Reviewed by Patricia Sullivan, BSN, RN, CNOR, CBN
Once you’ve decided to have bariatric surgery, change bad habits and live a healthier lifestyle, the choice of bariatric surgeon might be the most important factor for successful weight loss.
Weight loss surgery is a relatively new procedure. Weight loss surgery began back in the 1950’s with open procedures that often resulted in severe complications. Advances in technology, instrumentation and research have led to the evolution of modern bariatric surgery. Today, there are many bariatric surgeons, more procedures to choose from, and most often insurance covers weight loss surgery. Many of us know someone who has had either gastric bypass, a Lap Band, or gastric sleeve surgery. Times have definitely changed.
Today, there are a lot of choices. How much should you pay? Where should you have surgery? How should you choose your surgeon?
Should I Choose A Local Surgeon?
There are many benefits to having surgery close to home. Weight loss surgery requires a lot of appointments before and after surgery. During these appointments you will develop a relationship with your surgeon and by the time surgery arrives, you should feel very comfortable with your choice of surgeon.
After surgery, there are many follow-up appointments. These can be costly if you are traveling a long distance. The patients who lose contact with their surgeon’s office, often gain weight back by reverting to old habits. Having a local surgeon makes it much easier to visit with your surgeon, get your questions answered and feel comfortable going into surgery.
When To Choose A Non-Local Surgeon
Sometimes we don’t have a choice. If you live in a rural area, there is a good chance that there are not many, if any, options for bariatric surgery in your area.
In this situation, traveling is the best option. First consider locations that are within driving distance. Having to fly increases your cost considerably and the time involved to make simple appointments.
But if its not possible to drive to a bariatric surgeon, then flying is an option. Call a number of bariatric surgeons and ask them how they accommodate patients from out-of-town. Do they have recommended hotels? Do they have recommendations for post-op visits? Is there a process to check-in without having to travel?
The Surgeon Criteria
- Is the doctor someone that you trust?
- You should feel comfortable asking your surgeon any question you may have.
- Will your surgeon continue to provide excellent care after weight loss surgery?
- Does he or she offer regular support groups?
- Does the surgeon listen to your needs and understand your lifestyle?
- What are the doctors credentials?
- Your doctor should have experience with your chosen procedure.
- The resources and support staff to provide quality after-care are available.
- The surgeon should actively participate in continuing education specific to bariatric surgery.
- The surgeon should participate in groups such as the ASMBS (American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons).
- The surgeon should be board certified in general surgery.
- A fellowship trained Bariatric Surgeon has more training experience in that specific focus area than a non-fellowship trained surgeon.
- Can you meet with previous patients?
- Which procedures does the surgeon perform?
- If a surgeon only performs one procedure, ask why.
- If the surgeon performs all weight loss procedures, does he have a preference?
- No single weight loss surgery procedure is best for everyone. The surgeon should understand your lifestyle before recommending any one procedure.
- Attend a low-pressure seminar or consult.
How to Choose a Hospital
The final criteria is based on the physical location where your surgery takes place.
While its typically not necessary to have your procedure done at a facility that is a Center of Excellence in bariatric surgery, you may want to.
A facility that has achieved the Center of Excellence (COE) designation typically has:
- Performed a minimum number of bariatric procedures the prior year.
- Has achieved excellent quality outcomes.
- The staff has undergone extra training specific to weight loss surgery and the treatment of bariatric patients.
- They will have a Bariatric Coordinator that helps things run smoothly and this person is also often the main point of contact for patients.
You can also locate a Center of Excellence at the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) website.
Do not rule out having your surgery at a facility that has not achieved a COE/MBSAQIP rating. While the extra training is nice, many small facilities offer similar services with caring staff and have great outcomes.