Deciding to have surgery is never an easy decision. It can be even more harrowing for people with chronic obesity considering bariatric surgery. The thought of undergoing any kind of surgical procedure could make some apprehensive. Others may have concerns about the stigma around bariatric surgery – that it could be viewed as an admittance of failure to control their weight through traditional diet and exercise.
Katherine Meister MD, a bariatric surgeon with TriHealth Weight Management says that she hears these concerns from some of her patients, but she educates them on the misconceptions surrounding bariatric surgery, such as concerns regarding safety and lack of control. Additionally, Dr. Meister imparts knowledge regarding the benefits of bariatric surgery for the treatment of chronic obesity.
“We know that the chances of a patient who is more than 100 pounds overweight losing that weight without surgery is less than once percent,” she says, “so we work to inform them about their options, which many times includes a surgical decision.”
Dr. Meister cites many of the facts concerning the safety and success rate of weight loss surgery as some of the reasons patients consider bariatric surgery as an option for treating chronic obesity.
Bariatric Surgery is Safe
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), bariatric surgery is as safe as common procedures such as gallbladder surgery, hip replacement surgery and hysterectomies, with a mortality rate of 0.2 percent – a rate far lower than most elective operations performed today. The most common procedures, gastric bypass surgery and sleeve gastrectomy, are performed laparoscopically- through small keyhole incisions.
Some patients express concerns about diet and bowel functions following bariatric surgery, but with the assistance of a daily vitamin regimen and the guidance from a dietician, patients receive the nutrients they need following bariatric surgery. Patients can maintain a healthy diet with smaller amounts of food and retain healthy bowel functions, according to ASMBS.
Bariatric Surgery Works
According to ASMBS data, patients who undergo a sleeve gastrectomy lose an average of 80 to 100 pounds in their first year after surgery. For gastric bypass surgery, the average weight loss is 100 to 150 pounds. The expected amount of weight loss is based on a patient’s starting weight. It is normal to regain some of that weight, generally about 10 to 15 percent, but most patients never regain a significant amount.
Dr. Meister says. “After the initial weight loss, a few pounds may come back, but patients will maintain a significant weight loss. Overall patients have a better quality of life and experience fewer medical problems. Having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 cuts seven years off of life expectancy. That jumps to 14 years with a BMI of 55, so patients will also live longer.”
Not a Last Resort
As Dr. Meister points out, obesity is a disease and is just as
serious as other chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
As with other chronic diseases, if we can intervene earlier, we will have a
greater impact on the patient’s overall health. , The chances for survival or a
better quality of life increase when obesity is treated early. The trouble is
that many patients wait to seek assistance after struggling on their own for
years with diet and exercise.
“Obesity is like a puzzle,” she says. “There are a lot of
pieces to solving that puzzle. It’s not as easy as calories in and calories
out. Genetic and environmental factors also play a role in the development of
obesity. Surgery is one piece to solving the puzzle, but some of the other
pieces are collaboration with primary care physicians, dieticians, psychologists,
as well as patient motivation and activity level. Like other chronic diseases, there isn’t
always one treatment that will cure a patient. ”
That’s why, whether the patient follows a medically
supervised, non-surgical program or opts for surgery, Dr. Meister recommends a
multidisciplinary approach, such as the treatment options offered by TriHealth
“It’s not just seeing the surgeon and the dietician. It’s
seeing the exercise physiologist and the athletic trainers. It’s seeing the psychologist.
It’s getting all of those entities involved in treating this chronic disease. It’s
important that all these specialists stay with the patient for long-term
The lesson here is that for those with chronic obesity,
surgery is often the most important piece to that puzzle. Getting to know the facts can help clear up
any misconceptions people have about bariatric surgery. According to Dr.
Meister, not only is surgery a tool to assist with weight loss, it can be one
of the best options for long-term success.