For some people, diet, exercise, and medications are not enough to achieve their desired weight loss. For people who have tried other alternatives and remain severely obese, or are obese and have significant health risks, surgical procedures are effective treatment options to consider.

Are you a candidate for surgery?

Surgery may be an option if all of the following apply to you:

  • You have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 40 or have significant risk factors (e.g., severe heart disease, severe diabetes, severe sleep apnea or other problems that interfere with your life) and have a BMI between 35 and 40.
  • You clearly understand how the surgery will affect your life.
  • You are committed to significant weight loss.

You may not be a candidate for surgery if you have significant risks associated with surgery, are depressed, have an eating disorder, or have bleeding problems. Since every surgery has risks associated with it, it is important that you understand the surgery and its risks and benefits. Only a surgeon experienced with this type of surgery should perform your operation. It is also important to understand that you will need regular monitoring for the rest of your life.

Types of obesity surgery

There are several types of surgery to help with weight loss. Gastric banding, gastric stapling, and even the gastric balloon, which is the temporary insertion of a balloon into the stomach, reduce the size of the stomach. These surgeries have fewer complications than most other surgeries for weight loss. Other surgeries, such as the biliopancreatic bypass, affect the small intestine and tend to be more effective at weight loss but have more post-surgical complications such as diarrhea, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals, and formation of kidney stones. Gastric bypass involves reducing the size of the stomach and making a bypass of food from the stomach further down into the bowel.

If you think a surgical procedure might be right for you to treat obesity, speak to your doctor about whether you're a candidate and what your options are. If you decide to have surgery, make sure you are in the hands of an experienced surgeon and that the team caring for you includes a dietician, nurse, physiotherapist, social worker, psychiatrist or psychologist, and other health specialists.