Weight-loss surgery: 6 myths debunked

Monday, April 9, 2018

Dr. Lawrence Tabone

Have you tried multiple diet and exercise programs without success? Is your weight significantly affecting your health? If you are more than 100 pounds above your ideal weight, bariatric (weight-loss) surgery may be a good option for you. Lawrence Tabone, MD, director of Metabolic and Weight-Loss Surgery at WVU Medicine, gives you the facts about this life-changing procedure.

1. Myth: Bariatric surgery is a risky procedure.
Though weight-loss surgery has a reputation for being risky, procedures have improved a lot over the years. It’s riskier to continue to live with the health consequences of obesity, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. Bariatric surgery procedures, like sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass, shrink the size of your stomach and change your metabolism; they are proven to be safe and effective. Patients are able to significantly reduce their mortality rate compared to people who avoid treatment. As with all types of abdominal surgery, there is a chance of post-operative complications, which may include nausea, upset stomach, blood clots, gastric leak, or wound infection. Your surgeon will discuss possible complications and risks with you.

2. Myth: Bariatric surgery is a sign of failure. I should be able to lose weight with diet and exercise.
Obesity is not just a weight problem. It’s a long-term disease caused by genetics, metabolism, lifestyle choices, and other factors, like endocrine disorders, diseases, and medications. People who are affected by severe obesity have a resistance to weight loss by diet and exercise. If you opt for bariatric surgery, you are taking an important step to regain your health, and that is a success – not a failure. The first step is to attend a free, non-obligation information session to learn more about whether bariatric surgery is a good fit for you.

3. Myth: Insurance won’t cover it, and I can’t afford it.
Many people don’t realize that Medicare and Medicaid often cover weight-loss surgery. Although insurance coverage varies, many companies now offer coverage for weight-loss surgery that is determined to be medically necessary. If you are considering weight-loss surgery, the best thing to do is talk to your bariatric surgeon and your insurance provider to evaluate your coverage options.

4. Myth: I can eat whatever I want after bariatric surgery.
Patients who undergo bariatric surgery must adopt permanent lifestyle changes for the procedure to remain effective. You’ll work with a nutritionist who can help you make necessary adjustments. Most patients are able to shed the weight and keep it off. After the stomach has healed, patients will be on a well-balanced diet of solid foods with appropriate portion sizes. 

5. Myth: I’ll regain most if not all of the weight after bariatric surgery.
Most patients who receive bariatric surgery lose and keep off substantial weight, often 100 pounds or more. Patients generally lose 60 to 85 percent of their excess weight within the first year after surgery. If you exercise, attend WVU Medicine bariatric support groups, and eat healthy foods, your weight loss from bariatric surgery may be significantly greater. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery estimates that about 50 percent of bariatric surgery patients may regain only a small amount of weight (approximately five percent) two years or more following their surgery. Most patients in the WVU Metabolic and Weight-Loss Surgery program have lasting results with significant improvement in health, activity, and well-being. 

6. Myth: After bariatric surgery, I’ll have to endure a long and difficult recovery.
Expert care from the WVU Medicine Metabolic and Weight-Loss Surgery team includes a minimally invasive approach consisting of small incisions and improved recovery times. Most patients stay in the hospital for less than two days after bariatric surgery. Many patients are able to return to work within two to three weeks. Weight loss isn’t the only benefit of bariatric surgery: many patients have significant improvement and potential resolution of their type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea. Patients feel better, take fewer medications, and regain an active lifestyle.

WVU Medicine J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital is recognized as a Blue Distinction® Center for Bariatric Surgery by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia, which shows our expertise in delivering improved bariatric patient safety and better health outcomes. We are also a level one accredited program through the American College of Surgeons’ Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program. 

Would you like to know more about weight-loss surgery? Attend a free, no obligation information session.