Weight Loss Surgery FAQs

Q: Why should I consider weight loss surgery?

A: Obesity is a major health risk that can lead to serious medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, liver disease, lung disease, mental disease, cancers, and many other complications. Losing weight through diet and exercise, and keeping the weight off is very difficult for most obese patients. Weight loss surgery has been proven to be safe and result in long-term weight loss, improvement in medical conditions and overall quality of life.

Q: Who is eligible for weight loss surgery?

A: At the Augusta University Obesity & Metabolism, patients must undergo evaluation and approval by our expert team members (surgeons, bariatrician, psychologist, nutritionist, anesthesiologist and others), and meet insurance plan requirements. For more information on eligibility.

Most insurance plans require:

  • For Gastric Bypass, Sleeve Gastrectomy and Lap Band Surgery:
    • A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more
    • A BMI of 35-39 with obesity related conditions such as sleep apnea, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease)
  • For Lap Band Surgery:
    • The FDA has approved Lap Band Surgery for patients with BMI of 30-35 and an obesity related disease. However, insurance plans may not pay for your lap band surgery if your BMI is between 30 and 35.

Q: What are my surgical options at the Augusta University Center for Obesity & Metabolism?

A: Our team will work with you to determine which surgical procedure is best for you. Options include:

Q: What is the difference between “open” and laparoscopic bariatric surgery?

A: Bariatric surgery may be performed through traditional “open” abdominal incisions, or laparoscopically through small incisions. With the laparoscopic approach, a camera is used to see inside of the abdomen, transmitting an image to a television monitor. The surgeon uses surgical instruments inserted through 1/2-inch incisions (cuts) to perform the operation. Most bariatric operations are performed laparoscopically because it is better for the patient. It creates less tissue damage, shortens hospital stays and reduces complications when compared to open surgery.

However, laparoscopy is not right for all patients. Patients who are extremely obese, have had previous abdominal surgery, have complicating medical problems or have a complication during laparoscopic surgery may require the open approach.

Q: What excludes patients from having the procedure done with a laparoscopic technique?

A: There are no specific exclusions. It depends on the individual patient, previous surgeries, current medical conditions and other factors.

Q: Why should I select the Augusta University Centery for Obesity & Metabolism as my provider?

A: As part of Medical Center at Augusta University, one of Georgia’s largest academic medical centers, we offer a comprehensive weight management program with all the resources to ensure you are successful with your weight loss goals. Care is delivered by a dedicated team of highly skilled physicians, surgeons, nutritionists, nurses and other caregivers who understand obesity and weight loss surgery. Together, we deliver coordinated care that addresses every aspect of obesity and its related health conditions. We provide total care to the obese patient. We provide resources to encourage long-term follow-up and success. There are many stigmas associated with obesity. As a result we provide weight loss service in a caring and supportive environment, including requiring weight sensitivity training for our team members. More information on Augusta University Center for Obesity & Metabolism.

Q: What is the recovery time?

A: Depending on the procedure, patients generally stay in the hospital one to three days and return to work within two to four weeks.

Q: What are the risks and complications associated with bariatric surgery?

A: Many of the risks and complications are due to the patient’s obesity-related health problems. They may include heart attack and pulmonary embolism (lung clot). These complications may occur regardless of which operation you have. To minimize these risks, we deliver medical weight loss services to help our patients quit smoking, lose weight and start an exercise program prior to surgery.

We also provide our patients with detailed instructions when they leave the hospital, and we carefully monitor their recovery. Finally, as an academic medical center, we have specialists of all types who can address any possible complications, including emergency room physicians who understand the complications of weight loss surgery.

Other risks and complications may occur and are more dependent on the operation you have.

Q: What is ideal body weight?

A: Ideal body weight is the weight that is ideal for your height and gender (male or female). The body mass index (BMI) is a used as an indicator of your ideal body weight. A normal body mass index is about 19-25.

Q: What is excess weight loss (EWL)?

A: Excess weight loss is the amount of weight above your ideal body weight that you lose.

