by Dr. Robert Smith
A bariatric doctor specializes in problems of the stomach and digestive system. The best bariatric doctors belong to The American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP), which is the name of the medical professional association for physicians who treat and manage overweight and obese patients and their related conditions.
The American Society of Bariatric Physicians is the primary source for clinical education and training for the non-surgical medical management of obesity. An obesity program should be supervised by a physician who is a member of the ASBP and who has completed specialized training in bariatric medicine.
If you have already know which kind of bariatric procedure you wish to have, then it’s important to find bariatric doctors who are experts in that particular procedure. Don’t allow a general doctor to make the decision for you.
Make sure you do some fact-finding on your own because unfortunately, bariatric physicians need to make money just like anyone else. They will of course try to persuade you to have surgery in their own clinic!
For example, if you search for bariatric doctors in Atlanta, you’ll probably read that it’s the best place to have the surgery done because of the warm weather. The most important thing is to find a bariatric surgeon with an outstanding reputation to perform your bariatric surgery. Don’t be afraid to travel to another city or another state to find the best gastric surgeon.
Also, don’t get sucked in by the fit, attractive men and women on the covers of brochures for certain bariatric clinics. Often, these are models and not real people who have actually had weight loss surgery.
Qualified weight loss doctors have received many hours of specialized training in bariatric medicine in order to help individuals suffering from obesity. This chronic disease can be treated with a comprehensive program of diet and nutrition, as well as exercise and lifestyle changes.
Before proceeding with obesity surgery, problems such as such as emotional eating, binge eating, negative body image, low self esteem and lack of self control should be treated with behavioral counseling. A medical weight loss program should be structured to help one maintain weight loss for the long-term.
Research your bariatric surgeon’s background. Weight loss surgery success rates are usually dependent on the doctor’s experience level and past track-record. Your surgery will be more likely to succeed if you choose a doctor who has performed hundreds of bariatric surgeries already.
Here are some questions to ask your bariatric surgeon during your initial consultation:
Be straightforward and honest about your own medical history. Don’t talk yourself into bariatric surgery! It’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. Your doctor may be able to offer an alternative to surgery.
Discuss with your weight loss doctor your expectations for eating habits and weight loss after the surgery. Make sure you have information on bariatric surgery diets so that you understand what you can and cannot eat.
Be aware of potential side effects. Complications that are common with bariatric gastric bypass surgery include infection, internal bleeding, blood clots, bowel obstruction and anesthesia-related problems. Even successful surgery can have unwanted side effects such as loose skin, gallstones, vitamin deficiency and “dumping syndrome.”
Be clear on the cost of weight loss surgery and your payment options. Weight loss surgery may be covered by insurance as a medical need, but make sure you confirm this. Bariatric procedures are quite expensive, and your physician might have some type of payment plan or financial assistance to help you defray the cost of the surgery.
By taking the time to thoroughly research your physician’s background before proceeding with bariatric surgery for weight loss, you will be able to achieve greater peace of mind, knowing that you have chosen the most qualified doctor available in your area. Given the seriousness of the choice to proceed with obesity surgery, the extra time spent will be well worth it.
(published April 5, 2010)