Choosing a Bariatric Surgeon
A surgeon's experience and level of post-operative care can make a big difference in the success of the surgery.
If you are considering weight loss surgery, it is important to take the time to research the doctor who will perform the surgery. Weight loss surgery is major gastrointestinal surgery and should be performed by a doctor who is a specialist in that field. Bariatrics is a specialized field of medicine that deals with the treatment, causes, and prevention of obesity. Doctors who specialize in weight loss related surgeries are bariatric surgeons.
Choice of Bariatric Surgeon Affects Outcome
A surgeon's experience and level of post-operative care can make a big difference in the outcome of the surgery. Bariatric surgeons who are skilled in all aspects of surgery and experienced in the specific type of procedure have less surgical complications and better recovery outcomes with their patients. Surgeons who provide a full level of aftercare including nutritional (diet) counseling and behavioral (why you eat) therapy have more patients who have successful weight loss results in both the short term and long term.
Finding a Bariatric Surgeon
The task of finding a qualified bariatric surgeon can seem a bit overwhelming, but there are several good ways of approaching this search.
- Physician Referral - ask your primary care doctor if they can recommend a doctor who specializes in weight loss surgery
- Word of Mouth Recommendations - ask friends and family members if they know of a good bariatric surgeon
- Internet - visit the website of doctors who perform weight loss surgery to find out about the doctor's practice, read through online weight loss surgery forums for patient testimonials, visit the website for the American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS) (www.asbs.org), visit the Medicare website (www.cms.hhs.gov)
- Seminars - many doctors host seminars for the general public on weight loss surgery where you can learn more about the doctor and the surgery options
Interviewing a Bariatric Surgeon
During your initial consultation with a bariatric surgeon, not only is it the time for the doctor to qualify you as a patient for weight loss surgery, but it is also the time for you to qualify the surgeon. It is important to ask as many questions as possible so that you can be completely informed about the types of bariatric surgery and to be completely comfortable and confident that you have chosen the right surgeon.
A good doctor will be willing to answer your questions and address all your concerns. When you are meeting with the doctor, take a list of questions with you so that you cover all the topics you want to discuss. Some of the questions to ask relate to the doctor's experience and credentials, the cost of care and what services are included, level of follow-up care, recommended procedure based on your health and weight, what changes are expected from the patient after surgery, and possible outcomes after weight loss surgery.
Questions to Ask:
- How many years have you been a bariatric surgeon?
- What training have you had in bariatric surgery?
- Are you a board-certified surgeon?
- Are you a member of ASBS (American Society of Bariatric Surgery)?
- How many and what type of weight loss surgeries do you perform each year? (Shows overall skill level)
- Based on my personal health and weight, what surgery do you recommend for me?
- What are the advantages of this procedure?
- What are the disadvantages of this procedure?
- What are the risks of weight loss surgery?
- What are the risks of this procedure?
- How many of my type of surgery (lap-band, gastric bypass, DS) have you performed? (An experienced surgeon should have done at least 250 of your procedure)
- Do you perform the surgery laparoscopically or open? (If possible, laparoscopic surgery has a quicker recovery)
- Will you perform the procedure, or an assistant?
- Will you be in the operation room during the entire procedure?
- Where will the surgery be performed?
- Is the hospital or clinic a Center of Excellence?
- How many people on the entire medical team?
- Is everyone of the medical team licensed?
- What pre-op testing will be done?
- What post-op testing will be done?
- Why don't you recommend the other procedures for me?
- What changes will I be expected to make with regards to diet and exercise?
- Do you have an insurance and/or financial coordinator available to patients?
- Do you have a nutritionist available to patients?
- Do you have a psychologist available to patients?
- Do you have a support group for patients?
- Do you have someone I can call if I have a question during non-office hours?
- What is expected weight loss?
- Ask for specific statistics regarding complications and outcomes with your particular type of surgery. They should be willing to provide the information and not try to hide any negative results.
- If lap band surgery, what type of band? (Inamed or Johnson & Johnson)
- Are you certified with that type of band?
- Regarding lap band surgery, what is rate of infections? (should be less than 1%)
- Regarding lap band surgery, what are your slip statistics? (should be less than 3%)
- Regarding lap band surgery, what are your erosion statistics? (should be less than 1.3%)
- Regarding lap band surgery, are fills included in post-op care? If not, what is the cost for a fill? (many doctors provide fills for the first year if they perform the surgery)
- Do you have patients who are willing to share their experiences with me?