5 Things You Didn't Know About Bariatric Surgery

Written by Dr. Timothy Custer, MD

1. IT SAFER THAN YOU THINK.

Many of our patients report that they are discouraged by family and friends in their pursuit of Bariatric surgery because perceived danger. Indeed, surgical weight loss has been viewed in the past as “high risk”. While it is true that there are inherent risks to any surgical procedure, those associated with Bariatric surgery are no higher than that of Gallbladder surgery, Hysterectomy, or Knee surgery. In fact we accept much more risk for much less benefit every day, as surgical weight loss is 5-10x safer than common procedures such as colorectal or thoracic surgery. It is 3x safer than cardiac catheterization and coronary stenting (which notably has never been shown to provide a long term survival benefit). Conversely, none of these procedures provide benefits remotely comparable to those attributable to Bariatric surgery.

2. WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY WILL LIKELY LENGTHEN YOUR LIFE

Many of the medical and surgical interventions we administer and consume every day have been shown to have very little effect on long term survival. This is true for everything from cholesterol medications to cardiac stents, and even cancer surgery. In fact, many would consider it unethical to even consider such endpoints when recommending a given treatment. However, weight loss surgery is one of the few treatments which actually has been proven to extend life. Multiple studies have shown lifespan to be increased from 40-90% in those pursuing surgical weight loss. Indeed , its more dangerous to choose not to undergo bariatric surgery for the treatment of morbid obesity.

3. BARIATRIC SURGERY CURES MORE DISEASES THAN ANY OTHER SINGLE INTERVENTION.

Not only have few medical treatments been shown to lengthen life, but most treatments focus on a single disease process, and at best “manage” the problem. Conversely, Bariatric surgery actually cures multiple diseases with a single intervention. We routinely see our patients enjoy complete remission of 5-10 medical problems, often taking no more than a daily vitamin by 12 months after surgery. This experience is not the exception, but the norm. This truly remarkable transformation is unique to Bariatric Surgery, producing radical positive change in the lives of our patients.

4. BARIATRIC SURGERY WILL SAVE YOU MONEY.

Very few treatments prescribed today can actually demonstrate a dollars and cents cost savings. After all, when it comes to the health and well being of our loved ones, demonstrating a financial benefit is one of our last considerations. From a cost perspective, everything from screening colonoscopy to cardiac surgery are much more expensive than the alternative. However, when it comes to surgical weight loss, it has actually been shown to pay for itself many times over. Not only are these cost savings experienced by the health care “industry” but are enjoyed by patients themselves. Within two years of surgery patients routinely save thousands of dollars in office copays, medication costs, even food, and the savings increase from there. Its actually more expensive not to pursue surgical weight loss.

5. WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY IS NOT THE EASY WAY OUT, IT’S THE ONLY WAY OUT.

There is a prevailing belief that those with morbid obesity would be able to achieve a healthy weight if they would just try harder and demonstrate more discipline and restraint. Both the literature and my experience interviewing thousands of patients have demonstrated this to be untrue. Hundreds of studies have looked at this question and have come to a singular, consistent conclusion: diets exercise, and medications will produce about 10% weight loss which then plateaus, after which the weight recurs. Likewise , the vast majority of my patients have attempted multiple structured and rigorous programs, only to be met with repeated failure. The reasons for this are multiple and complex, but the reality is that for 99% of people, nonsurgical therapy simply doesn’t work. This not a matter of poor discipline or weak will, but rather maladaptive physiology. However Surgical Weight Loss produces dramatic and durable results in 80-90% of those same individuals. The difference is that our patients now have the right tool for success. It can actually be argued that morbid obesity is as much surgical disease as gallstones or hernias, or breast cancer.