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Is Bariatric "Weight Loss" Surgery Right for You?

By Aurora D. Pryor, MD, Director, Bariatric and Metabolic Weight Loss Center

Dr. Aurora D. Pryor
Dr. Aurora D. Pryor

Choosing to have bariatric or weight loss surgery is a major decision for anyone. Several things should be considered. The easiest criteria to follow are published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and were determined by a consensus panel of experts (see the NIH "Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults").

The NIH advocates weight loss surgery if your body mass index (BMI) is greater 35 with two or more diseases related to your weight, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, reflux disease, or sleep apnea. If your BMI is over 40, weight loss surgery is recommended, even if you don't have metabolic diseases related to your weight. (Calculate your BMI with an online calculator.)

The Food and Drug Administration has recently approved one weight loss surgery option, the LapBand, for patients with BMI five points lower than the NIH criteria required for sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass. Most patients that consider surgical weight loss have tried diets without success. Some insurance companies even require this effort before they will pay for bariatric surgery.

If you are frustrated with your extra weight, the best thing to help you decide on whether bariatric "weight loss" surgery is right for you is to meet with a bariatric specialist that can discuss different options.

In programs like ours at Stony Brook University Medical Center, you can meet with dietitians, psychologists, and surgeons to help decide what approach is right for you. You can often find extra information online as well, through websites, support networks, or even seminars. The National Library of Medicine's "Weight Loss Surgery" site and Stony Brook's Health Information Library's "Surgical Weight Loss Guide" site are both very informative and two that we recommend.

My next blog will focus on how to choose a bariatric procedure. Follow Dr. Pryor on Twitter!