Weight Loss Surgery: Am I Eligible? - Obesity Surgery Guide

Obesity surgery is a massive, life changing experience and one that is not entered into lightly.  In order to get the maximum benefits from this type of surgery you will need to make permanent changes to your lifestyle.  This means a whole new way of eating, taking exercise, daily nutritional supplementation and changes to your overall behaviour.

It is a long term process which involves a multidisciplinary team of people (surgeon, dietician, counsellor etc) who are there to provide support and guidance throughout the whole process; from the initial consultation right through to your aftercare following surgery.  This means regular follow up sessions with your team to ensure that everything is fine and that your weight loss is progressing.

Plus, this back up support is there if you have any questions or need further advice. 

If you decide upon surgery then you need to be aware that it is not risk free: all surgery carries a small amount of risks and these tend to be greater for those people who are overweight or obese.  What we recommend is that you weigh up the risks of suffering from an obesity related illness (or co-morbidity) such as heart disease, cancer or stroke and/or a reduced life expectancy against the risks of surgery.    

However, this type of surgery is very safe and effective and is performed by experienced surgeons only.  They will have performed these techniques many times and so are fully able to deal with any unexpected complications that may arise.
As a result of this you will find that generally, surgeons will have strict criteria regarding suitability for this type of surgery.

NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) have a list of guidelines on their website (www.nice.org.uk) which list criteria for eligibility for obesity surgery.  However, these are not always referred to and so the best course of action is to discuss your intention with either your G.P or a reputable obesity clinic.

Criteria for surgery can vary but in general, they are as follows:

  • You are classed as obese.  This means that you have a BMI of 30 or more.  Some may argue that it needs to be 35 or 40 or over but the WHO (World Health Organization) defines a BMI of 30kg/mg as ‘obese'.  Variations on this include a lower BMI but with an obesity-related illness such as Type 2 diabetes.
  • You are suffering from an obesity related illness; are at high risk of developing an obesity-related illness or are suffering from a life threatening condition.
  • You are aged 18 to 65:  however, there are some surgeons that will perform surgery on teenagers and/or people aged over 65.
  • You have been obese for the last five years and have tried all other forms of weight loss treatments including diet, exercise and weight loss supplementation.  You will need to show that these have been tried and failed.
  • You are committed to changing your current lifestyle and are prepared to attend regular follow up sessions. 
You need to have realistic expectations about this surgery.  It is very effective and can result in high percentages of weight loss but it is not a ‘cure-all' as regards obesity.  It needs to form part of an overall strategy for tackling obesity which will last for the rest of your life.   It will reduce any risks from obesity-related illnesses and overall, will improve your quality of life.

Another important factor in this is that you may require further surgery: this means cosmetic surgery to correct any loose or sagging folds of skin and fat left by dramatic weight loss following your surgery.  For example, if you have stubborn fat deposits around your lower stomach and thighs then you might consider liposuction.  If you have any drooping folds of skin then a panniculectomy could help.  Bear in mind that this will not be covered by the NHS and so you will have to pay for this yourself, unless you have private health insurance.  If you decide to use private healthcare then check that your insurer covers these procedures.

It is advisable that you research this thoroughly before making a decision.  Talk to several surgeons, join a support group such as BOSPA and read about/talk with other people who have had this surgery.  Read through as much information as you can find.  Only when you are satisfied can you then decide to go ahead with this.

Note: you will be required to sign a ‘consent form' before undergoing any form of surgery.  What this means is that you have given ‘informed consent' for the surgery. In legal terms it means that you have been given enough information about the procedure and that you fully understand what it entails.  This means you are fully aware of the benefits and the risks.