Weight Loss Surgery FAQ
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If you’re considering weight loss surgery, there’s a lot of information you need to know. Here are answers to the most common questions we receive.
If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please call us at 1-800-492-5538.
Questions About Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery
Once you decide to have weight loss surgery and have had your initial evaluation with one of our physicians, the next step is six months of our required nutrition therapy program with our registered dietitians. Our nutrition experts help you understand and adjust to the changes necessary for successful weight loss.
After you have completed the pre-operative nutrition program and all your other preoperative evaluations have been reviewed by our medical team, we will request authorization from your health insurance company for your surgery. Once you receive authorization, we can give you a date for your surgery. We schedule your surgery to allow enough time for any additional medical clearances that you may need. Learn more about what to expect before surgery.
We recommend these steps to prepare for your initial consultation with our weight loss surgeons:
- Work with your primary care physician to get up-to-date on your routine health maintenance tests.
- For women: A biannual exam, Pap smear and mammogram (for women over 40)
- For men: A biannual exam and PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test for men at risk for prostate cancer
- Bring any pertinent medical data to your appointment with our surgeon, including:
- Reports of special tests such as echocardiogram or sleep study
- Hospital discharge summary if you have been in the hospital
- All progress notes related to your medically supervised weight loss attempts. Most health insurance plans require 6 to 12 months of consecutive, medically supervised weight loss attempts within the previous 24 months as criteria for approving surgery
Depending upon your health insurance plan, you may have benefits that cover weight loss treatments, including surgery. Some plans have certain requirements that you must fulfill before the insurance company will agree to pay for the surgery, such as a medically supervised diet history and a psychological evaluation.
Not all plans have the same requirements. Contact your health insurance company to find out if it covers bariatric surgery. Ask for a printed copy of your plan's requirements and benefits related to weight loss surgery, and document all contacts you have with the company.
Medical conditions, such as serious heart or lung problems, can increase the risk of problems from any major surgery. If the conditions are related to weight, they also increase the need for surgery.
In other words, severe medical problems will usually not prevent the surgeon from recommending bariatric surgery if it is otherwise appropriate. However, he or she may estimate your risk as higher than average at your initial consultation.
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the risk of death within 30 days after bariatric surgery averages 0.13 percent, or approximately one out of 1,000 patients. Consult with your surgeon about your specific risks and benefits of surgery, which differ from person to person.
You do not need to donate your own blood. All our weight loss surgeries are laparoscopic (minimally invasive), which causes very little bleeding. Even those who have unexpected bleeding during surgery do not usually lose enough blood to require a transfusion.
What to Expect After Weight Loss Surgery
Our laparoscopic (minimally invasive) surgeries usually require a hospital stay of only one to two days, depending on the patient and the procedure.
Your gallbladder will not be removed unless it shows signs or symptoms of disease. For six months after surgery, we treat our patients with medication to decrease the risk of developing gallstones, which can occur from rapid weight loss.
Most patients can return to work:
- In two weeks, if your work is sedentary (not physically active)
- In three to six weeks, if your work involves physical labor
You should be able to return to your normal activities between one and two weeks after laparoscopic surgery, compared to four to six weeks for traditional surgery.
We schedule your postop care for 3 weeks, then 3, 6, 12 and 18 months after your bariatric surgery. After that, you’ll come in once a year for the rest of your life. You’ll meet with your surgeon and dietitian to check on your progress and manage any concerns such as vitamin deficiencies.
Through our postop care program, we build lifelong relationships with our patients. We support you throughout your journey of weight loss as you build your healthy new life.
Some patients may experience hair loss or thinning within three to five months after their surgery. This hair loss is usually temporary.
The amount and types of food you can eat will change significantly after your surgery:
- Just after surgery, your food intake is limited to one to two fluid ounces per meal of only liquids, so that your stomach can heal properly.
- Later, you can eat a little more, and you can add pureed, soft and then solid foods to your diet within one to two weeks or months after surgery (depending on your procedure).
- About 12 to 18 months after surgery, your stomach pouch can hold between four to six ounces of food at maximum capacity.
Other guidelines include:
- You may be unable to tolerate certain foods, especially those containing sugar and fat.
- As part of your weight loss program, you will be required to meet with one of our registered dietitians, who will provide you with a comprehensive diet.
- We recommend a balanced diet of 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day.
Learn more about what to expect after bariatric surgery.
Yes, you will need to take vitamins for the rest of your life. Immediately after surgery, you will begin taking a chewable multivitamin, vitamin B-12 and calcium citrate daily.
Each patient achieves different weight loss results, depending on his or her surgical procedure, goals and support system. The average patient will lose about 75 to 80 percent of excess body weight by the end of the first year following surgery.
Yes, bariatric surgery often increases fertility in women who have previously had difficulty conceiving. However, you should avoid becoming pregnant for 18 to 24 months after your surgery, until your weight has stabilized.
The stomach pouch is designed to hold approximately one ounce. In the first few months after surgery, the pouch is rather stiff because of surgical inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to tissue injury and causes pain, swelling and other symptoms.
About 12 to 18 months after surgery, the stomach pouch expands as the inflammation goes away. Most patients end up with a meal capacity of about four to six fluid ounces.
The amount of excess skin depends on your total weight loss, age, and how much your skin was stretched. Unfortunately, excess skin cannot usually be prevented.
Factors such as age and skin elasticity affect the decision to have plastic surgery to remove excess skin. Usually, this procedure is considered cosmetic surgery, which is often not covered by health insurance, though some noncosmetic cases may be covered. If you are interested in surgery for excess skin removal, call us at 1-800-492-5538 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced plastic surgeons.
For the first six months after surgery, many patients have almost no appetite. Over the next several months, the appetite returns, but it is usually not a ravenous type of hunger.
The types of food you are eating, especially starches (rice, pasta, potatoes), can increase your hunger. Eating more protein is helpful for many patients.
It is important to understand the differences between physical hunger and a desire to eat that is caused by food cues or triggers. You can get answers and support for these issues in our weight loss surgery support group.
Many people are able to stop taking certain medications after weight loss surgery, for conditions such as blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. If you need to continue taking medications, most can be swallowed and absorbed and work the same as before surgery. Patients usually do not need to change their dosages of medication.