Six Steps of Surgery

Weight-loss surgery is a life-changing event. Throughout this challenging transition, remember: You’re not alone. The support, help and guidance you need are all around you, from your healthcare team to members of your support group.

About 173,000 Americans underwent weight-loss surgery procedures in 2005.
www.weightlossinfo.com

1. Deciding whether weight-loss surgery is right for you.
Deciding whether to undergo weight-loss surgery will be one of the most important decisions you’ll make. It’s not something to be approached lightly or casually. In fact, you really shouldn’t even be considering weight-loss surgery until you and your doctor have examined all other options.

Once you’ve reached a point at which weight-loss surgery may be a viable option, take your time researching it. Delve into information on the Internet (see Resources). Talk with your physician and family members or friends. Explore all your options, and make sure you have a full understanding of the benefits and risks involved.

Ultimately, it’s up to you and your bariatric surgeon to determine:

  • whether weight-loss surgery is the right course for you;
  • if so, then which procedure is right for you;
  • whether you’re mentally and emotionally ready to make dramatic, lifelong changes; and
  • whether you’ve got an appropriate support system around you.

2.   Qualifying for surgery.

The National Institutes of Health has established minimum requirements for recommending weight-loss surgery as a treatment option. You must be either:

  • 100 pounds or more above ideal body weight, or have a BMI of 40 or greater; or
  • have a BMI of 35 or greater, with one or more obesity-related health conditions.

Other factors considered for qualification might include:

  • your history of documented non-surgical weight-loss attempts;
  • your lifelong commitment to dietary, exercise and medical guidelines and follow-up care; or
  • your psychological evaluation.

If you decide to pursue surgery, make sure you come to one of Seton’s free weight-loss surgery seminars. At the seminar, you’ll receive directions on how to proceed.

Pre-qualification for weight-loss surgery typically involves a series of tests, administered by a multidisciplinary healthcare team — your doctor and your surgeon, as well as a nutritionist, psychologist, exercise physiologist and possibly a cardiopulmonary specialist. These and other Seton healthcare professionals usually conduct lab tests, an EKG and radiology studies — but they’re also there to help support and prepare you for the changes and challenges you’re about to face.

3.   Facing financial costs.

For many, weight-loss surgery is affordable because it’s covered under their health insurance. For others, it’s a procedure they must pay for themselves, but they feel the cost is worth the potential benefit, because they’re investing in their health. Make sure you carefully review your medical insurance policy for any provisions regarding weight-loss surgery and treatment. Call your insurance provider to verify the limits of your coverage.

Regardless of your insurance coverage, you’ll need to prepare detailed written documentation supporting the medical necessity of your surgery.  Comprehensive and thorough documentation of previous unsuccessful weight-loss attempts — such as medically supervised attempts, obesity-related health conditions and medications you’ve been prescribed — helps provide proof that surgery is the medically necessary next step.

Finally, you should prepare for the expense of possible complications. If you have health insurance — even if it doesn’t cover the surgery itself — read your policy carefully, as your insurance carrier still might cover medical costs from complications due to surgery.

4.         Preparing for surgery.

The best way to prepare for weight-loss surgery is by knowing the benefits and risks involved in the surgery, and following your surgeon’s instructions to the letter.

Patients almost always participate in support groups both before and after weight-loss surgery. Seton’s weight-loss surgery support group, BELIEVE, meets the second Thursday of every month from 6 - 7 p.m., at Seton Medical Center Austin. Led by professional facilitators, meetings focus in on topics important to weight-loss surgery patients, and feature special speakers, open dialogue, and the sharing of common experiences and emotions.

5.   The big day.

The day of weight-loss surgery is an exciting ending to a long wait, and the bright beginning of a new era for the patient. The day is frequently referred to by post-surgical patients as their “birthday,” because of the life-renewing transformation of health they’ve gained. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions for the day of your surgery.

6.   Life after surgery.

Your weight-loss surgery is only the first step in an ongoing journey toward weight management through lifestyle changes. Recovery takes time; you should, too. Be patient with the process and with yourself, and remember: You’re not alone. Keep going to support-group meetings, and rely upon your Seton healthcare team — they’ll be there to support, help and guide you as you adapt to your new life.

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