Before Bariatric Surgery

What is bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a type of surgery to help you lose weight. It is an option for some people who are obese and have not been able to lose weight with other methods. Your doctor might discuss bariatric surgery with you if you are obese, or if you are overweight and have a medical problem such as diabetes. Diabetes and certain other medical problems can get better with weight loss.

Before having surgery, you'll meet with a team of health care providers who will make sure the surgery is the best treatment for you. They will look at your general health, your mental and emotional health, and other factors. If they approve you for the surgery, you'll need to prepare for it.

How do I get ready in the weeks and months before bariatric surgery?

You'll need to make some healthy lifestyle changes in the months before your surgery. You'll also need to plan for changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle after the surgery. This will lower your chance of complications after surgery. It will also help ensure that you will lose the amount of weight. You may need to meet with members of your health care team several times in the weeks or months leading up to your surgery.

Two or three months before your surgery, your surgeon or dietician will put you on a diet. This will help you lose some weight before your surgery. Losing some weight before the surgery will reduce your risk of complications. This diet will be high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat. This diet will help keep you from losing too much muscle mass. Your doctor may also have you keep a food diary during this time.

Your surgeon or dietician can give you details about what diet you should follow. This diet may be similar to the one that you will need to follow after your surgery. Or, you may be told to follow a low-calorie liquid diet for a couple of weeks before your surgery.

Your health care team might also have you begin an exercise program. This may also help you lose weight before your surgery. It can also help start positive habits you will need to keep up after your procedure. Your doctor can tell you more about what types of exercise are safe for you.

If you smoke, you'll need to stop smoking before your surgery. Smoking raises the risk of complications after surgery. Talk to your doctor about ways to help you quit. Many bariatric surgeons will not do surgery on people who are still smoking.

Some people may benefit from counseling as they get ready for surgery. Many people who are obese have disordered eating habits. These often have an emotional link. Working on any emotional concerns with a therapist may help you have a better result after surgery.

Your doctor may have more instructions about how to get ready for your surgery. Make sure to follow all of his or her advice.

How do I get ready right before bariatric surgery?

Your doctor will tell you how you should prepare for your day of surgery. Talk to your doctor about all the medications you take. This includes all over-the-counter medications. You may need to stop taking some medications, like blood thinners, before your surgery. Don't stop any medication without talking to your doctor first. Also, tell him or her about any recent changes in your health, like a cough or a fever. In some cases, your doctor might want to postpone your surgery.

You may also want to ask a family member or friend to help you at home after the surgery.

Before your surgery, you'll need to have only clear liquids for 6 to 12 hours. Clear liquids include water, juices with no pulp, tea with no milk, and soda.

In some cases, your doctor might order more tests just before your surgery. These tests may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) to check your heart rhythm

  • Blood tests to test for infection or other conditions

  • Nutritional tests, to see whether you are deficient in certain nutrients

Learn as much about the surgery as you can. Make sure you have practical expectations about life after your procedure.

Why might my surgery be postponed or canceled?                                                               

Even after you've been approved for surgery, it may need to be delayed if:

  • You have a new health problem (like fever, cough, cold, or a new heart problem) right before your surgery

  • You didn't adopt new lifestyle changes before surgery, and you gained weight during this time

  • A mental health professional thinks you are not psychologically ready for the surgery

  • You missed preoperative appointments

  • You changed your mind about having the surgery

Your medical team will only do the surgery if they know it will give you health benefits. For the surgery to be a success, you will need to make lifelong changes to your diet and lifestyle. Your medical team will want to know that you are ready for the life changes that go with surgery.

Even if your surgery gets postponed, you might be able to have it at a later date. Talk to your doctor about why your surgery was postponed. Ask what you can do to increase your chances of having the surgery at a later date.