Undergoing any surgical procedure is inherently risky, and each procedure takes its own toll – mentally, physically, and emotionally. Bariatric surgeries are no different. After undergoing these procedures, bariatric patients can often feel isolated or lonely as they adjust to the procedure’s after-effects and impact on their bodies.
Even before the procedure, bariatric patients can easily be overwhelmed with anxiety due to the multi-faceted uncertainties that come with bariatric surgery. For example, setting high expectations on the amount of weight loss that can occur up to 6-12 months or longer after the surgery – even before the day of the procedure – can automatically set patients up for failure.
As such, it’s crucial for bariatric patients to be more personally involved in their journey with bariatric surgery. By becoming more communicative with your care professionals, you can more easily understand the options you have for your surgery which allows you to ask your surgeons and aftercare personnel more insightful questions. Similarly, talking with patients who have experienced a similar journey to your own can help alleviate much of your pre- and post-procedure anxieties as you begin to better understand the impact your procedure may have.
Understand Your Options
First and foremost: Never decide on a specific bariatric procedure before you’ve consulted with your surgeon about the option(s) they believe are best for you. Some of the most common bariatric procedures include duodenal switch, gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and gastric band. Finding the procedure that is best for you will involve consulting with your surgeon and doctor as to how much weight you want or need to lose, your personal motivation(s) to lose it, other pre-existing medical conditions, and the quality of your health insurance.
Remember that no two bariatric surgeries are exactly the same. What may have worked well for a friend or family member may not be the best option for you. Speak with your surgical team to become more familiar with the options available and understand what each means specifically for you as the patient.
Choose the Right Surgeon, and Ask the Right Questions
Just as it’s important to ask your surgeon or doctor which bariatric procedure is best for you, it’s equally important to choose the right surgeon and surgical team who you can continue asking questions to throughout your surgical journey. Doing so will not only help provide you with valuable information – it will also assist you in alleviating some of the anxieties you are bound to encounter along this journey.
I asked one of my own client-surgeons with PatientPartner, Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul, why he believes it is crucial for patients to find the right surgeon and ask their surgical team the right questions throughout their journey.
In response, Dr. Bhoyrul said, “bariatric surgery is a new chapter in a journey which lasts for life. The most important decision a patient will make is choosing the team that they will work with and doing whatever it takes to stay in touch with the team. Whether through regular scheduled visits, phone calls or emails to the providers, or sending us photographs and updates, our experience shows that checking in at least seven times in the first year and then a few times a year for the rest of your life is directly related to how well you do.”
If you’re unsure of where to start in regards to which questions to ask your surgeon or doctor, this list provides some insight on the most commonly asked questions regarding bariatric surgeries.
Talk With Bariatric Patients About Their Experiences
Have you ever heard the phrase, “I don’t know what I don’t know”? This holds true in all aspects of life, and especially so for patients who have yet to undergo their bariatric procedure. As such, talking with other bariatric patients who have undergone the same (or a similar) procedure is another way to remain involved in your surgical journey.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, being able to communicate openly with past patients who have undergone similar procedures, “allows patients to play a bigger role in their own care.” Furthermore, just as a positive doctor-patient relationship can have a therapeutic effect on patients, positive patient-to-patient communication can offer significant improvements to the overall outcome of bariatric treatment.
Recognize the Procedure’s Impact
Regardless of which bariatric procedure you end up receiving, the impact of these procedures will have a significant impact on your physical health, which subsequently impacts your mental and emotional health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common risks with bariatric surgeries include internal bleeding, infection, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal leaks to name a few. Likewise, bariatric procedures can also come with long-term complications such as bowel obstruction, hernias, ulcers, acid reflux, and lowered blood pressure.
By better understanding the risks that come with bariatric surgery, patients can not only better prepare for their surgery, but also more clearly understand how their procedure can impact their own health. Understanding these factors are vital in becoming more involved as a patient throughout your surgical journey.
Your friend through surgery,
Co-founder and CEO of PatientPartner