Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery
Understanding the Risks of Weight Loss Surgery
Understanding the possible outcomes of weight loss surgery, including the risks, is an important part of preparing for the operation.
All surgeries carry some risk of infection or blood clots. And obese people are at higher risk for complications, particularly if they have early signs of diabetes or heart disease. The Bariatric Outcomes Longitudinal Database (BOLD) reports that about 0.13% of people die from weight loss surgery. The death rate is higher in older patients, and in people with high blood pressure. Yet weight loss surgery can help increase the life span of people who are severely obese and who have other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. So, while the surgery has its risks, it can help save lives in some cases. For maximum protection, doctors recommend patients have a thorough pre-operative workup that can identify potential problems before surgery. Using an experienced and qualified surgeon is also critical.
Often patients find the required psychological evaluation helps prepare them mentally for the surgery and the risks. It helps some people become more conscious of what they are thinking and feeling, and prepares them to think of food in a different way.
Expectations After Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery -- like any surgical procedure -- may require an extensive recovery period. Recovery time varies with the person, but usually takes at least one full week, and often up to three or four weeks.
New techniques have helped lessen recovery time. Today, the weight loss surgery can be performed minimally invasively via small incisions. In a few centers around the country, weight loss surgery is even done on an outpatient basis.
Most obese people lose about a pound a day for the first month or so after weight loss surgery. Then they may lose between 50% and 75% of their excess body weight within a full year after surgery. But even then, the process is not over. People who have weight loss surgery are at risk for medical problems due to nutritional deficiencies such as anemia, osteoporosis, and metabolic bone disease. They need to follow a healthy diet, exercise, and supplementation regimen and have regular checkups with doctors who can monitor their nutritional health.
Quick Questions to Ask Yourself About Weight Loss Surgery
Ask yourself these questions, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, if you are considering weight loss surgery. If you answer yes to many or all of them, start by calling your primary care doctor and insurance company.
- Unlikely to lose weight or keep weight off long term with nonsurgical measures?
- Well informed about the surgical procedure and the effects of treatment?
- Determined to lose weight and improve your health?
- Aware of how your life may change after the operation (adjustments to the side effects of the operation include the need to chew food well and inability to eat large meals)?
- Aware of the potential for serious complications, dietary restrictions, and occasional failures?
- Committed to lifelong medical follow-up and vitamin/mineral supplementation?