Important steps before weight loss surgery

Northwestern Medicine is committed to providing you with the education and foundation necessary for long-term success with your weight loss surgery. Please take these steps to be considered for weight loss surgery:

  • Check your Body Mass Index (BMI): You must have a body mass index of 40 or higher to be eligible for surgery. If you have a body mass index between 35 and 39 and you have at least one medical problem that is made worse by obesity, then you may be eligible.
  • Contact your Insurance Company:
    • Verify that weight loss surgery is a "covered benefit" by your policy
    • Verify that the Northwestern Medicine hospital where you wish to have surgery is a part of your coverage (please note: if your insurance does not cover surgery, a self-pay option may be available)
  • Attend a Weight Loss Seminar: choose to attend a weight loss seminar downtown or in the western suburbs

Surgical weight loss options

If you suffer from severe obesity and struggle to lose weight, weight loss surgery (also known as bariatric surgery) might be an option for you. Deciding to have weight loss surgery is a significant step toward making a permanent lifestyle change.

Northwestern Medicine offers a variety of surgical weight loss procedures, including:

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery

The most common type of gastric bypass surgery, Roux-en-Y, helps you lose weight by restricting the amount of food you can eat and reducing the number of calories your body absorbs.

In Roux-en-Y surgery, physicians use surgical staples to create a small pouch of 0.5 to 1-ounce (about the size of an egg) at the top of your stomach. This smaller stomach is connected to the middle portion of your small intestine, bypassing the rest of your stomach and the upper portion of your intestines. Surgeons can often perform Roux-en-Y procedures through tiny incisions, which shortens recovery time and minimizes scarring. In the first 12 to 18 months after surgery, patients typically lose 50 to 80 percent of excess body weight.

The gastric bypass procedure produces greater weight loss and is more successful at helping patients maintain their new weight over time than other procedures.

While surgery is an effective weight loss tool, it’s just the beginning of the process. To make weight loss permanent, you’ll have to commit to a lifetime of dietary and behavioral changes.

Sleeve gastrectomy

Sleeve gastrectomy helps you lose weight by making your stomach smaller to reduce the amount of food you can eat. During the procedure, your stomach is reduced to a thin, vertical sleeve that holds between 50 and 150 mL (about the size of a banana). A portion of your stomach is removed, and the remaining sleeve is stapled together. The procedure is permanent once your stomach has been reduced.

Sleeve gastrectomy does not affect digestion or how much nutrition you receive from the food you eat. Food passes through your digestive tract just as it did before, allowing it to be fully absorbed by your body. On average, patients lose 50 to 65 percent of their excess weight.

In some cases, a patient may benefit from a two-stage process in order to lose several hundred pounds. In this scenario, gastric sleeve resection is performed as the first stage.

As with any weight loss surgery, you’ll need to make life-long lifestyle changes for lasting results. Northwestern Medicine offers the support you need to make good health a permanent part of your life.

Adjustable gastric banding

During adjustable gastric banding surgery, surgeons place a silicone band around the top portion of your stomach, restricting the amount of food that can enter your stomach. The band is adjustable and reversible, which means the operation is tailored to the individual patient's symptoms and weight loss needs. This surgery is performed with a very small incision.

Adjustable gastric banding surgery is performed using the minimally invasive laparoscopic method, which offers a shorter recovery time, less scarring and a lower incidence of pain, infection and hernias.

Patients typically lose 45 to 55 percent of excess body weight in the first two years after surgery. It’s important to understand that weight loss surgery is just one aspect of the process. You’ll need to commit to lifestyle changes and follow up with your primary care physician on a regular basis. Northwestern Medicine offers a complete range of resources to help you live healthier and achieve lasting weight loss.

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