You’ve taken a huge leap in deciding to have weight loss surgery. It isn’t uncommon for patients to spend a year or more just considering surgery and doing their research, and select a bariatric surgeon before making the decision to finally undergo bariatric surgery.
Take a moment to recognize how monumental that decision is, and celebrate the fact that you’re deciding to improve your health and your quality of life, not only for yourself but for those you love as well.
Now that you’ve decided to get help losing weight, it’s time to choose a bariatric surgeon. This next step can be overwhelming as you do your homework on weight loss surgery surgeons and choose the surgeon who is the best fit for you. ObesityHelp makes your research easier to check out surgeons and their information. Here are eight key things to consider when choosing a bariatric surgeon.
8 Things To Do To Research and Select A Bariatric Surgeon
1. Research the Surgeon’s Credentials
Finding a credentialed surgeon is key as it ensures the highest standards, best outcomes, continued training and education, research, and innovation on the latest advancements.
Your surgeon should be:
- Board-certified in General Surgery by the American Board of Surgery and a specialist in multiple advanced bariatric procedures.
- An active member or Fellow of several organizations, including the American College of Surgeons (FACS), American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), and Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES).
Other qualifications to consider include whether the surgeon teaches and/or trains other surgeons at national conferences or in the operating room, as well as the surgeon’s participation in research and contributions to scholarly articles.
Keep in mind that credentials speak to the quality of both the surgeon and the hospital at which you will have your surgery. Find out if your surgeon is qualified by the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP). Insurance companies, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield may also award distinctions to the best hospitals in their network.
2. Consider the Doctor’s Experience
Experience and credentials may go hand-in-hand, but they really are two separate factors to consider. Experience matters when it comes to complex procedures such as bariatric surgery and doesn’t necessarily mean how many years a surgeon has been practicing.
Some surgeons only specialize in a certain procedure or perhaps have a narrow focus. It’s better to have a surgeon who specializes in a multitude of minimally invasive bariatric and abdominal procedures, so they know how to handle a variety of abdominal issues. And some might only do a small quantity each year — the volume of surgeries is key! When considering a surgeon’s experience, look for:
- Years in practice
- Number of surgeries
- Wide variety of procedures and techniques
- Low complication rates
3. Research Hospital or Surgery Center Quality
The facility where the surgeon treats patients is another important aspect to consider. Do your research on the quality of the hospital or surgery center where you might be having surgery.
Hospitals and surgery centers with the highest standards for bariatric surgery may have accreditation through the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP).
A bariatric surgical center achieves accreditation following a rigorous review process during which it proves that it can maintain certain physical resources, human resources, and standards of practice. All accredited centers report their outcomes to the MBSAQIP database.
4. Ask for Referrals
Start by putting together a referral list from peers or community recognition, family and friends and even testimonials from past patients. Peer reviews and recognitions published through various sources can be another great source.
Start by searching “Best of” lists in your area. These lists are often published in local magazines, and designations are typically selected through nominations, votes, and input from other acclaimed physicians in the area.
Also, consider referrals from your own doctors, such as your primary care physician or a specialty doctor. Many bariatric patients have obesity-related health conditions and are referred to surgeons by cardiologists, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, etc.
5. Talk to Your Friends and Family
Many bariatric patients have had friends or family members who have previously had weight loss surgery. Talk to them about their experience, both good and bad.
Getting an opinion from someone who has been on the same journey and knows what it’s like to go through the pre- and post-op process can be invaluable. If you do not have a friend or family member who has a positive weight loss surgery experience, search for testimonials from past patients of the doctors on your narrowed-down list. Community websites and Facebook groups focused on weight loss surgery can also be helpful resources.
6. Evaluate the Surgeon’s Patient Support Offerings
Ongoing patient support is a significant piece of the process. A patient’s success is not just about the surgery; it’s about all the support that should come with it — before, during, and after surgery.
Find a surgeon who offers pre-op, post-op, and maintenance support to patients. Support options may include nutrition counseling, fitness coaching, and psychological support groups. Some practices offer both in-person and virtual support.
7. Know What Your Insurance Covers
If you have bariatric coverage and plan to use insurance to help cover the cost of bariatric surgery, then you will need to choose a physician and facility that is in-network with your insurance plan to pay the least out-of-pocket for your surgery and care.
If you are not comfortable with the surgeons or facilities that participate in your insurance plan, you might prefer to go the self-pay route instead. Many practices offer affordable financing through companies such as Care Credit or Prosper Healthcare Lending.
8. Trust Your Instincts
Finally, consider your personal comfort level and find a doctor with whom you connect. This is why the initial consultation with a doctor is so important. You should feel comfortable asking questions and have a doctor who will customize a program for you.
Bariatric surgery is never a one-size-fits-all approach, and you should feel good about your decision and your treatment option. In addition to the doctor-patient connection, consider the other medical providers and staff members you work with along the way, including nurses, physician assistants, medical assistants, nutritionists, etc.
Summary: How to Research and Select a Bariatric Surgeon
Consider it a long-term relationship as you’ll be working with your surgeon and their medical staff leading up to surgery for the actual procedure, but also long after for follow-up care and support to ensure your health and optimal results.
About the Author
Dr. Nick Nicholson is one of the nation’s leading bariatric surgeons. He’s been performing weight loss surgery since 2001 and has helped patients from ALL 50 states and 11 countries. He leads a team of top surgeons, specializing in Sleeve Gastrectomy, Gastric Bypass, LAP-BAND, Revisions, Gastric Balloon, and abdominal cosmetic surgery after weight loss. He practices out of the Nicholson Clinic for Weight Loss Surgery. Read more articles by Dr. Nick Nicholson!