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Why Choose Bariatric Surgery?

Learn why bariatric surgery is a safe, efficient solution for people with obesity in these videos from the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery.


Obesity has become a significant national health issue. In the last two decades the rates of overweight and obesity for adults and children have nearly doubled, and obesity is fast approaching tobacco as the top underlying preventable cause of death in the United States. Morbid obesity is closely correlated with a number of serious conditions that severely undermine the health of overweight patients, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Bariatric surgery can help obese patients manage these conditions. The National Institutes of Health reports: “Weight loss surgery for the morbidly obese, when combined with behavior modification, is currently the most reliable and only choice for long term maintenance of excess weight loss.” (NIH Consensus Statement, March 1991)

In 2013, The Obesity Society, American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology jointly published guidelines for the treatment of obesity. Those guidelines advise referral of qualified patients to an experienced bariatric surgeon for consultation and evaluation.

Keep in mind that weight loss surgery is major surgery and should be considered a last resort for morbidly obese patients.

You should make the decision to have weight loss surgery only after careful consideration and consultation with an experienced bariatric surgeon or a knowledgeable family physician. A qualified surgeon should clearly answer your questions and explain the exact details of the procedure, the extent of the recovery period and the reality of follow-up care that will be required. As part of a routine evaluation for weight loss surgery, you may be required to consult with a dietician/nutritionist and a psychiatrist/therapist to help establish a clear understanding of the post-operative changes in behavior that are essential for long-term success.

In making the decision of whether or not to have weight loss surgery, you should consider the following:

Risks of Surgery

As with any surgery, there are immediate and long-term complications and risks. Your healthcare team can speak with you further about the benefits and risks. Risks can include but are not limited to:

  • Bleeding*
  • Complications due to anesthesia and medications
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Dehiscence (separation of areas that are stitched or stapled together)
  • Infections
  • Leaks from staple lines
  • Marginal ulcers
  • Pulmonary problems
  • Stenosis (narrowing of a passage, such as a valve)
  • Death

For further information about the risks of surgery, click here.

Benefits of Surgery

Increased Life Expectancy

The risk of death from obesity-related conditions is far greater than the risk of death from bariatric surgery. In fact, obesity is now the second leading underlying cause of preventable death, with tobacco being first. Recent studies show that the risk of an early death for those struggling with obesity is twice that of a non-obese person.

Resolution or Improvement of Obesity-related Health Conditions

It has been said that you can cure five diseases with one operation. No procedure other than weight loss surgery has the power to do that. Following surgery, the cure and improvement rates for adult-onset diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease and hypercholesterolemia are remarkable.

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In addition, recent research suggests morbidly obese patients who undergo weight-loss surgery greatly reduce their risk of certain types of cancer.

Long-Term Weight Loss

Although most patients enjoy an improvement in obesity-related health conditions (such as mobility, self-image and self-esteem) after the successful results of weight loss surgery, these results should not be the overriding motivation for having the procedure. The goal is to live better, healthier and longer.

It is important to remember that there are no ironclad guarantees in any kind of medicine or surgery. There can be unexpected outcomes in even the simplest procedures. What can be said, however, is that weight loss surgery will only succeed when the patient makes a lifelong commitment. Some challenges after weight loss surgery can be unexpected. Lifestyle changes can strain relationships within families and between married couples. To help patients achieve their goals and deal with the changes surgery and weight loss can bring, most bariatric surgeons offer follow-up care that includes support groups, dieticians and other forms of continuing education.

Ultimately, the decision to have the procedure is entirely up to you. After considering all the information, you must decide if the benefits outweigh the side effects and potential complications. This surgery is only a tool. Your ultimate success depends on strict adherence to the recommended dietary, exercise and lifestyle changes.