Determining whether it’s the right time to have weight-loss surgery requires considering several factors. Typically, a person who is more than 100 pounds over their ideal weight and has tried various lifestyle adjustments (namely, exercise and diet) in order to lose the weight is considered to be a candidate for bariatric surgery.
It is, however, difficult to determine at what point you are losing the battle and the risk of surgery is greater than the risk of continuing with your current lifestyle. It is key to consider both the risks of longstanding obesity and those of medical intervention and choose the option that has fewer inherent risks and provide a higher quality of life.
First, let’s have a look at the risks of weight-loss surgery.
Keep in mind that most of the risks associated with these surgical procedures are common for almost any kind of surgery, and that the longer-term risks are most often associated with a failure to follow the post-surgical dietary guidelines prescribed by the patients’ surgeons and nutritionists.
- Excessive bleeding
- Adverse reactions to anesthesia
- Blood clots
- Lung or breathing problems
- Leaks in your gastrointestinal system
- Death (rare)
While many of these potential complications are contingent on the patient’s cooperation in terms of diet and lifestyle, they also depend on the experience and skill of the operating surgeon. You should always find out how many surgeries a doctor has performed and consider interviewing a couple of his or her former patients before heading to the operating room.
Second, let’s examine some of the risks associated with obesity:
For reference, obesity is defined as >30 BMI. Morbid obesity is defined as >40 BMI.
If you’re obese, you’re more likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems, including:
- High triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome — a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Breathing disorders
- Gallbladder disease
- Gynecologic problems, such as infertility and irregular periods
- Erectile dysfunction and sexual health issues
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat builds up in the liver and can cause inflammation or scarring
- Skin conditions, including poor wound healing
Last, let’s examine the implications on your quality of life
When you’re obese, your overall quality of life may be lower, too. You may not be able to do things you’d normally enjoy as easily as you’d like. Obese people may even encounter discrimination.
Other weight-related issues that may affect your quality of life include:
- Sexual problems
- Shame and guilt
- Social isolation
- Lower work achievement
The side effects of being chronically obese are significant and can severely affect quality of life. Some of the more complicated conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and sleep apnea, can be reversed through bariatric weight-loss surgery. Every month that goes by is another month of letting these risk factors become likely outcomes rather than mere possibilities.
Our doctors recommend that patients first do everything they can to improve their overall health through diet and exercise prior to going the surgical route. We understand, however, that many people are just unable to lose that weight even after the most painstaking efforts
To summarize: weight loss surgery is only justifiable when the risk to do nothing is greater than the risk to have surgery. At that point, however, it seems not only justifiable, but crucial.