Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is available on the NHS for patients who have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or over. It is also available for those with a BMI of 35 to 40 if their weight is causing additional health related issues. The four most popular forms of weight loss surgery are; gastric band, gastric balloon, gastric sleeve and gastric bypass.
Is Weight Loss Surgery Right For Me?
Watch Mr Chris Sutton, Consultant Specialist Bariatric Surgeon at Tonic Weight Loss Surgery Ltd, discuss who is most suitable for weight loss surgery:
"I don’t think people should immediately reach for surgery as their first option; surgery should be the last option people should think about. Diet and exercise first of all, if they struggle with diet and exercise then weight loss surgery is certainly there. But for people who are considering what we would say metabolic surgery so people who have conditions associated with being overweight, such as Type 2 Diabetes, particularly if it’s poorly controlled, or high blood pressure, again particularly if it’s poorly controlled, sleep apnea, again if it’s poorly controlled then weight loss surgery or metabolic surgery has proven to be very effective in treating these conditions. But again weight loss in terms of diet and exercise should always be thought of first."
Mr Chris Sutton, Consultant Specialist Bariatric Surgeon at Tonic Weight Loss Surgery Ltd
However, if weight loss surgery is the most clinically relevant option for you, there are a range of procedures available, which are described in detail in the pages listed below. Procedures available include:
- Gastric band surgery - A band that divides the stomach and creates a smaller section
- Gastric bypass surgery - A part of the stomach is sectioned and connected to the small intestine
- Gastric balloon insertion - A soft silicone balloon which is surgically inserted into the stomach
- Sleeve gastrectomy - A portion of the stomach is removed, restricting the amount of food that can be eaten
- Primary obesity surgery endolumenal (POSE) surgery - An incision-free procedure, where the stomach is folded
Calculating your body mass index (BMI) is one way in which you or your doctors can determine whether your weight is healthy for your height. There are many online BMI calculation tools, but to work it out for yourself, simply:
- Divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in metres (m).
- Divide your answer by your height again to get your BMI.
Obesity is defined as having a BMI of at least 30 and morbid obesity as 40 or above. Being in these ranges is a ticking time bomb in terms of health, increasing the risk of numerous damaging health problems including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (which is the number one killer worldwide).
Am I Eligible For Weight Loss Surgery?
There are specific eligibility criteria to determine whether a patient can receive one of these bariatric surgeries through the NHS, namely you have to have a BMI of at least 40, or a BMI of at least 35 along with with another serious health condition that would benefit from weight loss, such as joint issues, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. You should also be able to demonstrate that you have tried natural methods of weight loss, such as alterations to diet and exercise, and that you are healthy enough to withstand the anaesthesia along with the surgery itself. If you are considering bariatric surgery through a private clinic, it’s important to note that they may have their own set of criteria, so make sure to do your research when selecting your surgeon.
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How Much Is Weight Loss Surgery?
The cost of weight loss surgery will depend on a number of factors including the type of surgery recommended, your starting Body Mass Index, the surgeon performing the procedure and the clinic in which they practice. We've collected prices quoted from the UK's top weight loss clinics to help you decide which procedure might be right for you:
Preparing For Weight Loss Surgery
Before you are approved for weight loss surgery, you will need to undergo assessment to ensure that you are physically a suitable candidate, and that psychologically and emotionally you are able to withstand the surgery.
To carry out this assessment, you will need to meet with a number of medical professionals, often referred to as a multidisciplinary team (MDT). You may have to meet with your potential surgeon, an anaesthetist, a nurse specializing in surgical weight loss, and a psychologist among other care providers. If you are having your procedure in a large hospital, you may be admitted into a specialist bariatric unit to meet with the MDT. Once there, you will undergo a physical assessment (which can consist of blood tests, x-rays and ultrasounds), a psychological assessment to analyze your mental and emotional wellness, and a nutritional assessment to assess the current state of your diet. The results of this will help you determine if you are able to undergo weight loss surgery.
