Deciding to undergo a surgical weight loss procedure is a huge commitment and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Below, the bariatric surgery experts at the Bon Secours Surgical Weight Loss Center answer eight of the most common questions they hear from patients who are considering or preparing for a weight loss surgery.
- What is the youngest age for which weight loss surgery is recommended?
Guidelines from the American Society for Bariatric Surgery and the National Institutes of Health generally recommend surgery only for those 18 years of age and older. At the Bon Secours Surgical Weight Loss Center, our directors recommend surgery for patients 21 years of age or older because, in reviewing their patient outcomes, they found that these patients were much more successful in maintaining their weight loss.
- What are the routine tests before surgery?
The most common pre-surgery tests are a Complete Blood Count (CBC); Urinalysis; and, a Chemistry Panel, which gives your doctor information about 20 blood chemistry values. Other commons tests include: a Glucose Tolerance Test, which evaluates for diabetes; a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram to examine heart health; a vaginal ultrasound to look for abnormalities in a woman’s ovaries or uterus; a gallbladder ultrasound to check for gallstones. Your surgeon may request other studies, such as a pulmonary function testing, sleep study, gastrointestinal, or psychiatric evaluation.
- Why do I have to have a psychiatric evaluation?
The most common reason for a psychiatric evaluation is that your insurance company requires it. Most psychiatrists will evaluate your understanding and knowledge of the potential risks and complications of a weight loss surgery, and your ability to follow the basic recovery plan.
- Will I be asked to stop smoking?
Patients are required to stop smoking at least one month before surgery. Smoking increases the risk of lung problems after surgery, increases the rate of gastric ulcers, can reduce the rate of healing, increases the rates of infection, and interferes with blood supply to the healing tissues.
- If I want to undergo a gastric bypass, how long do I have to wait?
New evaluation appointments with Bon Secours are usually available within a month of your request. Once a patient is evaluated, if the surgeon and patient agree it is appropriate, the operation can usually be scheduled within 8 weeks.
- What can I do before my first SWL appointment to speed up the process of getting ready for surgery?
There a few things patients can do, including working with a primary care physician to keep your routine health testing current. Before heading into an appointment, patients should make a list of all the diets you have tried, gather all important medical data (including reports of special tests (echocardiogram, sleep study, etc.), and bring a list of their current medications.
- What can I do to help expedite the insurance process?
Start by collecting all the information your insurance company requires. This can include diet records, your medical history, and a list of all relevant medical tests. Submitting a complete application with all the necessary information reduces the likelihood of a denial. Letters from your personal physician and health consultants attesting to the “medical necessity” of the treatment are particularly valuable during this process. When several physicians report the same findings, it may confirm a medical necessity for surgery. After your letter is submitted, call your insurance carrier regularly to ask about the status of your request. If you encounter delays, your employer or human relations office may also be able to help you work through obstacles.
- Why does it take so long to get insurance approval?
After your telephone interview consultation is completed, it usually takes your doctor 1-2 days to send a letter to your insurance carrier to start the approval process. The time it takes to get an answer from the insurance company is typically around 3-4 weeks, but it can be longer if you are not persistent in your follow-up. Most treatment centers have insurance analysts who will follow up regularly on approval requests. It may be helpful for you to call the claims service of your insurance company about a week after your letter is submitted and ask about the status of your request.
Have more, unanswered questions about surgical weight loss? Visit the Bon Secours Surgical Weight Loss Center’s frequently asked questions page or leave your question in the comments