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Weight-Loss Surgery: Separating Fact from Fiction

Published on April 27, 2012

Though bariatric surgery isn’t new to the weight-loss discussion, I still find the perception of it among the public remains fraught with misconceptions and misguided information. And of course, the main- stream media can sometimes seem to help and hurt the flow of accurate information on the subject, all at the same time. There have been plenty of news stories to demonstrate this in recent months. From news of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)-published study confirming bariatric surgery as having a positive effect on the reversal of type 2 diabetes to other reports of local weight-loss surgery programs accused of deceptive tactics that have allegedly lead to health complications and even deaths, the ping pong effect of information can leave many prospective patients simply standing still, scared to move in one direction or the other. Since our practice prides itself on accurate information and full-disclosure, I think this is a perfect place to shine a spotlight on some common myths and misconceptions in an effort to set the record straight.

Myth #1: Bariatric surgery carries a higher risk of death than any other surgical procedure. Sometimes, the media plays on our biggest fears in order to get attention and this is a myth that I want to dispel first and foremost. The truth is: every surgical procedure carries risks and sometimes, those risks can include death. But to suggest that bariatric surgery is “the riskiest” procedure out there is unreasonable. With most surgical procedures, risk is relative, meaning risks can increase or decrease based on many factors including a patient’s previous health history or the surgeon’s skill and track record. A prospective patient also needs to balance the risk of surgery with the risk of doing nothing or continued attempts at efforts that fail. Because there is also plenty of research to suggest that being more than 100 pounds overweight carries risks for many health conditions that can often result in premature death.

Myth #2: Traditional dieting and exercise programs work just as well as bariatric surgery. For few people, significant weight loss that can be maintained for five or more years is achievable through traditional dieting and exercise. But for those who are 100 pounds or more overweight, clinical studies have proven that traditional methods for keeping the weight off five years and longer is only successful in two percent of this population. For those who are 100 pounds or more overweight, bariatric surgery when coupled with a strong commitment to a healthy lifestyle has a five-plus year post-op success rate of 60% and up to 80% with the gastric bypass procedure.

Myth #3: All bariatric surgery programs are the same. A bariatric surgery program really isn’t a “thing.” Rather, it’s a group of highly-trained surgeons, clinicians and other caregivers who provide a specific type of service to a specific type of patient. That means–it’s made up of people. From program to program, those people have different sets of experiences–from the medial schools they attended, to the programs that trained them and the number of procedures they have performed, every program has a unique mix of these important attributes. Knowing what to look for in each is a critical factor in making the right choice as a patient. A good list of questions to ask and answers to look for can be found here.

As most everyone has a strong opinion about the topic of weight-loss surgery, making informed and well-guided choices is an important factor for prospective patients. If you or someone you know is “riding the fence” on their decision, unable to separate the fact from fiction in the bariatric surgery discussion, please point them to this post. We also offer informative support and information sessions where a wealth of factual clinical information is presented and actual patients discuss their experiences. You can find information about these sessions here.

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Over 15,000 Procedures performed Over 30 Years of Experience The Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Fellow of the American College of Surgeons