Am I suitable for weight loss surgery?

Obesity surgeons have a pre-defined set of criteria which they use to determine a patient’s suitability for surgery. These guidelines have been devised by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) and are frequently referred to.

However, they are not set in stone and as such are open to interpretation. In fact, many experts in the field have challenged some of the guidelines such as the lower age limit for surgery. For example, NICE states that the minimum age for surgery is 18 years of age. But, we are now seeing an increasing number of teenagers (and children) who are obese and would clearly benefit from this treatment.

Your surgeon will decide upon your suitability according to these criteria but in general, you need to demonstrate the following:

  • You are ‘clinically obese’. This definition will have originated from a BMI (Body Mass Index) calculation, performed by your GP.
  • You are suffering from an obesity-related condition or at a high risk of doing so. You may also be facing life-threatening risks to your health and wellbeing.
  • You may have tried dieting or some other form of weight loss programme but this has failed. Other weight loss methods such as slimming pills or anti-obesity medication have also failed.

You will also need to show that you are prepared to make a permanent change to your current lifestyle. This means completely changing the way you eat, taking up some exercise and attending the aftercare sessions on a regular basis. This means a change in behaviour and having realistic expectations. You will have to be self-disciplined in regard to this regime: for example, if you have undergone a procedure which has affected your ability to absorb food (malabsorptive) then you will be on daily nutritional supplements for the rest of your life.

The follow up sessions which include counselling are an integral part of this anti-obesity approach. They are designed to help you adapt to your new physical state as well as providing advice and support. These and a local support group can help. Talking to friends, family or other people in a similar position can also help.

As this is a major undertaking we would recommend that you obtain as much information as you can find on obesity surgery. Read through this carefully, talk to others, talk to your GP and/or speak to your local support group via BOSPA.

Another issue for you to consider is that of further surgery: not, obesity surgery but cosmetic surgery. What often happens after surgery is that vast amounts of weight are lost, but the patient is left with some stubborn areas of fat and sagging folds of skin. This can not be shifted through diet and exercise, and especially with the skin folds, can lead to problems such as sores and rashes. This is caused by the loose folds rubbing against each other.

And, from a purely aesthetic point of view they look unsightly and many patients will wear loose, baggy clothing in order to hide them.

The only solution to this is cosmetic surgery. Procedures such liposuction or a ‘tummy tuck’ can help but they and many others are expensive. This treatment is not available on the NHS and can cost as much as £5,000. So, if you have already paid for private obesity surgery and then you have to factor in cosmetic surgery as well; you could end up paying between £15-20,000 for this treatment.

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