Do I Need To Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?

Written by Cristina Ortega, RN on

Being asked to lose more weight before bariatric surgery may seem unnecessary, but doing so may reduce the risk for surgery-related complications.

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Being asked to lose more weight before bariatric surgery may seem unnecessary, but doing so may reduce the risk for surgery-related complications.

Bariatric procedures often require a lot of preparation before and after surgery. This is to ensure you experience the best possible outcome.

One of the steps most doctors recommend is losing as much weight as possible before your surgery. This may seem confusing to you, especially considering how the purpose of bariatric surgery in the first place is to lose weight you haven’t been able to lose with methods like diet and exercise.

Here’s why your doctor will recommend losing excess weight before your bariatric procedure and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center if you need help with weight loss.

What Are the Risks Associated With Bariatric Surgery?

Before you learn why it’s necessary to lose extra weight before bariatric surgery, it helps to know more about the potential risks linked to these procedures.

Every medical procedure comes with its potential risks, including bariatric surgery. The exact risks you will face depend on the type of surgery you are having.

Risks you may face with any bariatric surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Adverse reactions to drugs used in anesthesia
  • Problems with breathing and lung function
  • Leaks in your gastrointestinal system
  • Death

Risks related to Roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery include:

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Dumping syndrome (a condition where sugary foods move too quickly from the stomach into the bowel to cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and rapid heart rate)
  • Vomiting
  • Hernias
  • Gallstones
  • Ulcers
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Low blood sugar
  • Stomach perforation (a hole in the stomach)
  • Sagging skin

Risks related to sleeve gastrectomy include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Low blood sugar
  • Hernias
  • Stomach obstruction
  • Acid reflux
  • Food intolerances
  • Sagging skin

Why Is It Necessary To Lose More Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?

Losing as much weight as possible before bariatric surgery can reduce your risk for many problems and side effects related to these procedures. Your doctor can talk to you in more detail about the exact risks you may face and recommend steps to avoid those risks.

Here are important reasons to lose weight before bariatric surgery.

Faster Wound Healing

Excess fat tissue can slow down the rate at which blood and oxygen travel to your wounds from surgery. This can delay your healing time and prevent the wounds from healing properly. This can also increase your risk of infection. Losing extra weight can speed up your body’s healing process to shorten your recovery time, even if only by a few days.

Fewer Problems With Anesthesia

Many people who suffer from obesity also have obstructive sleep apnea, which can cause you to temporarily stop breathing while you sleep. This can make anesthesia risky, especially if you stop breathing while unconscious and sedated on the medication.

Some doctors report having difficulty inserting and placing breathing tubes in people who are obese. Other doctors report having a difficult time locating veins to use for anesthesia. Obesity can also make it difficult for doctors to determine a safe and appropriate dose of the medications used during anesthesia.

Your doctors may ask you to lose more weight before bariatric surgery if they think you may be at risk for problems related to anesthesia or if you have a history of anesthesia-related complications.

Lower Risk Of Cardiovascular Events

Carrying excess weight means that your heart must work harder at pumping enough blood to reach all the organs and tissues in your body. This can put your heart health at risk for serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, blood clots, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). During bariatric surgery, your heart must be able to work optimally. This is so it can transport blood and oxygen throughout your body.

You may need to lose extra weight if you’ve already had a heart event or if your doctor thinks you’re at risk for having one while on the operating table.

Shorter Operating Time

Having lots of fat tissue could result in your doctors spending extra time performing your bariatric surgery. For instance, they may need to cut through extra layers of skin and tissue to reach your organs. Or, they may need to spend more time searching for a vein so they can give you anesthesia.

Being on the operating table for a longer time can also increase your risk of infection. Infection could lengthen your hospital stay, resulting in another surgery and increasing the cost of your procedure.

Shorter Hospital Stay

Many bariatric procedures require an overnight hospital stay. Patients who have complications may need to spend an extra few days in the hospital, so they can be monitored closely by doctors. Losing weight before bariatric surgery can reduce your risk for numerous complications, leading to a much shorter hospital stay.

