Before Bariatric Surgery

What is bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a type of surgery to help you lose weight. It's a choice for some people who are obese and have not been able to lose weight with other methods. Your healthcare provider might discuss bariatric surgery with you if you are morbidly obese, or if you are obese and have a medical problem, such as diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, or osteoarthritis. Diabetes and certain other health problems linked to obesity may get better with weight loss.

Before having surgery, you'll meet with a team of healthcare providers who will make sure the surgery is the best treatment for you. They will look at your general health, your mental and emotional health, and other factors. You will need to make some changes as well to prepare for surgery. 

How do I get ready in the weeks and months before bariatric surgery?

You'll need to make some healthy lifestyle changes in the months before your surgery. You'll also need to plan for changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle after the surgery. This will help lower your chances of complications. It will also help make sure that you will lose the right amount of weight. You may need to meet with members of your healthcare team several times in the months leading up to your surgery.

Several months before your surgery, your surgeon or dietitian will put you on a specific diet. This will help you lose some weight before your surgery. Losing some weight before the surgery will reduce your risk of complications. This diet will be high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat. This diet will help keep you from losing too much muscle mass. Your healthcare provider may also have you keep a food diary during this time.

Your surgeon or dietitian can give you details about what specific diet you should follow. This diet may be similar to the one that you will need to follow after your surgery. Or, you may be told to follow a low-calorie liquid diet for a couple of weeks before or after your surgery.

Your healthcare team might also have you start an exercise program. This may also help you lose weight before your surgery. It can also help start positive habits you will need to keep up after your procedure. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about what types of exercise are safe for you.

If you smoke, you'll need to stop smoking at least 6 weeks before your surgery. Smoking raises the risk of complications after surgery. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to help you quit. Many bariatric surgeons will not do surgery on people who are still actively smoking.

Some people may benefit from counseling as they get ready for surgery. Many people who are obese have eating disorders. These poor eating habits often have an emotional link. Working on any emotional concerns with a therapist may help you have a better result after surgery.

Your healthcare provider may have more directions about how to get ready for your surgery. Make sure to follow all of their advice.

Learn as much about the surgical procedure as you can. Make sure that your expectations are practical, regarding the amount of weight you can lose, and what your life will be like after surgery. 

How do I get ready right before bariatric surgery?

Your healthcare provider will tell you how you should prepare for your day of surgery. Talk to your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, which includes prescription, over-the-counter medicines herbs and supplements. You may need to stop taking medicines such as blood thinners before your surgery. Know which medicines you may need to stop taking. Also know how long before the procedure you should top taking them. Don't stop any medicine without talking to your healthcare provider first.

Also tell them about any recent changes in your health, like a cough, or fever, or any new medicines. In some cases, your healthcare provider might want to postpone your surgery.

You may also want to ask a family member or friend to help you at home after the surgery.

Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before the surgery.

In some cases, your healthcare provider might order more tests just before your surgery. These tests may include:

  • Electrocardiogram to check your heart rhythm

  • Blood tests to test for infection or other conditions

  • Chest X-rays to evaluate any lung conditions 

  • Nutritional tests, to see whether you are deficient in certain nutrients

Learn as much about the surgery as you can. Make sure you have practical expectations about life after your procedure.

Why might my surgery be postponed or canceled?                                                               

Even after you've been approved for surgery, it may need to be delayed if:

  • You have a new health problem such as fever, cough, cold, or a heart problem right before your surgery

  • You didn't adopt new lifestyle changes before surgery, and you gained weight during this time

  • A mental health professional thinks you are not psychologically ready for the surgery

  • You missed preoperative appointments or haven't completed tests

  • You changed your mind about having the surgery

Your medical team will only do the surgery if they know it will give you health benefits. For the surgery to be a success, you will need to make lifelong changes to your diet and lifestyle. Your medical team will want to know that you are ready for the life changes that go with surgery.

Even if your surgery gets postponed, you might be able to have it at a later date. Talk to your healthcare provider about why your surgery was postponed and ask what you can do to increase your chances of having a successful surgery at a later date. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Melinda Murray Ratini DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
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