Weight Loss Surgery Specialists
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.
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 Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) (www.asmbs.org), or visit the Medicare website (www.cms.hhs.gov).
- Seminars - many bariatric programs host seminars for the general public on weight loss surgery where you can learn more about the doctor and the surgery options.
Choice of Bariatric Surgeon vs. 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.
Bariatric Surgeon Consultation
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.
What You Need to Know - 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?
Bariatric Surgeon Fees: Cost vs. Expertise
When choosing a bariatric surgeon, it is important for prospective patients to take into account the doctor's level of skill and experience. The fee paid to the bariatric surgeon is one of the primary cost factors, yet your decision should not be based on cost alone.
The bariatric surgeon you choose will affect more than your budget, it is one of the key factors determining successful results. In most cases, you will pay more for a highly qualified bariatric surgeon, however, you can also expect better surgical outcomes and lower complication rates.
One of the questions to ask your bariatric surgeon is 'How many of my type of weight loss surgery (gastric band, gastric sleeve, gastric bypass) have you performed?' An experienced bariatric surgeon should have done at least 250 of your specific procedure.
Bariatric Surgeon Training: Board-Certification
Choosing a qualified bariatric surgeon may seem a bit overwhelming, but knowing what to look for can help make the decision making process easier. When interviewing a potential bariatric surgeon, it is important to ask about the doctor's level of training and experience.
Legally, any medical doctor can perform an operation of any type, even without specialized training or experience in a particular field of medicine. If you are undergoing bariatric surgery, choose a doctor who is board-certified by the American Board of Surgery or the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery.
Board-certification by these boards indicates that the doctor has gone through a specialized training program and has met certain standards in the field of surgery. In addition, choose a doctor that has completed a residency or a fellowship in bariatric surgery. A weekend course is not enough training to become a qualified bariatric surgeon.
Bariatric Surgery: Center of Excellence
Individuals who are looking into weight loss surgery should consider the benefits of choosing a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence program and find out what it can offer them in terms of care, results, and satisfaction.
The process to become a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence is rigorous, with comprehensive requirements and a thorough review of facilities, surgeons, staff, hospital, and medical records to assess each facet of care specific to bariatric surgery patients.
For a medical center to earn this distinction is similar to an actor being awarded an Oscar or an athlete winning an Olympic gold medal. It recognizes excellence in achievement and dedication to the highest standards in caring for bariatric surgery patients.