Reduced Risk Of Death

Death from bariatric surgery is extremely rare, though it is still a risk. According to a 2020 study published in JAMA Network Open, losing excess weight before your procedure can reduce your risk of death by up to 42%.

Researchers who led the JAMA study assessed the effects of pre-operative weight loss in patients who had an upcoming bariatric surgery. They found that those who lost up to 5% of their body weight reduced their 30-day mortality risk by 24%. Those who lost between 5% and 9.9% of their weight reduced their risk by 31%. The best results were seen in those who lost 10% or more of their body weight before bariatric surgery.

Early Implementation Of Healthy Habits

Nutrition, exercise, and quality sleep are some of the many lifestyle habits that can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Trying one or more of these weight-loss methods before bariatric surgery can put you in a prime position to continue these behaviors after surgery.

Many bariatric surgeons will ask you to commit to dieting and exercising after surgery to maintain your weight-loss results. So the earlier you adopt these behaviors, the better off you’ll be following surgery.

Option To Choose a Lower-Risk Weight-Loss Method

Another benefit to losing extra weight before bariatric surgery is having the option to choose another weight-loss treatment. Many doctors recommend bariatric surgery as a last resort for those severely obese and at risk for other serious health problems. If you can lose a large amount of extra weight before surgery, you can explore other treatment options that come with fewer risks.

For example, you can start a prescription weight-loss program that involves FDA medications for obesity. Prescription medications for weight loss work by reducing your appetite, boosting your energy, and making you feel full sooner when eating meals. Some medications may also reduce your body’s fat absorption or reduce food cravings.

If you have successfully managed to lose lots of extra weight before bariatric surgery, ask your doctor about the possibility of choosing another weight-loss treatment that can help you reach your weight-loss goals.

How Can I Lose More Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery is often the last resort for people who have been unsuccessful at losing weight through diet and exercise alone. Understandably, you may feel discouraged about losing extra weight before surgery if you’ve already tried these methods in the past. However, with consistency, dedication, and commitment, it’s possible to lose more weight using these methods.

Ask your doctor about the best ways for you to lose extra weight based on your history of attempted weight loss. For example, if you have tried many fad diets, your doctor may ask you to make simpler changes to your diet, such as cutting out all fast foods and processed foods. Or, if your exercise routine consisted of short 15-minute walks, your doctor may recommend taking longer 30-minute walks at a brisker pace.

Other steps you can take to lose excess weight before bariatric surgery include:

  • Eating a higher amount of protein, such as protein shakes, Greek yogurt, beans, poultry, fish, and turkey.
  • Cutting out or reducing your intake of sugary foods and drinks, including sodas, sweets, and fast foods.
  • Cutting out or reducing your intake of foods high in carbs like white pasta, white bread, muffins, and pretzels.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Cutting out or reducing your intake of alcohol.
  • Avoiding all-you-can-eat buffets or binge eating sessions at home.
  • Spending more time with physically active people.
  • Avoiding sitting for long periods.
  • Parking farther away from your destination.
  • Taking stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Stopping over-the-counter or prescription medicines that contribute to weight gain (talk to your doctor for more information).

Weight-Loss Services At Lompoc Valley Medical Center

Lompoc Valley Medical Center offers medically assisted weight-loss programs, including bariatric surgery and prescription weight loss. Contact us today at (805) 737-3382 to find out whether you’re an ideal candidate for our weight-loss services or to schedule a consultation. We offer Roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery and gastric sleeve surgery and will be more than happy to discuss all your other treatment options for weight loss.

Cristina Ortega, RN
Written By Cristina Ortega, RN, Bariatric Coordinator
Cristina Ortega is the Bariatric Coordinator and registered nurse. She began her career at LVMC in 2018 as an Emergency Room nurse and has also been in the House Supervisor role since mid-2019. She earned her Associate of Science in nursing at Santa Barbara City College.

Learn more about Cristina and the rest of our Bariatric Team