Al Roker. Carnie Wilson. Roseanne Barr. These celebrities and thousands of average folks like them have taken advantage of a trend in obesity management—weight-loss, or bariatric, surgery. The number of Americans having weight-loss surgery more than quadrupled between 1998 and 2002, from 13,386 to 71,733, according to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. And the demand for weight-loss surgery could rise even faster, the study predicts, because so far only a small fraction of those medically eligible have actually had it done.
If you’ve battled your weight for years, you may have given thought to the idea of obesity surgery more than once. But the surgery is a drastic step and not without risks. Talk with your healthcare provider about your weight-loss efforts and whether a surgical option is right for you.
To be considered medically eligible for weight-loss surgery, you must meet the following criteria:
- a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, which is about 100 pounds overweight for men and 80 pounds for women
- a BMI between 35 and 39.9 and a serious obesity-related health problem such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease or severe sleep apnea (when breathing stops for short periods during sleep)
- an understanding of the operation and the lifestyle changes you will need to make as a result of the surgery
Obesity surgery promotes weight loss by either restricting the amount of food you’re able to take in or bypassing parts of the digestive tract to limit the amount of food, calories and nutrients your body absorbs. Some operations use a combination of these methods. The illustrations below show four types of weight-loss surgeries.
Although most patients lose significant amounts of weight, not all are able to keep it off. Serious complications include infection, bleeding and nutritional deficiencies. Unpleasant side effects include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Surgical options aren’t an easy fix to weight problems-long-term success depends largely on a lifelong commitment to healthier eating habits, physical activity and regular medical care.