Surgery: Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery (cont.)

More than 60 million obese people are living in the U.S., according to the American Obesity Association (AOA), and about 9 million are severely obese. Weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, can be successful when diet and exercise have failed, and a person's health is on the line. Overweight is the second leading cause of preventable death, after smoking, in the U.S., according to the AOA.

"The first thing a person should do is contact his insurance company to learn if he is covered for the surgery, and he should contact his primary care doctor to find out if there is documentation of his struggle with obesity," says Kolenich. "Many insurance companies want to know that a primary care doctor has tried to help the patient lose weight with psychological counseling, diet, and an exercise plan for five years, and for many patients, this is a big road block."

sonally financing the procedure, they are costly: The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases web site states that this procedure can run from $20,000 to $35,000.

With such a hefty price tag on weight loss surgery, it pays to ensure that your doctor documents your battle with obesity early on, to open up options down the road.

When you've crossed all your t's and dotted all your i's in the insurance category, it is time to find a hospital or center, and a surgeon, that are first-rate.

Finding a Bariatric Surgeon

"When you're looking for a surgeon, ask if he or she is board-certified by the American Board of Surgery," says Kolenich. "Is he a member of the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons? What is the mortality rate of the surgeon, the morbidity rate, the success rate?"

Clearly, the surgeon you find should be well experienced in the area of weight loss surgery.

"Make sure the surgeon you choose is an experienced and qualified bariatric surgeon," says Daniel Herron, MD, chief of bariatric surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. "It's clear that the more experienced the surgeon, the lower the risk of mortality. Ideally, you would prefer to find a surgeon who has performed at least 100 of these procedures."

What you are looking for doesn't stop with numbers and statistics -- you will also need a support system. Look for a center or hospital that offers educational seminars to those who are just beginning the process so you can learn more about the actual procedure, the benefits, and the risks. Also look for support groups, that can be utilized pre- and post-operatively.

The preparation, both physical and mental, comes next, and is as crucial to the entire process as the actual procedure.

Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery

"The single most important factor is that they have to realize the surgery is not a cure for obesity," says Herron. "It's a very powerful tool used in the fight against obesity. It needs to be considered as part of a process, and a lifelong commitment to follow up with physicians, a regular exercise program, and healthy eating. If a person doesn't understand that this is a lifelong commitment, that it's not a quick fix, then he or she is not a good candidate."


"You have to fill your mind with as much optimism and positive thinking as possible."