Q: How much weight should I expect to lose after surgery?

A: That varies considerably, depending on your weight before surgery and how well you adhere to your follow up plan, but losses of 100 pounds and more are not uncommon. If you lose 50% of your excess body weight and keep it off, your surgery is considered successful.

Q: How soon after surgery can I have sex?

A: Patients can generally resume sexual activity two to four weeks after weight loss surgery. That decision is left to the patient and his or her partner.

Q: How soon after surgery can I try to get pregnant?

A: Infertility is a common problem in obese women due to hormonal imbalances and polycystic ovarian disease. Sexual desire will likely increase after surgery. Infertility may also improve after surgery, so precautions to prevent early pregnancy should be used. It takes a while for your hormones to rebalance after surgery so pregnancy may not readily happen. Your weight loss and nutritional status should also be stable before you attempt to get pregnant. We recommend that women should wait 18-24 months after surgery to become pregnant. Please use contraception to prevent pregnancy during this period as early pregnancy can result in loss of your baby and other problems with your baby or your health.

Q: How soon after surgery can I have plastic surgery for excess skin removal?

A: You’ll generally want to wait until your weight loss has stabilized, which may take 12-24 months or longer, depending on your operation. We recommend body contouring surgery after you have achieved your weight loss goal and your weight has been stable for at least 4-6 months. Your bariatric team members and plastic surgeon will determine the best time for you to have body contouring surgery.

Q: Will my insurance company pay for weight loss surgery?

A: Possibly. Some insurance plans pay for weight loss surgery for medically qualified patients based on their body mass index (BMI), obesity related illnesses and other requirements by your insurance company. Call your insurance company to see if you are covered.

Q: When should I contact my insurance company?

A: If you are considering weight loss surgery, contact your insurance company right away. Ask if your plan covers weight loss surgery and what the requirements are for approval. Ask what specific operations are covered, and what the requirements to qualify for each operation. It is also important to find out if you have a co-payment and if all of the necessary evaluation before surgery is covered as well.

Q: Do I need to have my gallbladder removed before bariatric surgery?

A: Not necessarily. If you have gallstones that have caused you problems (pain, inflammation) then you should have your gallbladder removed before your bariatric surgery. If you have gallstones that have not caused you any problems or if you do not have stones when you are being evaluated for bariatric surgery, your gallbladder does not have to be taken out before you have your bariatric surgery. With weight loss there is an increased chance of forming gallstones. You will be required to take a medication to reduce the chance of gallstones forming.

Q: What’s the long term weight loss result with the lap band surgery?

A: Long term weight loss with lap band surgery varies considerably. Around 25% of patients, depending on which study one reads, re-gain weight. This is especially true if they cut back on exercise or increase their food intake. Patients who undergo surgical weight-loss are more likely to maintain their weight for long term, but patients who combine healthier lifestyles with these methods have the highest level of success.

Weight regain or failure to lose weight with the lap band can be significantly improved if you follow-up with your bariatric program and follow diet and exercise recommendations. Over time the band may need to be adjusted, repaired or even removed. For most people, however, the band stays in with few if any problems. Long-term excess weight loss of 50% or more can be achieved with the band.

Q: If the lap band has to be removed, does my stomach go back to its previous size? Will I re-gain lost weight if the band is removed?

A: Since none of the stomach is actually removed in lap band surgery, the size of the stomach doesn’t change. Some people gain much of their weight back, but others continue to exercise, eat small portions and keep the weight off. It varies with the individual.

Q: Will I eventually re-gain weight after bariatric surgery?

A: Some patients will regain weight after bariatric surgery, regardless of the operation they have. Those who regain weight are generally patients who do not follow-up with their bariatric program, do not follow diet recommendations and do not exercise regularly. Remember that the operation can only do so much for weight loss. Keeping the weight off long-term has everything to do with the lifestyle changes you choose to make after bariatric surgery. Healthier eating habits and regular exercise are key to your long-term success.