What Are The Risks?
As with all surgeries, these procedures come with a number of risks, ranging from the minor to the potentially very serious, most of which are also increased in those with a very high BMI such as 50 or above. Risks from weight-loss surgery include:
- Blood clots in the limbs (deep vein thromboses).
- Internal bleeding.
- Blockage of the lungs (pulmonary embolism).
The level of risk mostly depends on the procedure being done, and other risk factors such as high blood pressure or excess body weight, as mentioned above.
Results Of Weight Loss Surgery
The results of your weight loss surgery will largely depend on the type of procedure you undergo.
If you have been fitted with a gastric band, figures from the NHS reveal that you should expect to lose up to 50% of your excess body weight within two years of having the surgery. If you have any weight-related health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), you can expect to see improvements to these conditions as well.
If you have had gastric bypass surgery, you could expect to lose 70% of excess body weight within two years of the surgery. It is not uncommon to experience a faster rate of weight loss in the first 12 months and to then see this slow in the second year (you may see up to 60% in the first year compared with just 10% in the second, for example). You may also see improvements to the aforementioned health conditions if you struggle with these in addition to obesity. Regardless of the procedure you’ve undergone, if you complement your weight loss surgery with a healthy diet and regular exercise, you should see prolonged and sustainable results.
Will I Have Excess Skin Following Weight Loss Surgery?
Here, Mr Chris Sutton, Consultant Bariatric Surgeon at Tonic Cosmetic Surgery, discusses the possibility of excess skin following weight loss surgery:
"If people undergo weight loss surgery, they may once they lose the weight have redundant skin. This is slightly dependent on the patient, everyone is different. Younger people tend to have less of a problem. If people are extremely overweight they usually have some form of problem following surgery.They can use simple measures, support corsets, but some patients choose to have corrective surgery, cosmetic surgery to have skin removed.
Will a patient be affected? It’s difficult to say yes or no, what I can say is if people are very overweight and then they have a sleeve or bypass or malabsorptive operation they will lose a large amount of weight, they will have redundant skin."
Mr Chris Sutton, Consultant Specialist Bariatric Surgeon at Tonic Cosmetic Surgery
Life After Weight Loss Surgery
In addition to the risks from surgery, bariatric procedures often mean living with dramatic lifestyle changes. Immediately following most weight loss surgeries it is likely that you’ll have to stick to a liquid-only diet for a few weeks, gradually increasing your food intake. More lasting alterations include maintaining a low calorie, low fat and low sugar diet and possible body changes such as suffering from excess skin following rapid weight loss.
Following weight loss surgery, it is important that you adhere to the post-operative guidelines you will have been provided. Your surgeon will have given you instructions about your diet, which will vary depending on your individual circumstances. It is likely that your plan will be comprised of three stages, during the first of which you will only be able to eat liquidated food. In the stages after, you can begin to introduce solids before gradually resuming the consumption of small amounts of food. Your surgeon will also recommend that you drink plenty of water throughout each stage of your recovery, which should take around six weeks in total. Once you have recovered, you should adopt a healthy lifestyle to maximise the results of your surgery.
Weight Loss Insurance
Weight loss insurance is becoming more and more important for those starting to suffer from weight related illness or obesity. More insurance companies are beginning to consider the long term health benefits of bariatric surgery. A recent study found that there were significant decreases in the number of weight related sickness claims following bariatric surgery. Diabetes diagnosis dropped by 20% and sleep apnoea also dropped by 33% following bariatric surgery just 6 months after the procedure.
To understand the finer details of weight loss surgery insurance and how to find the best policy, it is advisable to use the free resources provided on this website to assist you in your search. You may feel like you are asking a lot from a medical insurance policy to cover you for being overweight but obesity often has underlying medical or psychological complications beyond your control that may have contributed to the obesity problem.
Weight loss clinics are a good place to start enquiring about how to find health insurance that will cover the types of surgery and they may be able to give you more ideas.