Are You a Good Candidate for Bariatric Surgery? | Keck Medicine of USC

Are You a Good Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?

Weight loss does not follow a one-size-fits-all approach and surgery may be the best option for some people. Are you one of them?

Obesity is considered one of the most serious public heath issues in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 93.3 million (39.8%) American adults are considered obese. Being overweight is a major risk factor for life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea. For many people, obesity is hereditary and can’t be simply solved with healthy eating and regular exercise.

People who are morbidly obese may qualify for weight-loss (bariatric) surgery — procedures that are performed on the stomach or intestines to promote weight loss.

However, it is important to note that not everyone is a good candidate for this surgery. To qualify, you have to be morbidly obese and between the ages of 16 to 70 (with a few exceptions). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines morbid obesity as being 100 pounds or more above your ideal body weight, or having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater. You may also qualify if you have a BMI of 35 or greater and certain preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension or sleep apnea.

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If you’re considering getting pregnant in the next 18 months to two years, bariatric surgery is not for you. The fast weight loss and nutritional deficiencies associated with the procedure make pregnancy very dangerous for both the mother and a developing fetus.

Although bariatric surgery has a solid long-term track record for helping morbidly obese individuals lose weight, there are no guarantees with any method of weight loss, even surgery. Patients need to be committed to a healthy lifestyle and make dietary changes for the rest of their lives to avoid obesity.

Make sure you discuss the potential risks of surgery with your surgeon so that you can make an informed decision about your choice. Most people lose weight for 18 to 24 months after surgery. Many patients start to regain some of their lost weight, but only few regain it all back. Some of the common side effects associated with weight loss surgery are nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, excessive sweating, increased gas and dizziness.

If you had any obesity related medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, they should improve after weight loss surgery. During the first month after the surgery, you will only be able to consume small amounts of soft food and liquids. Feeling fuller faster is another change reported by some bariatric surgery patients.

by Ramin Zahed

If you’re wondering whether weight loss surgery might be right for you, a consultation with a dietitian is recommended. If you’re in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top dietitians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800–872–2273) or by visiting