How Quickly Can I Get Bariatric Surgery
In 2011, more than 300,000 Americans underwent gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy procedures to lose excess body fat. The numbers look promising for those who need surgery to reduce their size quickly; however, obesity doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow burn that often requires years of hard work and dedication before results finally begin to show.
Obesity affects all ages across socioeconomic classes, ethnicities, gender and geographic locations. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 34 percent of American adults – about 102 million people – were considered obese as of 2014.
Bariatric surgery remains an effective option for many patients who want to shed pounds fast. This type of weight loss procedure limits the amount of food we consume at once. Afterward, patients eat smaller meals several times per day until they reach healthy weight levels. Though it may seem like a quick fix, bariatric surgery has long-term benefits that help maintain a healthier lifestyle and improve overall health.
But how soon can someone get approved for this type of procedure? And what does the typical patient go through while waiting on approval? Read on to find out.
The average wait time for bariatric surgery varies from state to state. Generally, though, the sooner you begin your weight loss journey, the better. Waiting too long can cause complications such as malnutrition, dehydration, and blood clots. Plus, if you’re overweight, you probably have a lot of other things going on in life that could distract you from focusing solely on your goals — whether they involve losing weight or not.
When deciding when you should undergo bariatric surgery, consider these factors:
If you’re younger than 40, you typically don’t require any additional tests or evaluations beyond a physical exam, which usually takes place six months prior to surgery. If you’re older than 50, you’ll most likely need further evaluations. These might include a complete metabolic panel test, EKG, cholesterol screening, stress test, chest X-ray, and CT scan. Your doctor will also check your BMI (body mass index). He or she will then determine whether you meet certain criteria based upon your height, weight, age, sex, ethnicity, etc., which will allow him or her to estimate your risk level.
A higher BMI increases your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and chronic back pain, among other conditions. Therefore, you should start working toward healthier habits now so you won’t develop any of these issues later in life.
You’ll also need to see a nutritionist before you even think about having surgery. A nutritionist helps educate you about proper dieting practices and recipes for post-surgery. You’ll also learn how much to eat every day and where to find the best foods to achieve maximum nutritional value.
Weight loss programs
It’s important to follow a reputable weight loss program that includes exercise and dietary guidance. Some popular options include Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, South Beach Diet, TLC Diet, ZonePerfect, Medifast and Colon Cancer Alliance.
These programs offer different approaches to achieving your desired outcome, and each offers a variety of support materials, including meal plans, cookbooks, shopping lists, newsletters, online tools, phone consultations and free group meetings. They teach participants how to prepare low calorie meals without sacrificing taste or quality. Many also provide access to certified coaches who can answer questions regarding specific strategies or challenges you face while trying to lose weight.
Once you’ve determined which program works best for you, discuss your progress with a registered dietician or nurse practitioner. Ask them for tips on how to overcome obstacles and stick with your plan. Also, ask them how frequently you should attend group sessions (usually once weekly) and how often you should work out independently.
Before scheduling surgery, make sure you know exactly what information you need to submit to obtain insurance coverage. Most insurers require a completed Pre-Op Evaluation Form (PPEF) within 30 days of initial contact. Depending on your insurer, you may also need to fill out paperwork detailing your current medications, allergies, surgical history, family history, tobacco use and alcohol consumption.
Insurance companies generally take anywhere from three to 120 days after submitting PPEF to issue a final denial letter. While you wait, you can continue to work with your physician and/or team to ensure that you qualify for the procedure.
During this time, keep track of your daily caloric intake and exercise regimen. You can use apps like My Fitness Pal and Lose It! Pro to track calories and monitor your progress.
After completing the PPEF, your surgeon will review your findings with you to assess your eligibility for surgery. During this meeting, he or she will evaluate your weight, discuss potential risks associated with the operation, explain recovery expectations, and tell you about available resources following surgery.
Next, you’ll schedule a consultation with your surgeon. He or she will examine you again to confirm that you still qualify for the procedure. At this point, your physician will decide if you meet his or her qualifications for the procedure you chose. For example, some surgeons only perform laparoscopic surgeries, while others prefer open abdominal incisions.
Depending on your condition, you may also need to undergo another set of tests. For instance, if you have a significant lung problem, you may need to undergo a pulmonary function test (PFT).
For patients undergoing laparoscopic surgery, your surgeon may request a small bowel series (SBS) in addition to standard x-rays. SBS involves taking pictures of your digestive system using special x-rays and water. Once your surgeon receives the images, he or she can view them together to make sure your intestines aren’t obstructing your stomach passage.
Finally, your surgeon will order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study to create 3D models of your internal organs. With this data, he or she can design a personalized treatment plan for you.
Now that you understand the steps involved in obtaining insurance coverage, read on to discover why it’s vital to maintain good health during your wait.
While it’s true that bariatric surgeries tend to result in greater weight loss than non-surgical methods, they come with risks that must be taken into consideration. One major concern is infection. Because of the reduced size of our gastrointestinal tracts, it becomes easier for bacteria to enter our bodies. When this happens, infections can form around the stapling sites and along the anastomosis lines created during surgery.
This isn’t always the case, but it’s something to consider. Other risks include bleeding, organ damage, numbness, and intestinal obstruction, just to name a few. Talk to your doctor about these concerns, and weigh the pros and cons of the method you choose to achieve your goal.
Wait Time: About 6 weeks
Typically, bariatric patients require between 10 and 12 weeks to receive insurance approval for the procedure. But, depending on your provider and location, the timeline can vary greatly.
As mentioned earlier, the entire pre-approval process generally lasts about 90 days. Then, expect to spend two to four weeks preparing for surgery. You’ll need to stock up on groceries, gather supplies, and organize your living space. Make sure you pack light because you’ll need room to bring everything else with you.
Also, since you’re leaving your regular job behind, you’ll need to arrange for child care and transportation home. Find a babysitter who’s willing to watch your children for a couple of hours multiple times throughout the week.
And lastly, you need to give yourself enough time to recuperate. Remember, you’ll experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, temporary paralysis, fatigue, bloating, gas and constipation. Take extra vitamins and supplements to ease symptoms.
Overall, the wait time varies by region and depends largely upon the number of patients seeking bariatric services in your area. To find out how long it will take for you to get approved, consult your local hospital’s website or call its bariatric department directly.
To learn more about how bariatric surgery can change your life, visit the links on the next page.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics’ Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 19.4 percent of U.S. adult men and 29.8 percent of women reported engaging in binge eating patterns in 2012. Binge eating disorder occurs when people engage in uncontrolled overeating that causes distress.
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