If you think surgery for weight loss could help you, find out what you need to do to prepare.
If you are severely obese, bariatric surgery — also known as weight-loss surgery (WLS) — may be an option for you. But if you are interested in getting surgery for weight loss, where do you begin? What should you do first? And how long will the preparation take?
Bariatric Surgery: The First Steps
If you have struggled with your weight for a long time, have not been able to lose weight with diet and exercise, and have health problems related to obesity, it may be time to educate yourself about bariatric surgery.
Reading books, magazine articles, published medical studies, and reliable online information about bariatric surgery can help you learn more about who is a candidate for bariatric surgery, what the procedure entails, and how it will change your life. Also, many medical institutions that offer bariatric surgery also offer free information seminars to prospective patients.
Bariatric Surgery: Talking With Your Doctor
If, after educating yourself about WLS, you are still interested in finding out if it’s right for you, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. You and your doctor will discuss your previous weight-loss efforts, and your doctor will need to write a letter that documents them.
If you and your doctor agree that bariatric surgery is an option, your doctor can refer you to a:
- Bariatric surgeon for a surgical evaluation
- Dietitian for a nutritional evaluation
- Mental health professional for a psychological evaluation
It may be recommended that you use the time before your surgery to start improving your health, for example by quitting smoking, improving your diet, and beginning an exercise program. You also probably will need medical tests within three months of your planned surgery for weight loss to determine if your health is good enough to withstand bariatric surgery. These tests may include:
- Complete blood count
- Metabolic profile
- Cholesterol and triglyceride tests
- Vitamin B level evaluation
- Iron profile
- Thyroid tests
- Hemoglobin tests
- Tests for bacteria in your blood
- Electrocardiogram — if you have certain risk factors
- Echocardiogram — if you have used certain weight-loss drugs in the past
- Pap smear
Based on your test results, you may need to see other medical specialists, like a cardiologist or pulmonologist, to confirm that bariatric surgery is a safe option for you.
After you have undergone a comprehensive medical evaluation, you will meet with your prospective bariatric surgeon for a surgical evaluation. If your surgeon determines that you are a good candidate for bariatric surgery, you will then have a nutritional evaluation and a psychological screening.
Bariatric Surgery: Your Insurance Company
As you begin down the road toward surgery for weight loss, you’ll need to call your health insurance carrier to see if your procedure will be covered under your health insurance plan. You should do this early in the process, since some insurance carriers have specific requirements you will need to meet before undergoing bariatric surgery.
Once you have met with your bariatric surgeon, he will coordinate with your insurance carrier to get approval for coverage. Be patient during this process, since it can take a few weeks to a few months before your carrier approves your case.
Bariatric Surgery: Getting Ready for Surgery
Once you have the go-ahead from your health insurance company, you will schedule your surgery.
You will have a pre-operative visit with your medical team about two weeks before your surgery so that your doctor can evaluate your health and give you any pre-operative testing that you require — such as blood tests or an electrocardiogram. You will also discuss with a dietitian the dietary changes that you will make after surgery and buy any vitamin and mineral supplements your medical team recommends.