Weight loss surgery is a major procedure, so you’ll need to meet certain conditions before getting the surgery. You’ll also need to complete an in-depth preparation process.

In this article, we’ll discuss the requirements of weight loss surgery and how to get approved for the procedure.

Keep in mind the information presented here are general guidelines. Your surgical team will have the most relevant information for your personal requirements.

Types of weight loss surgeries

Weight loss surgery, or bariatric surgery, is a procedure that can treat obesity. The most common types include:

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You may qualify for weight loss surgery if you have:

  • a BMI of 40 or higher
  • a BMI of 35 or higher with serious health conditions due to obesity, like sleep apnea or type 2 diabetes
  • a BMI of 30 or higher with type 2 diabetes that’s difficult to manage

What’s BMI?

Body mass index (BMI) is a screening tool for overweight and obesity. It compares a person’s weight to what is considered “normal” for their height.

In adults, obesity is diagnosed when BMI is 30 or higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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In general, you may also be a good candidate for weight loss surgeries if the following scenarios apply to you:

  • You have tried nonsurgical methods, like medication and lifestyle changes, and have been unable to lose weight or maintain your ideal weight.
  • You understand the risks and benefits of the surgery.
  • You’re willing to continue lifestyle changes after the surgery, like eating and exercise habits.
  • You have considered the follow-up care required after surgery.

To prepare for the actual surgery, you will need to complete the following:

  • Psychological evaluation. To ensure you’re mentally ready for the procedure, you’ll need to meet with a psychologist. They will also consider your history of mental health conditions, such as depression and eating disorders.
  • Nutritional evaluation. A registered dietitian will explain the dietary changes you’ll need to make before and after surgery. If you have diabetes, you’ll also need to manage your blood glucose first.
  • Weight loss plan. To improve your outlook after the procedure, you’ll need to lose some weight before surgery.
  • Medical clearance. Your healthcare team will review your medical and surgical history and laboratory tests, which may influence weight loss after surgery. You’ll also need to be screened for sleep apnea and heart disease.
  • Presurgical imaging. If you’ve had past surgeries involving the gastrointestinal tract, your healthcare team might request certain imaging tests. This can help determine the best weight loss surgery for you.

Depending on your medical history and needs, you might need other evaluations not listed here.

How much weight do you have to lose before weight loss surgery?

In general, you may be required to lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight before weight loss surgery. The exact percentage depends on your insurance requirements and procedure.

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The cost of weight loss surgery ranges from $10,000 to $20,000. In some cases, it might be more or less than this amount.

The exact cost depends on several factors, including:

  • the type of surgery
  • your geographical location
  • your surgeon
  • your specific needs

Your health insurance may cover some or all of the costs. The amount you’ll need to pay out of pocket depends on your specific insurance provider and plan.

Medicare covers some weight loss surgeries. You’ll still need to meet certain requirements set by your Medicare plan. Visit the Medicare website to learn how to estimate your weight loss surgery costs.

If you’re thinking about getting weight loss surgery, talk with your primary care doctor. They can let you know whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure.

When talking with your doctor, consider asking the following questions:

  • Do I qualify for weight loss surgery?
  • How might weight loss surgery benefit me?
  • Are there any nonsurgical methods I should try first?
  • Do I have any health conditions that increase my risk of postsurgery complications?
  • Which type of weight loss surgery is best for me?
  • What does weight loss surgery involve?
  • What do I need to do before and after surgery?
  • How much weight can I expect to lose?

If your insurance provider covers weight loss surgery, you’ll also need to meet certain guidelines. You may need to provide proof of:

  • medical issues related to your weight
  • previous participation in medical weight loss programs
  • letter of medical necessity from your physician
  • completed health evaluations

It can take 2 weeks to 2 months for your insurance provider to approve your surgery.

Weight loss surgery, like all procedures, poses a risk of complications. Some issues may develop soon after surgery, while others might take time to show symptoms.

Possible complications include:

If you’re not a good candidate for weight loss surgery, or if you don’t want the procedure, there are some alternatives.

Your doctor might recommend:

  • Endoscopy. In an endoscopic weight loss procedure, a doctor inserts a thin flexible tube into your digestive tract via your mouth. This is used to place medications or devices in your digestive tract to reduce the amount of food you can eat.
  • Gastric injections. This treatment slows digestion by freezing the stomach muscles. It’s a good option for moderate weight loss needs.
  • Medications. Your doctor may suggest weight loss medications, including drugs that target certain hormones or genes related to weight. Some medications might also promote weight loss by altering gut bacteria.
  • Lifestyle modifications. Dietary changes and physical activity are important for weight maintenance, whether you get a procedure or not. You’ll also need to adopt these habits if you’re taking weight loss medications.

To get weight loss surgery, you’ll need to meet certain requirements. These guidelines are often set by your healthcare team and insurance company. You might be a good candidate if you have a BMI of 40 or higher and fully understand the risks and steps.

If you’re interested in the procedure, talk with your doctor. They can let you know whether you’re a good candidate for the surgery and how it may benefit you.