Criteria for Bariatric Surgery
Although bariatric surgery has proven to be an effective way for people to lose a significant amount of weight, it’s not the right solution for everyone. Patients must meet certain criteria before undergoing weight loss surgery.
In order to qualify for weight loss surgery, you must be able to demonstrate that you are obese and that your obesity is causing or may lead to health problems. Surgery is designed to be a solution to medical problems, so your physician, as well as your insurance company, will focus on the potential health benefits of having surgery.
In most cases, you must have a BMI of at least 40 or have a BMI of at least 35 that’s accompanied by obesity-related health problems. Obesity-related health problems (also called comorbidities) may include high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, or chronic GERD (an acid reflux disease).
In recent years, research has shown that weight loss surgery can be safe and effective for people with mild to moderate obesity. In light of this research, some centers have begun to operate on people who have a BMI between 30 and 35, especially if there is evidence of other comorbidities.
In addition to the weight criteria, most surgical centers will require bariatric patients to be at least 18-years-old and free of certain health conditions that can cause serious complications during or after surgery. Conditions that may make you a poor candidate for bariatric surgery include:
- Severe heart or lung disease
- Upper digestive tract bleeding due to enlarged or fragile veins
- Portal hypertension
- Abnormal digestive tract anatomy
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Known allergies to the implant materials
Bariatric surgery is not the right option for every severely obese person, even if they meet all of the physical criteria for surgery. Weight loss surgery is one part of an overall weight loss program, one that requires a long-term commitment and significant lifestyle changes in order to be successful. Before taking on the risks associated with surgery, your surgeon will want to have sufficient evidence that you’ll be able to make the changes necessary to reap the benefits.
Most surgeons and insurance companies will ask you to show that you’ve made significant efforts to lose weight over a prolonged period of time. Your surgeon will want to know if you’ve tried diets, exercise programs, diet pills, or other weight loss methods. The purpose of this is to show that you’re committed to the long-term process involved with losing weight. Your surgeon or insurance company may also ask you to commit to a six-month, physician-monitored diet program before actually having surgery.
In addition to demonstrating your commitment to losing weight, you’ll also need to show that you fully understand the risks and responsibilities associated with having weight loss surgery. Your surgeon will likely require you to attend a free informational seminar about weight loss surgery. You may also be expected to undergo a psychological evaluation and nutritional consultation with qualified experts in order to ensure that you’re mentally prepared for having surgery.