Common Questions About Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric or weight loss surgery is a catch-all term that includes any surgical procedure performed on the stomach or intestines with the goal of inducing significant weight loss. It is one of the only weight loss treatments with a proven track record of success and, for many people, is the only option for achieving durable weight loss. While any surgical procedure carries some level of risk, bariatric surgery is a safe treatment option for patients struggling to maintain a healthy weight.

There are a lot of unknowns when patients start exploring the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery. With that in mind, we have assembled a list of the most common questions patients ask us when deciding whether or not to proceed with bariatric surgery.

What to consider before having bariatric surgery:

How long will I be out of work after surgery?

Return-to-work time for patients following bariatric surgery can be anywhere from three days to two weeks. The two most important factors to consider when determining how long a patient will need to be out of work following surgery are the type of work they do and the type of procedure they choose to undergo. Certain procedures like gastric bypass or duodenal switch have longer recovery times because they are more involved procedures, whereas patients undergoing other, less invasive ones may return to work in a matter of days. A patient’s occupation also plays a critical role in determining how quickly they can return to work. Patients who work sedentary jobs, like office-based or supervisory roles, will be able to return to work much quicker than those who work strenuous jobs, such as manufacturing or janitorial work.  

When can I start exercising again?

It is advisable to take it slow immediately following bariatric surgery; the body is still recovering in the days and weeks following surgery, so it is critical patients not place undue stress on their healing bodies. It is best to begin with short, comfortable walks immediately following surgery and slowly build time, intensity, and variation into your exercise regimen as allowed by your body and approved by your physician. Honoring the delicate balance between the demands of a healing body and the desire to exercise will ensure safety and bring about optimal outcomes in the long-term.

Will I need to have plastic surgery after having bariatric surgery?

While it may seem vain to consider now, patients who undergo bariatric surgery often have follow-up cosmetic procedures once they have met their weight loss goals. The most common procedure patients undergo following weight loss surgery is the removal of loose, sagging skin. It is very common to have excess skin when losing weight as quickly and as extensively as you do following bariatric surgery. While there are certain aesthetic motivations for its its removal, oftentimes the procedure is not entirely cosmetic; getting rid of excess skin can improve hygiene, eliminate pockets of moisture and prevent rashes and skin irritations from forming. For that reason, insurance will sometimes ever cover this procedure.

How do I choose the best surgery for myself?

Deciding which bariatric surgery is right for you is a complicated process that can only be successfully accomplished by working with your surgeon. When choosing a procedure there are multiple factors that must be taken into consideration, such as degree of obesity, number and severity of obesity-related co-morbidities, patient preference, and the interventions that have already been undertaken on your weight-loss journey. Ultimately, the approach that is chosen should be tailored to the individual patient’s needs and goals, and account for all of their pertinent risk factors.

Will I have to go on a diet before the procedure?

Patients preparing for bariatric surgery will typically begin a new diet two to three weeks before surgery. There are a number of reasons for patients to begin dieting before their procedure. For one, dieting before surgery helps to shrink the liver and decrease abdominal fat, making surgery safer for patients and easier for surgeons. It also helps patients adjust to their new diet before the procedure, which can help ease the transition from a standard diet to the more restrictive post-surgery diet. Finally, some insurance companies require patients to participate in conservative weight loss therapy, such as diet and exercise, before approving surgery.

Will I have to diet or exercise after the procedure?

The success or failure of bariatric surgery is inextricably linked to a patient’s willingness and ability to adhere to strict diet and exercise guidelines following surgery. In and of themselves, these procedures are not cure-alls for obesity; optimal outcomes require focus and dedication from patients as they change their diet and lifestyle in the months and years following surgery to induce and maintain healthy weight loss. As such, it is very important for a physician to confirm that patients are physically and emotionally prepared for the procedure when deciding whether or not to proceed.