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Bariatric Surgery FAQs

If you are considering bariatric (weight loss) surgery, then you probably have questions about what to expect and what life is like post-surgery. The list below highlights the most common questions we hear from our patients and their families. If you have additional questions, please feel free to call the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital Healthy First Bariatric Surgery Program in St. Louis at 314-577-5335.

What is the goal of weight loss surgery?

The goal of weight loss surgery is to help patients lose a significant amount of weight in a safe, supervised way and to improve overall health. We will work with you to achieve your excess weight loss goals, and then create a plan for you to maintain your weight loss in the future.

Do I qualify for weight loss surgery?

Our Healthy First Bariatric Surgery Program asks that you meet the following guidelines in order to be a good candidate for surgery:

  • You are between the ages of 13 and 21
  • You have a Body Mass Index of 40 or greater, or a BMI of 35-40 with a medically significant disease directly related to the diagnosis of obesity (i.e. sleep apnea, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension)
  • You are 80 - 100 pounds or more over your ideal body weight
  • You understand there are risks and benefits with any surgical procedure
  • You have not had a drug or alcohol problem in the past year
  • You have not had an uncontrolled psychological condition in the past year
  • You are committed to lifestyle change and follow-up with your medical team after surgery

What are the risks of bariatric surgery?

The potential risks associated with bariatric surgery for teens and young adults are the same as any other major abdominal surgery: bleeding, infection, leg and lung clots, bowel obstruction and intestinal or stomach leakage.

Is bariatric surgery covered by insurance?

Our program has a dedicated operations specialist whom will help you with your bariatric coverage benefits and determine if you have coverage for bariatric surgery. Some insurance companies may require completion of a medically-supervised diet program before approval. We also offer a self-pay plan for those that do not have bariatric insurance coverage. We will meet with you to discuss your financial options, including credit financing.

How long do I have to wait for my bariatric surgery?

This depends on two factors: your insurance requirements and the changes you need to make before surgery. You are generally in the pre-operative evaluation and preparation period for 3-6 months before you will be able to have bariatric surgery. This is due to the insurance requirements that we must meet in order for you to get an approval for surgery. Consequently, it is very important that you complete the tests that are ordered from your surgeon; you comply with diet and exercise changes that are given to you; and you are fully able to commit to lifestyle change. Self pay patients will see our providers over a 3 month period prior to surgery.

What will my recovery be like after surgery?

Everyone is different in their response to pain and their healing rate. Depending on your surgery type, you will be in the hospital for 1-2 nights. During that time, you will be up and walking several times a day, you will be introduced to the diet you will be following post-operatively, and you will be assessed for any signs of complications during that time. Expect to have some pain/discomfort that will be managed with pain medication while you are in the hospital. You will also be discharged on appropriate pain medication when you leave the hospital. Expect to be sore with movement, but walking is important because it helps prevent post-operative complications, such as blood clots and pneumonia.

When can I start exercising again after surgery?

Right away! You will take short walks even while you are in the hospital. The key is to start slow and to listen to your body and your surgeon. If you lift weights or do sports, stay “low impact” for the first month (avoid competition, think participation)., and then build slowly over several weeks. If you swim, your wounds need to be healed before you get back in the water. Your surgeon will give you further details as to how to progress after surgery. We will ensure to build an exercise plan that is right for you.

How do patients’ eating habits change after surgery?

Our team will explain what and how you should eat after surgery. In general, patients will be on a liquid diet for four weeks following surgery, and then gradually return to eating a normal diet, although in smaller amounts. We usually recommend that patients limit their intake of food to ¼ cup, or two ounces, of food at each meal. Eventually, you will be able to each larger portions. In addition, we will recommend a daily calorie total depending on specific needs, usually between 1000 and 1200 calories daily.

What could happen if I don’t follow one or more of the dietary guidelines?

Our dietary guidelines are designed to improve your chance of long-term success in weight loss. If you don’t follow the guidelines, you may not lose the excess weight or maintain the weight loss long-term. In addition, there is an increased risk of complications, such as vomiting, diarrhea or malnutrition after surgery.

Making the decision to have weight loss surgery can feel overwhelming. The caring and compassionate team at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Healthy First Bariatric Surgery Program will help you consider all of your options, so you can feel confident in your choice. Contact us today at 314-577-5335 to learn more or register for our free informational seminar.

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