The Path to Bariatric Surgery
If you’re considering bariatric surgery, you likely have questions about how to actually start the process. This guide is an outline of steps typically necessary for the best possible surgical outcome, while also ensuring the best chance of optimal insurance coverage. Please note, however, that the path to surgery will vary, depending on the type of surgery planned, your location, surgeon, and your health.
The entire process, from initial consultation through successful surgery, generally takes 3-4 months to complete. However, it can take more time, depending on your availability and insurance requirements.
Step 1: Attend an Informational Session
Most bariatric programs host monthly information sessions or seminars. Some may offer free consultations or group “decision-making” appointments. The goal is simply to educate you about all aspects of weight loss surgery. At this first step, you are under no obligation to proceed with a particular surgery. The seminars are simply an opportunity for you to learn and have your questions answered by the physicians and staff of the bariatric surgery program.
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Step 2: Consult with a Bariatric Program Physician
Once you’ve decided that you are ready to explore weight-loss surgery, the next step is a consultation with a surgeon. The surgeon will help you determine whether you are a strong candidate for surgery. For those who meet bariatric surgery qualifications, the surgical team will talk you through the pre-operative process, which includes ordering preoperative evaluations and labs required for insurance authorization. The bariatric specialist will also consult with your primary care physician.
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Once you are working with a surgeon…
Step 3: Consult with a Dietitian and Mental Health Professional
As part of the evaluation process, you will see a registered dietitian and psychologist or behavioral health professional to assess your readiness to undergo weight loss surgery and to follow the regimen that will be required after surgery.
Step 4: Follow a Pre-Surgery Weight Loss Program
This step can be started right after the initial consultation and continues to the time of surgery. This includes both dietary and exercise recommendations. Numerous clinical trials show benefits of preoperative weight loss and education, including:
- Reduced surgical complications and operating room time
- Reduced liver size to allow the surgeon to better see the area involved in surgery
- Stabilize serum glucose (blood sugar) prior to hospitalization
- Enhanced ability to lose weight after surgery
- Evidence of your ability to change your eating patterns post surgery. Many insurance companies require this prior to scheduling surgery.
- Improved physical activity prior to surgery
- Preparing you for what your life will really be like after surgery
A physical activity plan will likely also be included for those physically capable of activity.
The particular weight-loss plan pre-surgery will vary by facility and program, and your doctor will advise you of the specific goals you are to meet at this stage of preparation.
Step 5: Multidisciplinary Review
Prior to scheduling your surgery, a team of weight-loss surgery specialists will review your case to make sure you are on track for a successful surgery.
Step 6: Insurance Authorization
If the multidisciplinary committee approves you for surgery, the insurance coordinator at the surgeon’s office will begin the authorization process with your insurance. Successful completion of the pre-surgery plan will strongly influence your insurance company approving the surgery. The insurance approval for your surgery usually takes 5-30 days, depending on the insurance company.
Step 7: Pre-Surgery Preparation Classes
Once your insurance company has authorized your surgical procedure, you will be scheduled for surgery. You may be asked to attend specific pre-surgery classes to acquaint you with what to expect during your surgery and your hospital stay.
Step 8: Surgery
Your surgeon will let you know how long your particular surgery may take, and the expected time you will stay in the hospital. Of course, these time estimates may change based on your particular situation during or after surgery.
Step 9: After Surgery
Your weight loss program doesn’t end with your surgery. Successful bariatric surgery must be part of a comprehensive support system – only then can you achieve safe and permanent weight loss.
Successful weight loss depends not just on surgery, but also on changing behaviors regarding how and what you eat, as well as the amount you exercise.
Medical follow-up is critical to both your safety and your long-term success. Expect to visit your doctor on a frequent basis in the weeks following surgery, and regularly during the first and second year. Also expect to schedule follow up visits annually for the rest of your life.
Depending on your program, you may also participate in ongoing bariatric surgery support groups, where you will meet others on the same journey.
Life after bariatric surgery
Health care and diet after surgery