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Bariatric surgery is quickly becoming a common procedure, not only due to increasing amounts of overweight individuals and diet/exercise failure rates, but its high probability of success.

“We talk about people losing 60 to 80 to 300 pounds. This is for real. The reason you see more bariatric surgeries being done is because it works,” said Gerardo Gomez, Medical Director of the IU Surgical Weight Management Center at Wishard.

Bariatric surgery is not a simple procedure, but is a comprehensive approach to help those who suffer from obesity. According to National Institute of Health data, weight reduction surgery has been reported to improve quality of life and reduce or eliminate diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and cholesterol levels among others.

It seems as if being obese is the only qualification for surgery, however candidates go through rigorous and lengthy tests to be deemed worthy. Of the many criteria, the Body Mass Index (BMI)is used to measure the severity of the person. If one’s BMI is over 30, their chances of surgery increase.

Additionally, there has to be proof of attempt and failure using traditional methods of diet and exercise. Insurance companies require documentation of at least six months of a medically supervised weight loss program before the patient is approved.

Once a patient is approved for bariatric surgery, physicians choose the type of procedure yielding the best results. There are several types of surgeries which include laparoscopic surgery, gastric bypass, LAP-BAND System, the gastric sleeve and the duodenal switch.

During a laparoscopic procedure, approximately 60 to 75 percent of the stomach is removed from the patient to equal the size of a banana. In gastric bypass, the stomach is divided into a small and large portion. When the small, upper stomach pouch is full, patients will experience a sense of fullness. Due to a reduced appetite, the intake of food is limited.

The LAP-BAND System is an adjustable silicone elastic band that’s placed around the upper part of the stomach creating a small pouch and restricting the passage of food. The gastric sleeve procedure removes a large portion of your stomach and converts it into a tube.

The duodenal switch is a tag team approach to obesity. Once the stomach is reduced, the small intestine is rearranged to separate food and bile flows and pancreatic juices. The food and digestive juices interact and is absorbed only in the last 18 to 24 inches of the intestine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, gastric bypass is the most frequently performed bariatric surgery in the U.S. because it generally has fewer complications than other weight-loss surgeries.

“The success of this surgery depends in big part on your commitment to follow a healthy diet and a regular exercise program after (surgery),” said Mayo nutritionist, Katherine Zeratsky.

Depending on the procedure, costs can range anywhere from $17,000 to $30,000.

People considering bariatric surgery should understand it is a last resort to weight loss and does have potential complications including respiratory problems, infection, cardiac complications, leaks where parts of the GI tract are sutured together and blood clots in the deep veins of the legs. Death rarely occurs but is possible.

Those who are interested are also encouraged to consult their primary physician, do their research on the surgery and be willing to make dramatic lifelong changes in his or her lifestyle, dietary habits and exercise.

To help patients make an informed decision, Wishard’s IU Surgical Weight Management Center and Clarian Bariatric Center offer preliminary and supplementary weight loss programs.

“People may think they’re going to get the surgery and sit in a chair for three months to lose the weight. We want to make sure they know the changes they’re going to go through,” said IU’s Gomez.

For more information on IU Surgical Weight Management Center at Wishard, call (317) 630-2524 or visit www.iubariatrics.org; Clarian Bariatrics, call (317) 275-7010 or 877-275-2555 or visit www.clarian.org.

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