Bariatric surgery (from the Greek words “baros,” meaning “weight,” and “iatrikos,” meaning “medicine”) is the term for a surgery that is done to help you lose weight. Bariatric surgery is not recommended for everyone who is overweight or obese.Weight LossHowever, it may be an option if you are obese and have not been able to lose weight with other methods.

Two types of surgical procedures used to promote weight loss are:

  • Restrictive surgery: During these procedures the stomach is made smaller. A section of your stomach is removed or closed which limits the amount of food it can hold and causes you to feel full.
  • Malabsorptive surgery: Most of digestion and absorption takes place in the small intestine. Surgery to this area shortens the length of the small intestine and/or changes where it connects to the stomach, limiting the amount of food that is completely digested or absorbed (causing malabsorption). These surgeries are now performed along with restrictive surgery.

Am I a Candidate for Weight Loss Surgery?
You may be a candidate for weight loss surgery if you have:

  • a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more about 100 pounds overweight for men and 80 pounds for women (see BMI chart)
  • a BMI between 35 and 39.9 and a serious obesity-related health problem such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or severe sleep apnea (when breathing stops for short periods during sleep)
  • an understanding of the operation and the lifestyle changes you will need to make.

Is Weight Loss Surgery for You?
Bariatric weight loss surgery may be the next step for people who remain severely obese after trying nonsurgical approaches, or for people who have an obesity-related disease. Surgery to produce quick weight loss is a serious undertaking. Anyone thinking about undergoing this type of weight loss surgery should understand what it involves. Answers to the following questions may help you decide whether weight loss surgery is right for you.

Are you:

  • unlikely to lose weight or keep weight off long-term with nonsurgical measures?
  •  well informed about the surgical procedure and the effects of the weight loss surgery?
  •  determined to lose weight and improve your health?
  •  aware of how your life may change after the operation (adjustment to the side effects of the operation, including the need to chew food well and inability to eat large meals)?
  •  aware of the potential for serious complications, dietary restrictions, and occasional failures related to weight loss surgery?
  •  committed to lifelong medical follow-up and vitamin/mineral supplementation?

Remember: There are no guarantees for any method, including surgery, to produce rapid weight loss and maintain it. Success with weight loss surgery is possible only with maximum cooperation and commitment to behavioral change and medical follow-up and this cooperation and commitment must be carried out for the rest of your life.

A decision to have bariatric surgery is very personal and very important. It will change your life in an irreversible way for the most part, not just because of the quick weight loss it produces. Being careful with a decision like this is the right thing to do. You should research the various weight loss surgeries and the various surgeons. Then you and the surgeon should, together, agree that weight loss surgery is the best choice you can make.