Keys to success after bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgeons are often given too much credit for the remarkable successes that patients demonstrate after bariatric surgery. Don’t get me wrong—I love to watch the incredible transformation of our bariatric patients and I am glad that my practice plays a role in that process. I think many people would be surprised to hear me say that the “surgery portion” of the overall experience is but a small part on the path to improving the health and well-being of the bariatric patient. A large percentage of the credit for the achievements of our patients needs to go back to the patients themselves. Preparation for surgery sets the tone for the procedure and recovery. There are several things one can do before surgery that will maximize results and decrease risk.

  • Recognize the tool’s purpose. Bariatric surgery is a tool for making a lifestyle change. The tool allows patients to change their approach to many different aspects of their day-to-day lives. Much like a power tool or a chainsaw, if one doesn’t read the owner’s manual or perform routine maintenance, the tool may not work when it’s needed. In the same fashion, weight loss and improvement in health conditions may not be as dramatic as they should be if patients are not familiar with or do not comply with the dietary and behavioral changes that enhance that effect of surgery.
  • Recognition that “change is coming” is an important part of the preparation for the body transformation process associated with bariatric surgery. I often tell my patients that we do not sprinkle magic pixie dust on them during surgery that will make them want to change their diet and exercise habits. Overall results are much improved if patients start dietary and behavioral modification prior to surgery.
  • Patients have an opportunity to assume control of the process. Bariatric surgery alters the signals the brain interprets regarding hunger and motivation. This allows the patient to be free of many of the urges and hormonal signals that are so prevalent in obese patients.
  • Patients should focus on the goals that surgery will bring about. Although successful bariatric surgery is often thought of as being related to weight loss or better fitting clothes, I encourage my patients to measure success by improvement of their overall health, reduction in medications, becoming more active, having less social distress, getting more out of life and living longer. I think weight loss is great, but it should be secondary to the goals listed above.
  • It is best to prepare the temple prior the surgery. Patients should alter their behavior well in advance of surgery. Bariatric surgery is a complex surgical procedure best performed on patients that are medically prepared for the rigors of the surgery and recovery. The most important thing patients can do to prepare for surgery is to stop smoking. Bariatric surgery and tobacco use are incompatible. Surgery should not be performed on smokers as it markedly increases the risks of surgery and may lead to dramatic postoperative complications. We also encourage patients to make dietary changes well in advance of surgery, as preoperative weight loss may make the surgery easier.
  • Be active. The patients that start an exercise plan prior to surgery, even if it is a simple walking plan, have much better results than patients who wait until surgery to set aside time for exercise. Exercise improves cardiac function, decreases perioperative stress and enhances immune function before surgery. Restarting an established routine after surgery is much easier than starting a post-operative exercise plan from scratch immediately after surgery.
  • Most importantly, don’t hide from your program. The surgeons, nurses, dietitians and counselors with Prisma Health Bariatric Solutions are trained to recognize post-operative problems, work through dietary and nutritional concerns, and help prevent post-operative complications. Patients that have an established follow-up routine with their program have fewer nutritional deficiencies, have improved weight loss and are better prepared to recognize warning signs of potential complications.

If patients follow these simple steps to prepare for bariatric surgery, they will enhance the overall experience and maximize the opportunity for improvement.

The team at Bariatric Solutions wants all of our patients to live longer and healthier lives, and we have the experience and personnel to help patients maximize their opportunities from bariatric surgery. If you’d like more information about weight-loss surgery, contact one of our offices in Greenville, Anderson or Greenwood.

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