weight loss can signal issues early that need to be addressed via alterations in your nutrition and/or exercise plan.
- Regular visits with exams by your bariatric provider to help monitor for the early signs of any complications that can result after surgery may not occur in the immediate postoperative period, including strictures, ulcers and hernias.
- Monitoring changes in medical conditions that are affected by weight loss. Patients who have conditions brought on or made worse by obesity often improve or resolve as they lose weight, alter their diet and begin exercise programs. It is vital to have those conditions monitored during your weight loss journey so that adjustments can be made to treatment.
Having bariatric surgery can be life-changing; however, it is important for potential patients to understand that the decision to undergo surgery should not be taken lightly. It is not an easy road, but, if the steps and care plans are followed, it could result in a healthier lifestyle for the patient.
This advice is not intended to replace that of your healthcare provider, so please speak to your doctor if you are considering bariatric surgery.
About Registry Partners
Registry Partners is a national provider of data abstraction, registry management and consulting services. Its clinical data abstractors are certified Metabolic and Bariatric Surgical Clinical Reviewers (MBSCR) with ACS and can help hospital clients achieve Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP®) Accreditation.
To learn more about Registry Partners and the services it provides, visit www.registrypartners.com.