Understanding Weight Loss Surgery

Everyone knows losing weight--and keeping it off long-term--can be challenging, especially for obese individuals who need to lose significant amounts of weight. For many people, bariatric surgery can be a great option that doesn't just help you lose weight but helps you maintain lifelong health and a better quality of life. "Bariatric surgery is becoming the gold standard for the treatment of people with morbid obesity and the medical problems related to it," says Dr. Bryan Thomas, who specializes in bariatric and general surgery at Roper St. Francis Healthcare. "The goal is for you to reach a healthy weight and then maintain that weight for the rest of your life."

The two most common procedures are the gastric sleeve and the gastric bypass, both of which are performed laparoscopically, making them minimally invasive and only requiring a day or two of recovery in the hospital. While in some cases, potential candidates for bariatric surgery may need to try traditional weight loss techniques first, the procedure doesn't have to be a last resort. It can be a great option for people hoping to get ahead of serious obesity-related medical problems they risk facing down the road.

Bariatric Surgery as Preventive Care

"Bariatric surgery helps take the weight down and can drastically improve existing medical problems, but it's also extremely preventive," Dr. Thomas says. "And preventive medicine is the best type of medicine when it comes to helping people stay healthy and live longer." For example, diabetes is one of the most common diagnoses for Dr. Thomas's patients. Many are in their upper 40s and have struggled with their weight long-term and are only considering bariatric surgery now that they've received a frightening diagnosis. Bariatric surgery resolves Type 2 diabetes in most patients, but getting the procedure early means you can avoid ever getting the diagnosis at all.

Increase Your Life Expectancy--and Quality of Life

"The average person with a diagnosis of morbid obesity will live seven years less than the normal person," Dr. Thomas says. "People increase the length of their life after bariatric surgery and can reclaim those years they would have lost."

Plus, Dr. Thomas says, over 95 percent of patients will report improved quality of life after their surgery. "Many people have medical problems that seem to run in their family, and they fear it's just a matter of time until they get the same diagnoses," he says. "We can stop this. Your family history isn't your destiny for obesity-related illnesses. There's a way we can stop that and make it something you can have victory over."

Who qualifies?

To qualify for bariatric surgery, you must have a diagnosis of morbid obesity defined as a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or more. You also qualify if you have a BMI of 35+ along with a medical problem linked to obesity. Where do you stand? Review this BMI calculator to find out. Some patients, understandably, worry about the risk of undergoing surgery. "But the biggest statistical risk is remaining morbidly obese over time," Dr. Thomas says. "The best way to think about it is the very low risk of surgery vs. the risk of not losing the extra weight."

As the Lowcountry leader in adult healthcare, Roper St. Francis is equipped with state-of-the-art services for bariatric surgery. To learn more about all the healthcare services available or to schedule an appointment, call (843) 402-CARE or visit us online.