Undergoing a weight-loss surgery can be very risky. A 2014 study conducted by the New York University Langone Medical Center showed that leakage during surgery is the utmost concern of patients, and their ultimate goal is maximum weight-loss. Out of the 172 patients that they interviewed 19% changed their mind or having doubts if bariatric surgery is right for them after their personal appointment with a bariatric surgeon.
We get it, it can be daunting to choose the right weight-loss surgeon for you. After all, you are not only looking for a certified and well-trained surgeon to give you the best results, but you are also looking for a long-term partner that will assist you in your lifelong journey to health and wellness.
It is always a good idea to do your own research before making a decision. Although the title of this article is “Finding the Right Surgeon”, the key to a successful surgery is finding the right “team”. Your journey does not start at the operating theater, it begins at the preoperative stage— where your surgeon and his bariatric team will carefully assess your physiological and psychological state.
Before you head out and schedule an appointment with your surgeon, let us check first if you are a right candidate for a bariatric surgery. Then, we will explore what are the following factors that you ought to consider in finding the right bariatric team.
Who is a good candidate for a weight loss surgery?
To know if you are qualified to undergo a bariatric surgery, you need to go through an intensive evaluation. A team of surgeons, fitness professionals, dietician, and a counselor will work together with you to ensure that your body and mind are both prepared to have a bariatric surgery.
- Physical evaluation
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) listed down the following eligibility requirements for a weight loss surgery:
- You should have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more.
- You may have a BMI of 35 or more with serious health problems related to obesity.
- Psychological evaluation
An obese patient does not have to meet any specific psychological standards, you still need to see a psychologist. Your aftercare team, including your psychologist, will help you stay motivated to exercise after surgery, give you a good understanding about the entire process of bariatric surgery, and provide a solid support group for you to maximize the benefits of the surgery and give you the best results.
Moreover, a good psychologist will be able to help you identify the areas in your life where you might need more support, such as dealing with anxiety, relapse, or depression.
If you ticked off all of the required physical and emotional requirements for a weight loss surgery, then you are now ready to go to the next step— finding the right bariatric surgeon.
How to choose the right surgeon?
The most crucial decision you will ever make when you finally made up your mind to have a bariatric surgery is choosing the right surgeon. A qualified surgeon will help you minimize the risks of complications during surgery while maximizing your likelihood of success.
It is imperative that you check the following criteria of a good surgeon below before you jump the gun. If you take your time and do your research thoroughly you will not surely regret it later. The only thing more difficult than waiting is wishing you had.
- Ensure your bariatric surgeon is certified.
It is important that your doctor is certified either through a board or society of bariatric surgeons.
As bariatric surgery becomes a norm nowadays, revisions due to complications or unsatisfactory results after surgery are also increasing. From the year 1995 to 2008, roughly 5% to 56% of all bariatric procedures need revisions and all of them are done with an open surgery.
In this new era where surgical technology is fast advancing, there are new and advanced ways of performing bariatric surgeries. In substitute to open surgeries, robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgeries are done to minimize the size of the scar and quicken the recovery time of the patient.
To make sure the surgeon received proper training and education to practice safe, ethical, and successful weight loss surgeries. He or she should be a member of an exclusive group for bariatric surgeons such as American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery (ASMB) or Centers of Excellence (COE).
- Ensure your bariatric surgeon is specialized.
You would not go to a neurologist if you have a heart disease, right? So, why should the same rule apply to weight loss surgery? Surgeons are undoubtedly knowledgeable, but working on different parts of your body needs different training. To avoid surgical complications and mortality, look for a surgeon who already performed at least 100 operations.
Do not hesitate to put them in a hot seat. Ask them questions about their experience, training, and success rate.
- Be sure to compare past results.
One of the best ways to make sure a surgeon is suitable than the other is to contact previous patients. You can easily have a glimpse of what to expect by asking someone who has gone through the procedure in the past.
Ask them if they are satisfied with the results and if their expectations were met. You do not have to meet them personally, you can contact them through emails, or call them. Then, ask yourself if the result is consistent and credible.
- Be sure they provide aftercare programs.
Right after a successful weight loss surgery patients lose 65% of their excess weight, and 2 years after the surgery they would reach a plateau. This period is very critical, some patients gain back their normal weight or more. That is why aftercare programs are very essential for the long-term success of the surgery— this includes support groups and multidisciplinary team.
- Be sure that you are also satisfied with your surgeon’s support staff.
Besides your surgeon, you should also meet the rest of your bariatric team, this includes your nutritionist and coordinator. You will work closely with them before and after surgery, that is why you should talk about how you should work together to achieve optimum results.
Lastly, you should bear in mind that you will have a life-long relationship with your surgeon after the surgery, so be sure that they have all the resources for your specific needs and you feel comfortable working with them.
How to choose the right hospital?
Making the right decision also involves choosing the right hospital that features highly specialized staffs and cutting-edge technology.
As much as possible, look for a hospital with a Center of Excellence (COE) in bariatric surgery. This means this facility achieved the following requirements:
- They successfully performed a minimum number of bariatric operations in the previous year.
- They achieved quality results.
- The staffs have undergone additional training to take care of and treat bariatric patients.
- They have a Bariatric coordinator that oversees the overall process, and he or she normally becomes the main contact of the patient.
You can always check certified members of COE in the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program website.
Am I Ready to Change My Lifestyle?
I hate to burst your bubble, but undergoing a bariatric surgery is not your magic wand for losing weight. If you choose to go to a weight loss surgery, you still need to do your best to modify your lifestyle and eating habits. Patients with excellent results adopt moderate eating and regular exercise to maintain their healthy weight.
In retrospect, you should ask yourself, are you ready to make lifelong lifestyle changes? Be truthfully honest with yourself, this is not an overnight fix, this is something you have to work on every day. If you are not yet sure, do not be ashamed of taking your time and do all means to get educated.
One of the most significant reasons why patients experience poor results after surgery or relapse is because they have a weak inner support group. To determine the level of support you receive from your friends and family. Ask yourself, do you have a healthy support system at home or at work? Who are they? This is significant because your surgery will also affect those surround you.
Lastly, be prepared. As an old adage says, “there will always be someone who will not agree with you.” Some would openly give their unsolicited advice, few are good and others are bad. You need to be careful about how you will react in different situations. As best as you can, limit the people with whom you will share your plans for a bariatric surgery for those whom you truly trust and are close to you. Remember you deserve to live a happy life! It is your body, and the decision is yours.
We are here to help you, please do not hesitate to contact us for an expert advice or read more about minimally invasive bariatric surgery on our website.