7 Public Misconceptions About Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery refers to a range of procedures that facilitate weight loss. These might include a lap band, sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass, or vertical banded gastroplasty.

For individuals who are extremely overweight or obese, these procedures may be a lifesaver. There are many misconceptions about these procedures and their results, however. Below are just a few of the most common.

1. Bariatric surgery isn’t effective at keeping weight off

The Truth: People who undergo bariatric surgery generally have an easier time not only losing the weight, but keeping it off over the long term, according to a number of studies. What’s more, those who undergo the surgery are at significantly reduced risk for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, and as a result they tend to live longer.

2. Will power plus diet and exercise will work as well as surgery

The Truth: Bariatric surgery is generally recommended only for patients who have tried diet and exercise for several years with little or success. “When someone is 20 or 30 pounds overweight, diet and exercise are prescribed and can work,” says Alfonso Torquati, MD, of Rush University Medical Center.

“But once you cross the threshold of being 50 or 60 pounds overweight, the failure rates for controlling weight with exercise and diet are close to 90 percent.” Surgery can be the solution these people need to make their diet and exercise regimes a success in the long run.

3. Bariatric surgery is highly dangerous and risky

The Truth: Every surgical procedure carries a risk of complications and death, more or less, even simple procedures. However, the process for bariatric surgeries has evolved substantially over the last few decades to include smaller incisions, less pain, faster healing, and minimal scarring.

Furthermore, staying obese guarantees much higher risks of premature death from diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and even cancer than surgery.

4. You can’t have proper nutrition with bariatric surgery

The Truth: Medical professionals have studied every avenue for keeping their patients healthy following a bariatric procedure. As long as patients follow their advice closely and take the prescribed vitamins and supplements on schedule to increase absorption, they can remain in excellent health.

5. Insurance won’t cover the procedure because it’s regarded as cosmetic

The Truth: Some of the results of bariatric surgery are cosmetic, but the fundamental benefits of the procedure are not. “Yes, you will look better,” Dr. Torquati says. “But our goal in performing the surgery is to help you feel better, live longer, and lead a more active, healthy life.”

For that reason, most insurance companies will follow the NIH guidelines for bariatric surgery, which mandates that the procedure be covered when it significantly affects health.

6. Pregnancy is more risky after the procedure

The Truth: Most health-care professionals will encourage their patients to wait at least a year after the procedure before trying to get pregnant, in order to avoid ruining the effects of drastic weight loss, but the surgery in general won’t hinder a woman’s ability to conceive, carry a baby to full term, or give birth.

In fact, undergoing bariatric surgery can actually increase the chances of conception, since obesity is one of principle causes of infertility.

7. Very few people can benefit from bariatric surgery

The Truth: The opposite is actually true. Though patients who weigh more than 500 pounds will have difficulty successfully undergoing these procedures, and patients with less than 40 pounds to lose are better off using conventional weight loss methods, most patients can benefit from bariatric surgery for both cosmetic and medical reasons, and the procedure could actually be a life-saver for them.