There is often a social stigma to bariatric surgery because people mistakenly think it’s an easy fix, but it is one of several tools that combine for lifelong success.
Swedish offers online and in-person seminars to learn more about weight-loss surgery.
If you’ve been considering weight-loss surgery but you’re unsure about whether it will work for you, learn a little more about what the procedure entails. Sara Martin del Campo, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Swedish Weight Loss Services, part of Swedish Digestive Health Institute, discusses what you should know.
What are the criteria that make someone a good candidate for bariatric surgery?
“One of the first criteria is related to body mass index (BMI), which is a calculated number based off of a person’s weight and height. Generally, you may be a candidate for weight-loss surgery with a BMI greater than 40, or 35 and above with other medical conditions related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, joint arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. There is evidence that also shows people with a BMI of 30 and above and related medical conditions can also benefit from weight-loss surgery. However, each insurance plan varies regarding BMI criteria.
“In addition, patients undergo medical, psychological, and dietary evaluations to ensure that they fully understand the importance of the procedures and their risks and are safe to proceed with surgery.
“Almost all of the bariatric surgeries Swedish offers alter the size of the stomach to lead to decreased hunger and early satiety. Some also change or reroute the way food is absorbed. So, with these procedures, we look not only at the surgery itself, but we try to factor in all of a patient’s medical history, medication needs, and past surgeries, to help delineate which surgery will be best for each individual.”
Do people understand that bariatric surgery is part of a long-term commitment?
“Unfortunately, I think there is still a stigma in the public and with some medical providers who see weight-loss surgery as a shortcut, but that’s definitely not the case. We’ve found that weight-loss surgery is a tool that requires the use of diet modification, exercise, and behavior changes to be successful. Our program is geared towards providing you with this tool and teaching you how to use it successfully both early and life-long after surgery.
“Obesity is a chronic disease, and it needs to be treated like one. We can’t just flip a switch and cure it. Rather, it requires lifelong work to be successful in a weight loss journey, and we want to provide those tools to our patients so that they have the highest likelihood of lifelong success.”
Can bariatric surgery benefit patients beyond the weight loss?
“Studies show that surgery provides the best form of long-term weight-loss management compared to other weight loss options. In addition, with bariatric surgery, it’s been shown we can significantly improve upon or reverse a number of conditions like diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, joint pain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And with that, we also see significantly improved quality of life and length of life. It’s becoming more and more accepted that this is truly the standard of care for treating a lot of these diseases related to obesity.
“I often tell patients that these procedures are not just weight-loss operations. Yes, weight loss is a beneficial side effect, but our goal is to improve their overall health, improve a lot of those medical conditions, get them off medications they don’t need anymore or off their sleep apnea devices, and help them get back to the activities they want to be participating in. It’s about helping them holistically from a medical standpoint, but also improving their quality of life and ultimately prolonging their life.”
How can people learn more about bariatric surgery services at Swedish?
“We recently started offering online informational seminars. The goal is to reach more people who are interested in learning about bariatric surgery. When it comes to our online or in-person seminars, we introduce people to what these surgeries are, what some studies have shown regarding their benefits, and get into the details about what the different options entail, including the risks and benefits. We provide them a guideline of what the process is to get bariatric surgery and what they need to be successful after surgery. With the online seminar, our hope is to provide that information to more people who might be interested in learning about bariatric surgery and about our program in hopes that it allows them better and quicker access to getting this type of care. The in-person seminars are given by one of our surgeons and offer the opportunity for people to interact with us directly to get questions answered up front. All seminars are free, and anyone can sign up.
“There is a lot of unwarranted societal stigma attached to obesity and weight-loss surgery, and Swedish is breaking down those barriers. We are letting people know this is not a last-ditch resort — it’s something we feel is medically appropriate for people suffering from obesity and related medical conditions. The goal with our seminars is to educate and provide people with information so they can make an honest choice for themselves as to whether they are interested and ready to pursue this. This truly is a great option for those suffering from obesity.”
If you are interested in attending a seminar near you or watching the online seminar, click here.
Swedish Weight Loss Services is a comprehensive clinic that incorporates all aspects of treatment for excess weight, including non-surgical weight management with the use of medications, diets, behavior modification, and other non-surgical procedures. If a nonsurgical option interests you, contact the Swedish Weight Loss Services location nearest you.
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Watch video of Dr. Martin del Campo:
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.